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 since the sun was going to set at around 5.30pm.
A return ticket costs a mere NT36.
The interior of the train is rather plain. Definitely less comfortable than the Tze Chiang Limited Express, but there are toilets on the train.
When the train 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, 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. 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, 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.
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 a dual-colored one, up to NT200 for a 6-colored lantern. We got a 4-colored one for NT150. Different colors represent different well-wishes. The color combination we chose was red-white-purple-pink, representing good health, safety, bright future, happiness, and good fortune.
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.
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
TAIWAN HOLIDAY LINKS
Getting from the Airport to the Town Centre
A review of the reasonably priced City Inn Hotel
Great Yakiniku Dinner Wine and Dine
Best Fruit Smoothie at Agnes B Cafe
Dining Cute @ Hello Kitty Cafe
Best Breakfast @ New York Bagels
Best Spaghetti and Fruits Tea @ Afternoon Tea Cafe
Ice Cream Toast @ Dazzling Cafe, opened by a socialite
Best Mala Hotpot Supper @ Ximending
Shida Night Market
Shilin Night Market
Raohe Night Market
Jianguo Flower and Jade Market
Shopping Malls & Bookstores
Eslite, Shinkong Mitsukoshi
Danshuei Old Street: Eat while you walk
Jiufen: Traditional Alley
Shifen: Lighting A Wish Lantern
Beitou Hot Springs: Soak your troubles away
Yehliu Geopark: Amazing Rock Formations by the Sea