Day 3: Shifen on 15th day of Chinese New Year

Sky Lantern in Shifen

Today was the 15th day of the Lunar Chinese New Year and we planned to be in Shifen in the evening to see the annual Sky Lantern Event. Unfortunately. this morning we were told by Blue Sky B&B that the sky lantern event would be held in Pingxi and not Shifen! We seemed to have got our location wrong!

We decided to check into our “stay” for the night  (Liang Chen Mei Jing B&B) in the early afternoon and then find our way to Pingxi for the lantern festival. At LIang Chen Mei Jin B&B we had another surprise as the B&B assistant told us that the Sky Lantern event would be at Shifen in the evening.

Getting to Shifen for the Sky Lantern Festival

The annual festival drew in over a million of visitors every year. Our plan was to drive into Shifen and looked for a suitable place to park our car or to “cab” into Shifen from Liang Chen Mei Jin B&B. Driving into Shifen was “OUT” as the B&B assistant inform us that all o  out-of-town cars were banned from the town during this festival. Special event buses were arranged to pick up visitors at various locations to bring them to the town.

Map of Shifen and around

Map of Shifen and around

From our B&B we took a local bus to ShuangXi train station. Near the station was one of the pick up locations. Just outside the train station we saw a tent with a banner that said “Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival Shuttle Bus”. Though the sky lantern festival was held in Shifen it was called “Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival” because Shifen town was part of a larger Pingxi District.

Pingxi Lantern Festival Shuttle Service

Pingxi Lantern Festival Shuttle Service

We waited and boarded the event bus, it took about 20 minutes to arrive at the edge of Shifen town. We alighted and walked on foot downhill for another 20 minutes to the start of Shifen Old Street.

Shifen Map and around

Shifen Map and around

Soon we saw a huge banner with the Chinese words ” Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival”! Great, we were definitely at the right location! It was just passed noon and was another five hours before the start time of the “launching of the Lantern” at the Tourist Center. Too early to go to the launching site so we turned right to Shifen Old Street which ended at Shifen Train Station.

Shifen Old Street / Train Station

Shifen Old Street / Train Station

Shifen Old Street was packed with visitors. Soon we saw the rail track running through the middle of the old street. There were many shops/stores on both sides of the track, selling foods and souvenirs and Lanterns! For TWD100 to TWD 200 visitors could buy a sky lantern. The sellers would provide writing brushes for customers to scribble their “wishes” on their lanterns, lighters to light a fuels tied at the base of the lanterns.  Once the fuels fired up, the air that heated up would “fly”  the lanterns!

After two hours of roaming the Old Streets we were bore, we found a nice quaint cafe for cafe lattes, cakes and then pizza.

平溪十分樓仔厝咖啡·民宿

平溪十分樓仔厝咖啡·民宿

 

Sitting at the outdoor area of the cafe was fantastic, we could see the sky lanterns that floated up from the train track, up into the sky and far away.

At about 5pm we made our to Shifen Tourist center. Outside the center was a huge car park where the sky lanterns would be launched. We found a hill on the opposite side of the center that overlooked the carpark.We made our way there, the edge of the hill which was the vintage point overlooking the carpark was packed with photographers with their obstructing tripods!

Sky Lanterns Launching location

Sky Lanterns Launching location

Soon participants for the “sky lantern launching event” streamed in and took up their positions marked at equal distance in the carpark. There were given lanterns. A master of ceremony gave the instructions to light the lanterns and in synchronised move they released the Lanterns!

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

The scene of the sky lanterns floating up to the night sky was mesmerising! We had seen many photos and videos of Pingxi Sky Lanterns but none of them compared to witnessing it on site. The awesome experience was indescribable.

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

There were seven synchronised releases of the Sky Lanterns. We stayed to see two and had to leave as we need to catch the last free shuttle bus out of town.

Shifen waterfall

Shifen had a “famous” waterfall, we did not have the time to visit it on the day of the Sky Lantern Festival so we decided to visit it the next day as it was just 10km from our stay. There were a couple of paths that lead to the fall, we took the one near Guanpu Suspension Bridge. After we parked the car we walked down some steps, passing a restaurant before reaching a park. There we saw Guanpu Suspension Bridge.

Guanpu Suspension Bridge

Under bridge flowed Keelung River.

Guanpu Suspension Bridge

Guanpu Suspension Bridge

After the suspension bridge was another park. This second park faced the Shifen Waterfall. There was a boardwalk that winded up and down the hills with  several viewing decks at different levels. These allowed us to view the waterfalls at various heights.

A park that faced Shifen waterfalls

A park that faced Shifen waterfalls

 

Shifen waterfalls viewed at various viewing decks

Shifen waterfalls viewed at various viewing decks

Stay for the Night

We would prefer to stay in Shifen the exact location of the Sky Lantern Festival. Unfortunately all the accommodations in town was sold out months before the festival. The next town was Shuangxi, where we booked Liang Chen Mei Jin B&B (良辰美瑾民宿) . The B&B was about 10 km from Shifen. Our original plan was to drive into Shifen or go via Taxis. Lucky for us there was free shuttle services for visitors to the festival.

The B&B was a lovely place, it was about 500 metres off the main road. The ensuite room with breakfast was TWD2600 for a night.

Our room was very spacious with large windows overlooking the garden. It was on the 2nd level of the building. When we checked in during the day we thought we would definitely love this place. Unfortunately we did not sleep well that night. It was drizzling though the night and just outside our room window was some metal covering which “clang” loudly thoughout the night when the rain drops hit on it.

Breakfast though was simple, it was all fresh and homemake! The B&B assistant told us he was up early making bread/bun and soya milk and the bacon was house cured!

Our breakfast at Liang Chen Mei Jin B&B

Our breakfast at Liang Chen Mei Jin B&B

Accommodation near Shifen

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