Shiding (石碇) and Shenkeng (深坑) are two small towns found just to the east of Taipei, Taiwan. They’re both withing 3o minutes of Taipei’s convenient MRT system and together, they make for a great day trip out of the city.
Shiding is a simple mountain village located at the convergence of two small mountain streams. It’s got an old-time Taiwan feel to it, and in fact has many stores that are over a century old. It also has two very clean, fish-filled streams that come from virgin forests high above, in the nearby mountains.
Developed in the Qing Dynasty, the local climate is slightly cooler than the basin below and is perfect for growing tea. Although not one of northern Taiwan’s more famous tea growing areas, many tea farms can be found nearby.
During the Japanese occupation era, coal was found in the surrounding mountains and the “Taipei Coal Mining Co.” was started. During this time Shiding was a bit of a boom town, and many stores, hotels and foreigners could be found there.
Today, Shiding has become a sleepy town, with just a few visitors from Taipei stopping by to taste the famous tofu. Nearby is an excellent hike called “The Emperor’s Hall” or Huang Di Dian (皇帝殿), that I can personally highly recommend. (Another good day trip would be to get up early, do the hike, then relax in Shiding afterwords.)
It’s also got a nice arts center that’s worth a visit and some local handy crafts available in the center and in various shops around the village.
Shenkeng Old Street (深坑老街)
On the way back to Taipei from Shiding, hop of the 666 bus at the entrance to Shenkeng Old Street (深坑老街) in Shenkeng. You’ll easy know you’re there by the horrible smell of sticky tofu that the market is known for.
While I’m no fan of the infamous concoction, Taiwanese people love it and pack into this quaint market to buy it from the famous stores. I will admit that the stinky tofu found here seemed a little less stinky than from the other places that I’ve tried it, and isn’t completely unpalatable, but it’s just not a dish for me, you know?
The Old Street is still half under construction (old street?), but interesting nonetheless. It doesn’t have any of the clothing and chain stores that you see in Taipei City night markets.
The market is geared more towards tourists, but not at the expense of selling a bunch of useless junk. We found some beautiful handicrafts and antiques in a few of the stores, and some unique Taiwanese dishes in the restaurants. Being famous for tofu, Shenkeng has many different tofu dishes available, but, not being a big tofu fan, I can only personally recommend the tofu ice cream… light flavored and delicious on those hot, humid Taiwan afternoons.
You can get to both Shiding and Shenkeng on the 666 bus from Jingmei MRT and the Muzha MRT stop.