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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to go to Shifen, Taiwan

Release Sky Lanterns in Shifen, Taiwan

1. Convenient Transportation

Address: Ping River (Pingsi) Township, New Taipei City 226, Taiwan (ROC)

How to get there:
By Train:  From Taipei Main Station purchased a TRA train ticket to Ruifang Station.
Travel time: 45 minutes - 1 hour
Ticket fare: NT 60

In Ruifang Station, Purchase a One Day Ticket to the Pingxi Line train,
alight at Shifen Station. 
Ticket fare: NT 50

We woke up early that morning that morning, had our breakfast in 7'll then slowly made our way to the train station. We booked our RTA ticket the night before, in that way we were able to choose the train timing and made sure we had seats for the next day travel. It's very convenient to book a RTA ticket just look for the automated machine and press your desired time and destination. We took the RTA when we went to Hualien so it wasn't that hard to look for the train station this time around. 

Be early in the train station. 
If you're catching a train in the morning please ensure to be in the train station at least 1 hour before time especially if you're a clueless tourist like us. The trains are efficiently on time and leaves a minute after the arrival. An hour early gives you plenty of time to get lost, be in the correct platform, right car train, refund a ticket, have some snacks and even have a relax waiting time. Don't lose your ticket even if you've boarded the train and keep it somewhere accessible for last minute glance of train details before boarding and for the ticket collection afterwards. Double check the train platform, train number, train arrival, your train car number and make sure you're seated at the right number. One mistake can cause you to missed out your train. Booked your tickets ahead of time if you buy the tickets right there on the spot it might be fully booked for the day. 

Once you arrived at Shifen Station make sure to check the train timings or better yet buy your return tickets back to Ruifang Station. I really love the train station here where you can legally cross the railway to other side platform.

2. Release Sky Lanterns 

This is the top priority of our itinerary when we reached Shifen. The lantern stores is just a walking distance from the train station, we choose the one with a more open space to release the sky lanterns. 

There are different kind of paper lanterns to choose from. We chose the multicolor that represents Wealth, Marriage (future), Success (business) and Happiness. Happiness is also meant for good health so it sums up to everything we want in life. 

Lantern Price: NT 150 - NT 200

Fun fact: The lanterns are released in the middle of the railway. A functional railway where the train passes by once in awhile. We were standing along the railway looking at people releasing their lanterns then suddenly people around us move vigorously to the sides. Everyone stayed calm like its just the wind passing by, no one was actually shouting to warn passerby's for the coming train. It really put a smile on my face. The rushed wind of the train passing by me was exhilarating, I don't exactly know why it felt that way. It reminded me of those Wild West movies where they would jump inside a running train to get away from their pursuers. 

Reminders: On weekdays try to be in Shifen before dark as most stores closes early. 

3. Write your Wishes

Write your best wishes in the colorful paper lantern, then released the lantern to the sky and hope for the best in life. 

The intimate feeling of listing down what you and letting it go is very liberating. I personally love the feeling. Besides It's not everyday where you have the opportunity to write your prayers in a lantern, take this chance and release your plea. Let's pray that our wishes goes to heaven and somehow things might go well. Have an optimistic approach and be open-minded. 

4. Food trip

After releasing the lanterns grab some street food along the way. We bought this interesting wrap snack which comprises of two ice cream, some peanut shavings and slices of coriander leaves. 

5. Tourist Spots 

There are a few tourist spots around the area that might interest you so check it out: Shifen Old Street (most lantern stores fills this long stretch street) , Shifen Railway Station, Jingan Suspension Bridge (just behind the station) and the Shifen Waterfall (15-20 minutes walk from the station). 

6. Perfect Souvenirs

I wanted to buy something unique for my souvenirs this time around, not just the ordinary foot or hand keychains with the country's name marked on it. I've found what I'm looking for in Shifen. There are plenty of souvenir shops so make sure to window shop two to three stores to compare prices. They have lantern keychains, tiny plastic lanterns for phone accessories, home decor and lanterns with good wishes. I bought the ones with good wishes for my family and friends. We even bought one for our future business soon, we will hang it there one day and think about the good days we had in Taiwan. 

7. World Class

According to my research CNN named it one of the top things to do in 2013. 

If you come to Shifen during the Lantern Festival then you're lucky enough because Fodor's Travel Guide considered it as one of the 14 festivals a person must see in their lifetime. Even Discovery Channel says its the second largest nighttime festival in the world another great reason to be there during the festival. 

The Lantern Festival is usually celebrated on the Chinese New Year either end of January or first week of February.  

8. Bucketlist

Make this one of your bucketlist when you're visiting Taiwan. It's one of those unique activities you can do in your travels. Skip the city tour and head to Shifen to have a different kind of experience. 

9. Simply Fun

Release the child in you and just have fun with it. 

Fun Fact: I've read that back then these lanterns were used by workers as a signaling system for their families to tell them about their safety. 

10. Food Trip in Jiufen's Old Street

Jiufen's Old Street is just a bus away from Shifen. Have a great nostalgic tour of the old days in Juifen, try local foods and check out great goodies souvenirs for your family and friends. 

How to get there: Shifen to Jiufen 
Take the train in Shifen back to Riufang station, infront of the Ruifang station cross the road , walk until you see the police station and board the Keelung Transit Bus towards Jiufen, Bus 788 or Bus 825. 
Travel time: 15-20 minutes 
Bus Fare: NT 20- NT 30. 

We visited Shifen and Jiufen on the same day. Manage your time wisely. Shifen was our first stop because its farther and there's a bus conveniently located nearby the Ruifang station that goes straight to Jiufen. At the same time there's a direct bus going back to Taiwan Main Station outside of Jiufen's Old Street. It was a prefect set-up for us and we had executed it efficiently the whole day. You can visit the Keelung Night Market if you want to have some dinner before heading back to the city. 

How to Return back from Shifen to Taipei Main Station:  
Take the train back to Ruifang Station and purchase a ticket bound to Taipei Main Station. 
Travel time: 45 minutes - 1 hour

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