Pinglin (坪林) is a small town south of Taipei that is most famous for its tea production. The town itself has a Tea Museum. Pinglin (坪林) is nestled in the mountains and the tourist department there have initiated a tourist promotion scheme by providing free shuttle buses to take people to places of interes. A really beautiful and wonderful place.
This year Dragon Boat Festival fell on Monday, 6 June 2011. We were fortunate enough to see some preliminary races on the Sunday before so on Monday didn't feel compelled to go watch the races. With a free day we decided to head to Pinglin (坪林) for the afternoon and had an incredible time. To get to Pinglin (坪林) we took the MRT to Hsin Tien (新店) and then the bus 923. During the weekend and holidays the buses run every 30 minutes and during the week, every hour. We were fortunate to arrive in Hsin Tien (新店) five minutes before the next bus. The bus goes on the highway through Shengkeng and since there was no traffic going there the trip from Hsin Tien (新店) to Pinglin (坪林) was about 30 minutes - not too bad.
The 923 bus dropped us right outside the tourist office in Pinglin (坪林)where we were, quite unexpectedly, bundled on a free shuttle bus that took us to the Fish Watching Fern Walk next to the Jingualiao River (金瓜寮溪). The shuttle buses we found out are new and are only planned to be in operation this year. The tourist office told us they were not sure if there would be a budget for the buses next year. The shuttle bus (or Orange Bus) as they are called dropped us off at the second station along the river. We started there and walked a few kilometers to the end of the trail.
The trail itself was spectacular. It was 100% in the shadow of the forest and mostly next to the fish filled river in which people were swimming, and at 35C it was the perfect weather to swim. We were completely unprepared for this walk as we didn't know we would be bundled onto the bus so quickly: we didn't have any water or food and no bathing suits, but we did have our cameras and so clicked like crazy! To be honest, we couldn't get enough of the vegetation, clean water and the fresh air. It was awesome!
The first place we stopped was next to a small (and I mean small) waterfall (no more than 1 meter high). But it was a picturesque spot and that is were we first noticed the many many fish in the water. And all the fish were swimming upstream and trying to jump over the waterfall. Sadly they were all doomed to fail. We didn't see a single fish jump to the top of the rushing water. However, on the otherside of the waterfall there were a lot of fish so presumably some had figured out a way up, but for them to swim against the current was still a tough job. As you can imagine (and see in the pictures below) the water in Jingualiao River(金瓜寮溪) was incredibly clear and just sitting on the rocks and dangling our feet in the river was refreshing and cooling.
As you can imagine, since we were on the Fish Watching Fern Walk, not only did we see fish, but also a lot of ferns. As per some of the blurb along the river the year long humidity and rainfall in Pinglin (坪林) make it an ideal habitat for ferns and orchirds. Well, we saw a lot of ferns, but no orchids (although we weren't looking too hard). One of the more common ferns we saw where the so called bird-nest ferns that grow on the branches of larger trees. Apparently the leaves can be cooked as a dish for dinner - now that would be something to try!
Despite the increidble heat of the day, we were well protected by the trees next to the river and really enjoyed ourselves there. Of course, if it got too hot we always had the option of jumping into the river. There were families out there swimming in the river and enjoying the day. We wish we could join them but swimming in our shorts would have been a little uncomfortable.
The whole walk was picturesque. A lot of vegetation, a lot of river views and wonderful color contrasts. We also saw a few butterflies and in some parts of the river even found some crabs. It was just an incredible day.
It was an unexpected trip and the next time we go we will be better prepared with bathing suits and a picnic basket and be ready for a long day next to the beautiful river. As it was we spent about two hours strolling through the forest and taking pictures but we were hungry and thristy and need to get supplies so at the end of the trail we jumped back onto the Orange Bus and headed into Pinglin (坪林)for lunch and some drinks and a short visit to the Tea Museum for which Pinglin (坪林) is famous. We highly recommend this as a family day trip - everyone will love it. As for us, we will definitely be back (and probably sooner than later)