Tours from Taipei: Sky Lanterns, Waterfalls and Wishes in Shifen

Various legends surround the origin of sky lanterns in Taiwan. One says that a well-known general, surrounded by foes in a desperate battle, once used sky lanterns to call for help from allies beyond the enemy’s perimeter. Another says that sky lanterns were used to signal to remote mountain villages when bandits and marauders were on the attack.

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Nowadays, sky lanterns are still used for communication — of a sort. Visitors to Shifen write their heart’s desires on sky lanterns that can be bought at shops surrounding the Shifen railway station. These lanterns are then lit up and sent floating off to the heavens in the hope the wishes they carry come true.

If you’re wondering, these lanterns eventually fall back down once that thing that burns — sorry, I don’t know what it’s called! — is burned up. There’s a system in place where locals collect the remnants and are reimbursed NT$10 for each lantern they return. Our guide joked that if we were really hard up, we could try turning up during the annual Sky Lantern Festival and collect the scraps for cash.

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After releasing our sky lanterns, we walked around the railway station for a bit. Hershe and I spotted a stall selling peanut ice cream rolls and that made our day. 😀

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We then made our way to Shifen waterfall, which was nice, if a bit crowded and noisy. (And I’m ashamed to admit it was mostly a group of guys from our country being rowdy and noisy. Sorry, Taiwan — expect more of that in the coming year. 🙁 )

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There was a wishing tree near the waterfall with dozens of red ribbons tied around its branches. Supposedly, if you tie a red ribbon around a wishing tree, your wish will come true. I spotted a ribbon that had fallen to the ground and re-tied it to the tree.

Now I wonder if that ribbon had been meant to come off — if the granting of that wish would have spelled doom for the original ribbon-tier and he’d been granted a reprieve when it fell — and by putting it back I was actually changing the course of his life for the worse. (Probably not but you know what they say: there are more things in heaven and earth…)

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Our visit to Shifen was part of Edison Tours’ Pingxi Sky Lantern Experience & Old Street Walk.

  • Contact person: Paul Hsieh, Deputy General Manager, Edison Travel Service Co.
  • Tel: +886-2-2563-5313 or +886-2-2563-4621 ext 102
  • Email: paul@edison.com.tw / edisonts@ms6.hinet.net

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