TAIWAN,  TRAVEL

Sky Lanterns of SHIFEN OLD STREET

Everyone have something that they desire for… a wish perhaps. It can be money, a job, lovelife, career, or any other things that we usually want but just can’t easily be granted by plain hardwork. So some people, waits for 11:11 (AM or PM) or drops some coins every time they see a fountain.

If you’re one of those “some,” maybe you can include lighting a sky lantern at Shifen Old Street in Pingxi District, New Taipei City in your itinerary when you planned a trip to Taiwan. Who knows? Your wish may be granted.

I’m not saying though that I believe in these things. I honestly used to. I have lots of desires in my mind. I used to follow those things I mentioned earlier. In my country, I even lit candles of different colors at different churches and even completed “Misa de Gallo” or night masses one Christmas season in the past. It’s just that I realized that I can say directly all my desires to God, and still needed to wait for His timing to give these.

 

Now what if, just like my wife and I, you’re not fond of making wishes?

Of course, you can still go. Believe me, it’s worth it. 

Besides, going to Shifen Old Street is not part of the original itinerary I made for our Taiwan trip. Honestly speaking, already few days before our flight to Taipei, we still don’t have a proper itinerary (LOL!). But upon the recommendation of my friend JR who already came to Taiwan and after reading a few blogs about it, we decided to include this in our itinerary. My wife and I also loved seeing sky lanterns and the symbol of releasing it into the sky. 

 

GOING TO SHIFEN RAILWAY STATION

After seeing the rocks of Yehliu Geopark, we rode the bus no 862 from Yehliu bus station going to Keelung City for 45 minutes and paid NTD 30.00 per person. Upon arriving at Keelung bus station, we rode the bus no 787 or 788 to Ruifang Railway Station for 45 minutes to 1 hour with approximate fare of NTD 15.00 each. Then rode the train going to Shifen Railway Station for another 45 minutes to 1 hour. We paid about NTD 19.00 per person for the railway given that our Taipei Pass does not apply for inter-city travels.

Ticket to Shifen Railway Station from Ruifang

NOTE: If you’ll avail the Taipei Pass, kindly check which buses and trains shall be covered by your card to avoid overpaying. Some cards can cover inter-city transportation. We thought at first that our card (good for Taipei Metro and Taipei Bus worth NTD 440.00) which will not be accepted by buses roaming around New Taipei since our card says “Taipei Pass” until we tried it on the bus 788 that we rode to Ruifang Railway Station… and it worked! We could’ve checked it when we rode the bus no 862 from Yehliu to Keelung and saved us some dollars. Anyway, I’m telling you to learn from what we should’ve done (LOL!). We learned it a little too late.

ANOTHER NOTE: NTD 1.00 is approximately PHP 1.68

Excuse my hand though (LOL!)

If coming from Taipei Main Station, you can also ride the Taipei Rail going straight to Ruifang Railway Station then just ride the train to Shifen Railway Station.

 

ARRIVAL AT SHIFEN RAILWAY STATION

We arrived around 5:45 pm at Shifen Station which is almost sundown. Well, just the right time to see lanterns fly in the sky. People can be seen from side-to-side and even on the railways doing their respective things.

But upon hearing a whistling sound, everyone in the middle started running to each side, trying to evade the oncoming train. When the train is no longer on sight, they went back on their respective businesses. Acting like nothing happened. This phenomenon happens all day everyday.

 

WHERE TO EAT

Upon arriving at the station, the first thing we did is to search for some place to eat. Given that my wife and I wanted to wait for the sun to go down before proceeding to lighting a sky lantern; and we’re so hungry after a long day at Yehliu Geopark. After minutes of walking around the area, we found Lou-A-Chu Cafe near the train station.

We’re kinda “blessed” that the server still allowed us in given that it’s closing at 06:30 PM.

My wife and I decided to share a meal good for 1 person. We ordered beef in black pepper sauce because honestly, it’s the only food we know (LOL!). When eating at Chinese restaurants in the Philippines, this is one of the meals that I order frequently (aside from beef with broccoli… haha!). As usual, I loved it.

For dessert, my wife ordered waffles with chocolate syrup and whipped cream (don’t know the exact term on the menu though.. lol). Makes me hungry again as I write this.

In overall, our dining experience is great. The server accommodated us well, food is great, we found the ambiance cozy (although they’re almost closing when we came). But, I found it pricey. So if I’m going to rate it, it’s 9/10 with 10 being the highest.

 

FOR THE MAIN EVENT

Great thing that searching for a place to buy the lantern wasn’t that complicated for us especially that vendors are on every corner of the street. My wife and I just chose to buy at a vendor nearest to us. Prices range from NTD 150.00 to NTD 300.00 depending on which design. You can choose from a single-colored lantern or the multiple colored. Each color represents what do you wish for.

We chose a four-colored lantern for NTD 200.00. As far as I can remember, the four colors we chose are pink, green, yellow, and orange which represents happiness, luck, career, and romance respectively. We’re allowed to write everything that we can write. So, we did randomly write everything on each face of the lantern. Typically, we asked for my job, our marriage to go well. But added my blog, healing and recovery for our loss, our next steps and of course, sibling(s) for our first-born with healthy and safe pregnancy for my wife.

Before letting it go to the sky, the Korean-looking lady who sold us the lantern let us pose for a picture.

Then she recorded a video as we let go of the lantern. I’m not that creative enough though. But Who knows? I may be able to do vlogs next time (LOL!).

Somehow after the release, there’s a feeling of a huge load coming out from inside of us. Although I’m fully aware that the deed of releasing the sky lantern will not grant what we desire, there’s hope in us that everything we wish for is already at hand. Working for it in faith with a touch of God’s grace. Indeed, going in this place is one of our memorable moments when we visited Taiwan.

Now looking at the time, it’s 6:30 in the evening. We still have time to spare given that there’s still an hour and a half before train heading back to Ruifang station arrives. People are also starting to leave one by one and some stores are already closing. But we decided to be patient and wait for the train despite our fellow commuters giving in to riding the taxi back to Taipei for NTD 350.00. For only the two of us, we find 350 dollars expensive compared to total of NTD 68.00 each.

My wife and I arrived at the Taipei Main Station in  past 9 in the evening after riding two trains from Shifen and Ruifang station. Upon knowing that the last trip of Taipei MRT Red Line going to Da’an district (the place we stayed) is 12 midnight, we decided to visit Shilin Night Market and spend our time there.

But that would be another story.

 

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT

There’s a lot of places nearby to visit along with Shifen Old Street. If we only arranged our itinerary well or became strict in following the time, we’ll be able to visit more during that day. But anyway, these are suggested places to visit along with the old streets of shifen:

  • Shifen Waterfall

Shifen Waterfall is just a 30-minute walk from the Railway Station. Our original itinerary that day was to visit first the waterfall then light the sky lantern at the old street just in time for sunset after coming from Yehliu Geopark. But given that the falls will be closing at 5:30 PM and we left Yehliu at 3 in the afternoon, we weren’t able to make it to the falls. Not being able to visit the falls is one of our regrets during our Taiwan visit. We swore that the next time we go back, this falls shall be our must-visit.

  • Pingxi Old Street

Similar to Shifen, flying sky lanterns are one of the main activities here. But given that it’s few more stations away from Shifen, it’s expected that the place is much more secluded.

  • Pingxi Coal Mine Museum

Know more about Pingxi’s mining industry here.

  • Jiufen Old Street

If you know about the movie “Spirited Away,” you’ll know Jiufen Old Street. I strongly suggest though that Jiufen Old Street should be visited on a separate day with Shifen.

  • Yehliu Geopark

We’re in this place before going to Shifen railway station. Based on experience, this place should also be visited on a separate day with Shifen given that it’s more than 2-hours of riding two buses and train from Ruifang Station. Although it may be possible if we arrived at Yehliu early enough. But my wife and I went late, so don’t be like us.

If my wife and I stuck with our schedule that day, we’ll be able to follow our original itinerary: Taipei – Yehliu Geopark – Shifen Waterfall – Shifen Old Street. But I’m going leave the itinerary planning to you, my dear reader.

 

SOME FINAL NOTES

Now, before I wrap everything about this post, let me tell you some notes when considering to visit Shifen Old Street:

  • Sunset, at least for me, is the best time to light sky lanterns. But you’re allowed on broad daylight though.
  • Check the weather. You can’t let the lanterns fly on a rainy day. I don’t want to ruin your planned trip to Taiwan by not giving you this information.
  • Sleep early to wake up early. I’ll be saying this again: “don’t be like us if you really want to visit more places and be able to roam more.” 
  • Just be yourself and enjoy the journey. I’ll somehow take back what I said about visiting more places. Many times, I become disappointed every time I need to cross out some of our itinerary due to time constraints. But then realized that what’s more important is that my wife and I enjoyed our trip overall. Also, I don’t want to end up comparing myself with other travelers out there.
  • Souvenirs can also be bought here. Aside from lanterns, there are lots of souvenirs or other takeaways that can be bought here. My wife and I bought magnets and a keychain that depicts that fateful day. Go figure (LOL!)
Click the picture to know
Happy Station Souvenir Shop beside Shifen Railway Station

Thank you for reading and enjoy the trip. You may bookmark and share this post. Also, I’m hoping this helped you a lot.

– Dex B.

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