Saturday, June 14, 2014

Shifen Old Street - Release the Sky Lanterns (十分放天燈)! @ New Taipei [Taiwan]

Looking up at the little balls of 'fire' in the sky, i knew at that moment we would be arriving very soon at Taiwan's homeland of sky lanterns; Shifen (十分)!

As it was already nightfall when we reached, there was no way we could explore other attractions like the pingxi railway line and the highly acclaimed Shifen waterfall. 

Nevertheless, releasing the sky lantern ranks top on the list of must-do items in the district and i guess i could always return back to this quaint little town in the near future to check out the others. Praying hard the time would come next year! 

Time to select your human size paper lanterns - there are two types; one with just the basic colour and another with four colours (one on each side). By the way, it is not a matter of what your favourite colour is.

Each colour represents the wishes you would like to be fulfilled with the release of the lanterns; be it health, money, career, future, love, success, popularity etc (check the picture above for the full list). To cater to the greedy humans who are likely to have multiple wishes, it makes total sense to come out with different colours for the lantern's four facets! 

Marketing gimmick no doubt and it is incredulous that the charges were so high! Still remember the sky lanterns our family released in Bintan Island? I bought seven for only ten dollars in Singapore's Chinatown! 

Both factors didn't stop me from coughing up NT$200 (roughly S$8) for the multi-coloured sky lantern. Aiyah, might as well play safe right? One out of four wishes granted also not too bad what. 

To enhance the "powers" of your wishes, please make use of the Chinese calligraphy brushes in the holders shown above to write more 'specific details'; for example, how best would you think is needed to make you wealthy?

Guess which is mine!

Once you are done like Alex above, the staff member from the shop where you bought the lantern from would guide you to the railway track and proceeded to light it up for you. Alone? No problem, the same person can help to take the photographs for you! 

Since there are four sides to the lantern, each featuring our ugly calligraphy that was written hastily without much time to think through (truth is, my handwriting really sucks), the staff assisted to turn the lantern for us so that we could take pictures of each side. 

In a way, it was time well spent as we were required to wait for the hot air to rise anyway. It's better to take some pictures rather than doing nothing for the next few minutes!

Once the lantern gains buoyancy, it's time to prepare for the final take off. 

After the initial hype and excitement, i really didn't know what i was expected to do after the lantern was in the sky. Should i clap? Should i say a little prayer hoping that the wishes would come true (this is oxymoron by the way)? Should i continue to wait at the track till i could not see it anymore? 

Whichever the case, please do not get too preoccupied with your trail of questions! 

This is a bloody working railway track!!! Given that Singaporeans are more acquainted with MRT tracks that are often off limits to public (and we no longer has a railway track running from city to Malaysia), it was indeed quite a nice surprise to see a train moving in between two rows of shophouses! 

Many took the opportunity to take a photo! I can see from the ways the wishes were written on the lanterns (English mixed with Chinese with uses of 4D, TOTO, lah, lor etc) that many visitors that day were Singaporeans! 

Besides the sky lanterns, you could also let off fireworks and purchase souvenirs featuring mini-sized sky lanterns with nicely written Chinese calligraphy. The basic, glow at night ones cost NT$80 each while the flashing LED types can range from NT$160 to NT$200! 

My recommendation? Go with the non-LED type. In addition to being extremely irritating whenever a slight bump would result in flashing lights, the battery would eventually run out. 


Shifen Old Street,
New Taipei, Taiwan

How to Get There?
Check out the website here. In my case, we actually engaged a chauffeur for a day trip to Yeliu Geopark, Jiufen, Keelung and Shifen. Shall share his contact in Day Five of my Taiwan Itinerary.

For an overview of my 9 Days, 8 Nights Taiwan Trip [Cingjing (清境) - Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) - Taichung (臺中) - Taipei (臺 北)], click HERE.

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