When in Taiwan, most Singaporeans flock down to Shi Fen (十分) to visit the famed Shifen Waterfall, and more commonly, to catch the breath-taking Sky Lantern Release along the rail tracks. The history of these lantern releases is lesser-known, but interesting nonetheless. It it said that in the past, the purpose of releasing these lanterns was to let escaped villagers know that it was safe for them to return to their homes, which were ransacked by outlaws. Today, people release these lanterns as a symbol of immortalising their wishes, believing that the hopes and dreams written on these lanterns will one day come to pass.
Aside from the mainstream Shi Fen train tracks, another popular district to partake in a lantern release is Pingxi, and particularly during the Pingxi Lantern Festival that happens annually. Ongoing from 8 Feb to 23 Feb 2020, visitors typically get to release a lantern of their own for just NT$100-200 (approx. S$6.74-8.98), but we will have to wait for this year’s festival to commence before confirming whether any prices have changed.
The main exhibition area of the event is slated to be at the Houli Park Area of the Taichung World Floral Exposition. This way, the festival switches things up by integrating flora and fauna, a refreshing spin on the typical lantern viewings we usually see. The 2020 Pingxi Lantern Festival boasts three themes—Rainforest Wonderland at the main exhibition area, Children’s Park at the sub exhibition area, and Art Fantasy World at the main exhibition area.
By Train: Take any Northbound Train (except those going to Keelung) from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang station. Alight at Ruifang station and purchase a ticket to Shifen Station on the Pingxi line. This train ride is about an hour or longer, and the fare is less than NT$100 (approx. S$4.49) one way, making it the most wallet-friendly route. You can view the train schedule in English here.
By Bus: As roads to the region tend to be closed during the festival, you can catch a shuttle bus instead of a commercial one. A shuttle bus ticket costs an affordable NT$15 (approx. S$0.67) from Ruifang Train Station to Shi Fen, and the return trip is free. Shuttle buses from Taipei, Jiufen and Keelung run all day, and the queues are split into standing or seated lines. These buses run later than trains, so it might be a better idea to catch a bus back if you’re planning to stay out a bit later during the festival.
To beat the crowd: Aim to leave Taipei by 3pm or 4pm to avoid heavy traffic and jam-packed trains. This way, you’ll also reach the Pingxi district before sunset, giving you ample time to watch the scenic golden egg-yolk sun melt into the sky.
Date: 8 Feb – 23 Feb 2020
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