Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky

Shifen Sky Lantern

Sending the Queens’ shopping list to the sky :)

Shifen Sky Lanterns

The two most popular attractions in the quiet town of Shifen would be the Shifen Waterfalls (nicknamed “Taiwan’s Niagara Falls”) and Shifen Old Street where visitors go to release sky lanterns. While you can release sky lanterns all day long, we planned Shifen as the last stop of the day after Jiufen (about 30mins away by car) with since it would be nicer to release the lanterns at night.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Releasing sky lanterns (放天灯) is a significant ritual in Taiwan and the most notable places to do that would be Pingxi and Shifen. It’s a fun experience for most visitors to Taiwan (and the locals too); there’s just something very alluring about being able to write your wishes on a lantern which would carry your prayers to the sky (祈福) – think of it as a direct courier service to heaven.
Releasing sky lanterns is so popular that thousands of people gather for the annual Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival every 15th day of the Lunar New Year.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Shifen Old Street
Shifen got its name as there used to be 10 families living in the town (ten portions). Shifen Old Street is the most famous stop along Pingxi Branch Rail Line. The 13km rail line was originally built in 1918 to transport coal and was re-purposed as a tourism route in 1992. All the shops sell either sky lanterns or souvenirs.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Seal your love with a declaration to the sky

Shifen Sky Lanterns

And off the lanterns go, higher!

Shife Sky Lanterns

And the train goes past…whoaaaa *hair flies up* (luckily not the skirt)
Notice how close the shops along Shifen Old Street are to the train line. It’s also pretty interesting – and dangerous – that visitors actually stand on the tracks to release the sky lanterns, and have to shun when a train comes along. Talk about an adrenalin rush. But worry not – the shopkeepers are all very familiar with the train timings and will ask you to get off the tracks before the trains pass through.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Colour-coding wishes
The sky lanterns range from NT$100 to NT$150 depending on the number of colours chosen. Apparently each color represents a wish (e.g red=health and peace, yellow = money luck) so the more wishes you have, the more you pay.
You can also choose to add a string of firecrackers at the bottom of your lantern at an extra cost, perhaps this will gain the attention of the heavens and grant your wish faster? Since I was just in for the fun of it, I went with just one basic colour at NT$100.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Budding Picassos
I was amused that we were given calligraphy brushes to doodle on the lanterns. The last time I held one was in elementary school when I took Chinese painting lessons. And looks like XT had other ideas with the brush. I’m not the canvas!

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Having so much fun

Shifen Sky Lanterns

The Queen’s Lantern
Ta-da! I’m sure you weren’t expecting a ‘normal’ wishing lantern from me, riggght? *wink*

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Setting off our sky lantern

Sky Lantern in Shifen

Fly strong & high…
It was kinda surreal to watch it rise. Curious, I asked the shopkeeper what happens to the sky lanterns. Apparently they stay in the air for 8-10minutes, float to the mountain behind and then fall back to the ground after the candle finishes burning. The shop pays workers to pick up the fallen lanterns afterwards to dump away. Oops. Sorry to burst the bubble…still it’s a very fun thing to do. You should try it! I had a lot of fun.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

Bring home a wish
I bought a few of these home as souvenirs and gifts for friends. They look great hanging by the window.

Shifen Sky Lanterns

It was a poetic end to a long but absolutely fun day exploring Yehliu, Jiufen, Jinguashi and Shifen. No trip to Taiwan would be complete without seeing all these locations at least once.

Travel in a Day by car: Yehliu 野柳 > Jiufen 九份 > Jinguashi 金瓜石 > Shifen 十分

More on Taiwan:
Taiwan – Blooming Delights and Cultural Richness in Daxi 大溪
Taiwan – Nature’s Wonders at Yehliu Geopark 野柳地質公園
Taiwan – Jiufen’s 九份 Golden Nostalgia
Taiwan – Urban Respite at Beitou Hot Springs 北投溫泉
Taiwan – Tamsui 淡水:Of Romantic Sunsets & Tantalizing Snacks
Taiwan – Jingguashi 金瓜石:Goldmine of Yesteryear
Taiwan – SHIFEN十分放天灯: Sending Wishes to the Sky
Taiwan – Sun Moon Lake 日月潭: Picturesque Nature

Explore Taiwan with Spunktitud3!

Getting to Shifen

By Bus:
MRT Muzha Station (捷運木柵站) -> No. 15 Taipei Bus (台北客運15路公車) -> Shifen (十分)

By Train:
1. Take the train to Ruifang Station (瑞芳站) at the Taipei Railway Station (TRA). It’s where Taipei Main Station is – follow the underground signs to get to TRA. Train schedule: http://twtraffic.tra.gov.tw/twrail/English/e_index.aspx
2. Alight at Ruifang Station and buy tickets for the Pingxi Line (平溪支線). Take the train to Shifen Railway Station (十分火車站). Rides are unlimited on the Pingxi Line.

Taking a Taxi from Ruifang Station
You can save some time by taking the train to Ruifang Station, and taking a taxi there. The prices are regulated by the authorities and clearly indicated, so the taxi drivers cannot overcharge. Save even more by sharing a taxi with other travelers going the same way.
Single destinations: Jiufen (九份): NT180; Jinguashi (金瓜石); NT240, Shifenliao (十分): NT480; Shuangxi (双溪): NT600
Packaged destinations:
– Package A (NT$1,000)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Nanya Rocks(南雅奇石), Yin Yang Sea (阴阳海), Thirteen Level Refining (十三层遗址), Gold Waterfall (黃金瀑布), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街)
– Package B (NT$2,300)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布), Shifen Old Street (十分老街), Taipei (台北)
– Package C (NT$2,000)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Yehliu Geopark (野柳风景区)
– Package D (NT$2,800)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Nanya Rocks(南雅奇石), Yin Yang Sea (阴阳海), Thirteen Level Refining (十三层遗址), Gold Waterfall (黃金瀑布), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布), Shifen Old Street (十分老街), Taipei (台北)
*Prices for reference only. Check the prices when you are there.

If you are looking to hire a driver, you can consider Mr Liu 刘先生. He’s a burly uncle who used to be a truck driver, and very honest. He charged us a very reasonable per day rate, brought us to all the places where the locals went, and none of those touristy crap. And we felt safe with him. You can give him a try if you wish. Mr Liu’s Mobile: (0)988-121-529.

Another contact you can try is Lucky Zhao +886 913 185 157, slightly pricier but good service and speaks well.