Taiwan – Shifen Sky Lantern

Shifen Sky Lantern

Every year, on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, thousands of people will gather at Pingxi for the annual Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. People write their wishes on these lanterns, which will then carry their prayers to the sky. Luckily, one need not wait for the annual Lantern Festival to release sky lanterns. In fact, releasing sky lanterns is now a very commercialized activity that you can also do it anytime. Shifen and Pingxi are two of the more popular places for this activity.

As I was told, there is no regular opening or closing hours for the shops in Shifen Old Street. Instead they close when there are no more visitors. In our case, when we first arrived at the Shifen train station, we quickly chose a friendly shop owner and told him our itinerary for the day and that we will be back in the evening to release the sky lanterns. Even though we had some unexpected delays and spent a little more time at the Coal Mine Museum (you can read more about it here), the friendly shop owner kept his promise and waited for us. 😉

The colours of the lantern are supposed to have some symbolic meaning, however, we didn’t really bother with it. Instead, we chose the colours we liked and started doodling (or rather writing our wishes). Anyway, if you can’t make up your mind on the colours, there are also multi-coloured ones. The price of each lantern range from NT$100 to NT$300, depending on the size. If you are releasing the lantern after the sky turns dark (like what we did), you can also choose add a firecracker to your lantern. Judging by the number of stores selling sky lanterns, it’s quite obvious that this sky lantern tradition has become a bristling business in Shifen. 😉

Alycia calligraphing her wishes

Chinese Calligraphy, English Style

The rising lantern; together with our wishes and prayers

Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits!

 

A group photo with the friendly shop owner

After a long day, we left Shifen at around 8.45pm and I reckoned we were probably the last visitors in Shifen as all the shops were closed and the street was quiet. If not for the shop owner, who informed an eatery to wait for us, we probably would have no dinner.

Shifen may be a little inaccessible but I like this nostalgic small town.  Everybody is, like, part of a bigger family. There was no hard selling; when we politely declined them, the shop owners would give us a smile and walk away. When we asked for directions, they also gladly pointed us to the right direction. This is definitely one of the places that is high on my recommendation list.

Train ride back to Jiufen. We had the whole train to ourselves.

Useful Information – Sky Lantern

Colours and their meanings:

  • Red: Good fortune
  • Pink: Romance
  • Peach-red: Decisions and opportunities
  • Orange: Money
  • Yellow: Success in school and/or job
  • White: Health
  • Light Green: Growth
  • Light Blue: Hoping something comes true
  • Light Purple: Idealism


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Taiwan – Shifen Coal Mine Museum

Taiwan Coal Mine Museum

Believe it or not, we were extremely lucky to have made it to the coal mine museum.  As mentioned in the earlier post, our first stop at Shifen was to visit the Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布) and on the way, we came across a house that looked like the entrance to Taiwan Coal Mine Museum. However, it was locked and there wasn’t anybody manning the house. It was about 2pm then. Since time was not on our side, we didn’t want to waste too much time and thus we moved on towards the waterfall. Then on our way back from the waterfall, we walked past the same house again and it was still deserted. It was about 3.45pm then and the last admission to the museum is 4pm. At this point in time, we started panicking as my children would really love to take the coal train ride at the museum. 😦

Lower entrance of Coal Mine Museum which was deserted

Feeling dejected, we were about to give up when one of us recalled seeing a road sign to the museum near the train station. We decided to give it a last try and we followed the direction of the sign. About 5 minutes into the walk, we could sense that something was not right. First of all, the road was narrow and there was no cars on that road, except for heavy vehicles. It seemed to us that the road was leading to some construction sites. Secondly, the road was uphill all the way and it was definitely not an easy route for walking. After some ten minutes of walking, we were about to give up when a woman came down the road in a scooter. She saw us (a group of eight people) walking up the slope and suspected that we were not locals. It turned out that she works in the museum and she could arrange for a courtesy van to pick us up. That was definitely a pleasant surprise as most of us were already dead tired by then. We almost couldn’t believe it that the van had to drive up the hill for at least another 5 minutes before we reached the museum. If we had walked up the hill, I think it would probably take us at least 30 minutes and that’s assuming we didn’t give up. LOL.

It was later that I realized the first house that we saw at the foot of the hill is actually the ticketing office of the museum and the courtesy van is always available to bring tourists to the museum, a privately run museum setup to educate tourists on Taiwan’s rich coal mining history. I have no idea why it was deserted when we were there on 2 occasions (2.45pm and 3.45pm). 😉

The Taiwan Coal Mine Museum sits on a retired coal mine and most of the facilities are quite well-preserved. The admission charge includes a coal train ride, a 20 minute video (in Mandarin) and a real-life experience guided tour through a coal mine tunnel. I learnt a lot from this experience and this is one of the best museum tours I have ever attended. Highly recommended!

“Mono-Eye” – The electrical locomotive used to transfer coal from 1939 to 1997. Now, it transports only tourists.

Authentic Coal Train – Do Not Expect a Smooth Ride. LOL.

Miss cheeky in action again …

Entrance to the retired coal mine

The coal mine above is no longer accessible for safety reasons. Instead, the guide brought us into another tunnel for the guided tour.

We were guided through this tunnel

Our very knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide

The coal

Attendance chart: Yellow=> Miner is out. White => Miner is still inside the mine

A closer look at the coal

By the time we completed the tour (around 5.20pm), the sky was already dark. But that wasn’t a problem. In fact, it was perfect for our next programme – Sky Lantern. 😉

Useful Information – Taiwan Coal Mine Museum:

Opening Hours:

  • 09:00-17:00 daily.
  • Closed on Mondays
  • Last admission at 16:00 hrs.

Directions:

  • Warning!!! This is not within walking distance from the (Shifen) train station. Read the blog above for more details.

Admission Charges: 

  • NT$200 per person, inclusive of the coal mine train ride

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Taiwan – Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布)

Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布)

Shifen waterfall (十分瀑布) is also known as the Little Niagara of Taiwan and well, I think it’s worthy of the nickname. Its curtain waterfall does resemble the real Niagara fall, albeit a much smaller scale. It is still very grand nevertheless. The waterfall is located in Pingxi District, near Shifen train station (along Pingxi line). From the station, head towards the shop houses at the old street and you should reach the waterfall in about 20 minutes. Please be warned that there isn’t any proper pavement for pedestrians and we were walking by the side of the road, with heavy vehicles zooming past. But not to worry, just be more careful and you should be ok.

Trust the direction from the signage; the distance is inaccurate though.

Spotted this holiday chalet along the way

Walking on the side of the road as there was no pavement.

While you are walking along the main road, keep a lookout for a sign on the right that will direct you onto a path that is off the road (See the photo on the right below for an idea and do note that the photo was taken when I was on the way back. Hence your view will be in a reverse angle). Go down the slope and continue along the path, you will come to a beautiful suspension bridge. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a nice view of the facade as the bridge was under renovation then. Beyond the bridge is a railway track and you are less than five minutes away from the waterfall.

A river stream leading to the waterfall

After the stream, you will see this railway track that leads you to the waterfall

Entrance to Shifen waterfall

Map of Shifen Waterfall

Shifen Waterfall – View from the top

A group photo – Does the waterfall look more majestic now?

Another view of the waterfall

A favourite spot for group photos

Our next stop was Taiwan Coalmine Museum where we sat on an authentic coal train.

Useful Information – Shifen Waterfall:

Opening Hours:

  • 08:00-17:30 daily

Directions:

  • Alight at Shifen train station along Pingxi Line
  • Walk towards the direction of Shifen Old Street
  • Follow the direction of the road signs (See photos above)
  • Entire journey is about 20~30 minutes walk (one way)

Admission Charges: 

  • NT$100 per person

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