Since it would take us only 30 minutes to get to Shifen from Ruifang Station, we decided to make a trip there after visiting Jiufen.
The main reason I wanted to go to Shifen was to release lanterns! Seeing the waterfalls was secondary, since the boy is always reluctant to walk long distances and we were running late at 4pm in the afternoon anyway. The sun sets around 5.30pm remember?
A return ticket costs a mere NT36.
The interior of the train is nothing to shout about. Definitely less comfortable than the Tze Chiang Limited Express, but there are toilets on the train.
When the train finally stops at Shifen Station, you get off and cross the railway track to the other side. That's also where you would be waiting for the return train to Ruifang.
It was drizzling when we arrived, and just as we walked to the first shop located on the right, it started pouring. The rain brought the darkness forward by a good half hour, and we found oursleves stuck outside the shop, deciding if we should press ahead. Well, the decision was confounded by the fact that I had stupidly decided on a 6:30pm return time from Ruifang to Taipei Main Station, which left us with a mere 45 minutes to spend at Shifen. I had no idea if we could change the return time on our ticket once the allocated time had elaspsed, and decided not to take the risk. Since walking to the falls would take 20 minutes each way, that activity was out of the question. However, we weren't going to travel all the way here for nothing, so we bought the largest umbrella from the shop and made our way down the street.
We kept seeing these lanterns in the night sky while standing in front of the first shop and I think the desire to light one of our own was the deciding factor.
There are about 2 or 3 shops selling lanterns and they are located at the end of the row, which is rather short by the way. The cost of a huge lantern starts from NT100 for 2 colors, up to NT200 for 6. We got a 4-colored lantern for NT150. Different colors represent different well-wishes. The color combination we chose was red-white-purple-pink and it represents good health, safety, bright future, happiness, good fortune and all in all, we'll get whatever our heart desires.
The shop owner clips the lantern to a steel frame. A calligraphy brush and a container of ink are provided for you to pen your wishes onto each of the sides. Can you guess who wished for what?
Thereafter, it was a mad rush to light the lantern, pose for photographs, watch it rise into the night sky, then run like hell for the train which had already pulled into the station. Miss this train and we'd probably miss the train from Ruifang back to Taipei Main Station. A couple of steps into our sprint however, I remembered that the shop owner had promised us a free souvenir of a lantern and made the boy go back and ask for it. We never got the glow-in-the-dark lantern we wanted but at least we had something else besides photographs to remember this experience by!
Here's a clip of our lantern rising in the night sky, and followed soon after by another lantern. The wet and rainy night made the experience all the more romantic and nostalgic. I'd like to think that our lantern had a companion on its journey, and that it would never be lonely :)
Taipei Day 3: Taipei 101, Eslite, Shinkong Mitsukoshi
Taipei Day 4: Jiufen