31st January 14
The train ride and switches from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang to Shifen was not nice, (all the seats were occupied in the train, it was jammed pack for 45 minutes or more, which meant standing while gripping onto a piece of rail bar) but given the reasonably priced fare it was at to get you to the outskirts-ish of the main city, it was alright. A less tiresome way would be to hire a driver but it being the first day of Chinese New Year didn’t give us much of a choice.
Once we reached Shifen it was already around 4pm. We agreed we didn’t want to go too late at night for public transport reasons, but I insisted on watching the sky lanterns float up at night. I don’t get why/how people would choose to release lanterns in the morning, it’s not as grand or warm or look at that light go and begin singing I See The Light from Tangled? 4pm was perfect timing so we took a 30-minutes hike-walk along the railway tracks to the Shifen waterfalls. They charged us an entrance fee for us to go into the area to see the waterfall and take pictures from a balcony, not what I expected. We made friends with a dog, I got annoyed at one point at something to do with photos and stillness, and my mum always on the search for good angle photos without any other tourists in them. We started walking back when night fell, watched the black speck of sky lanterns slowly turn into glowy dots as the sky darkened, came across a busy railway track full of people buying, selling, and painting words onto their lanterns.
Crash course on the sky lanterns: People come to Shifen train station to release sky lanterns on which they write whatever they want on them – hopes, names, good fortunes, wishes etc. They stand on the train tracks and release it there. It’s not an out of service train track, we came via train from That Train Track, and once a train is arriving, security people shoo everyone off the tracks and onto the platform. It’s quite scary. It’s a tourist trap, but from what I know both locals and tourists frequent the area because it’s such an excellent thing! Lanterns! Lights! Night! and it’s supposedly the most packed during the 15th day of CNY. It was sardines squished as it was on the first day of CNY, I daren’t think of what an actually packed day would be like.
We bought a red sky lantern (different colours signify different things, we didn’t bother we just wanted to show our calligraphy skills and that thing up in the air) for NT200 (~RM20) from one of the x3847923 blooming business shops along the track. We wrote all five of our names + Leo’s on one side, Darren showed his artistic side by drawing a cartoon version of Leo looking dumber than ever, Desmond did a ‘HAHA =B’, I did some stupid references, a chicken drawing, a friendship bond thing, and papa wished good health. We all thought it was cheesy doing this but got into the game at the end anyway. Around us people were caught up in their own writing and I remembered one saying ‘change of Malaysian government!’ or something along the lines of that. The boy who sold us our lantern offered to take a photo for us releasing the lantern but sadly they’re all out of focus. It’s a glowy feeling though, watching the lantern whoooomp! rising with hot air into the sky and getting smaller and smaller until it’s mixed up with other lanterns you can’t tell which is yours anymore. Sky lanterns fun fact #2: They don’t float into space, eventually the fuel runs out and they drop out of the sky like heavy plastic bags. Most of the time they land behind the mountains, where people clean and pick them up.
It was around 7ish when we decided to leave. The platform was free from trains, so it was a like bunch of kool kids but with adults and seniors and babies too sitting at the platform dangling our feet over the tracks and making Shifen 十分 ‘very’ jokes with the security patrols (I’m sure that joke is old news to them) while we waited for our train back.
Not specks of dust on your computer screen, they’re just barely noticeable sky lanterns.