Sunday, February 12, 2012

shifen and pingxi

I talked about my train riding experience in this post here. I don't understand how the HSR, MRT, and buses in Taiwan are so efficient and English friendly while the trains aren't. Not only are train schedules and announcements only in Chinese but we have no way of knowing which train to get onto even if the destination name on the train is in English. Some of the trains reach the destinations we want but only the final destination name in English is shown on the train so we have to constantly ask people if the arriving train goes to Pingxi. 

The Pingxi Line is one of the three remaining branch lines and was used previously to transport coal. I like how all the branch lines are nicely painted on the outside. I've managed to ride on two branch lines so far, Neiwan being the other one. The Pingxi Line goes through some awesome scenery unlike that of the Neiwan Line. However since the train was so crowded we couldn't even look out the window to enjoy the view.

Chance, a friend of Phil's came up to Taipei to go see the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. I literally saved Chance's life when I prevented him from being crushed and pushed out the doors of the train. Of course that instantly made me his friend. Haha. I really wanted to check out the Shifen Waterfall which is known as the Niagara Falls of Taiwan. So we got off at Shifen Station.

Basically what we saw of this city is this one long street filled with food and souvenir stalls. Along the way Erica and Chance both bought this fried battered octopus that was very delicious. The consistency of the meat was very different and chewy. I forgot the price of it but I remember it being very expensive. I definitely recommend getting it and on the way back Phil bought some too.

There was also a suspension bridge on the other side of the tracks but we didn't check out that area. To get to the waterfall, it is a 30 minute walk from the train station. There are two paths to get there, one along the train tracks and another that goes over a hill and goes pass the Shifen Tourist Center. We didn't take the train track way but from what we could see, that way offered really amazing views of the Keelung River.

We had one group photo in front of the waterfall but Chance ruined it by closing his eyes. It was funny because Phil asked someone to help us take a picture and Erica and I were posing right next to them. The photographer only took a picture of Phil and Chance, cutting us out completely. Lol.

After going to Pingxi and then back to Shifen and then having to wait for another train to take us to Jing Tong, Chance realized he wouldn't have time to see the lantern festival and still make it back to catch the last HSR train back to Kaohsiung. So Chance left us and we felt really bad that he made such a long trip up and didn't even get to see the sky lanterns being released. Chance could totally have stayed at my place but sleeping on the floor isn't ideal and he had work to do. Next time Chance next time!

The program for the 1/26 Sky Lantern Festival was animation based and when we arrived at the mass lantern release site there was a cosplay show going on. It was hilarious watching the girls do cutsy motions and dances. I assume the show was going on to fill up the time while the participants prepared their sky lanterns.

After watching the sky lanterns being released we went and bought our own. It was $100 NT for a solid colored lantern and $150 NT for one that was multicolored. We bought one to share. I wrote my wish on the blue side of course and no one looked at each others wish though mine was just for my family. I'm a dutiful daughter like that. However when I was writing down my wish all these Taiwanese people were reading my wish outloud. So rude and trespassing on my privacy. I had to yell at them to move on and respect my privacy.

Sky lanterns are released in Pingxi because bandits used to roam the area and when they raided a village, the villagers would hide in the mountains. After the bandits left, the men who stayed behind would light sky lanterns to signal the other villagers that it was safe to return home. Nowadays the sky lantern has become a symbol of a person's prayers to the heavens. Ours went super high and we didn't see it flame out like a lot of others so we know heaven has heard us :P While standing around and looking at the sky you will notice that the lanterns will gradually grow darker and darker and when it is light enough you can see the lanterns fall and crash into the ground. Most of the ones I saw crashed into the river but one crashed onto an empty platform near the train station and burned for awhile. I wonder if the townspeople find it annoying to have so many burnt lanterns in their town especially since it is pollution. While lighting up your sky lanterns you need to make sure it gets enough hot air in the balloon before releasing it. Also make sure you don't tilt it or the whole thing can burn before it even goes up in the air. We saw that happen to someone and they had to bring it to the side of the train tracks so it could flame out without endangering anyone. It must be super disappointing to be excited to see your lantern go up and then have it burn up in flames before it was even released.

We never did get another chance to do some light painting but we had brought some of our sparklers with us to Pingxi. We managed to get some of them lit but since it was so hard to do we only lit a few for our pictures. We thought that the smaller ones would be easier to light up but they weren't so we basically had two people working on getting all three of the sparklers getting lit while one of us stood near someone ready to ask them to help take our picture.

Going back home took a long time. The train would stop at stations for a long period of time for no reason at all. We have this thing where I would end up sitting next to a stranger, it's always me cause I'm the lazy one that HAS to sit down, and then Phil will take pictures of me with said stranger. I will pretend like I know the person and do all these gestures and putting my head real close to the person so when Phil takes his pics, it will look believable that it is someone we know taking a picture with me. So going back to Taipei I sat next to an old man who kept staring at us and caught us when we tried to pull the stranger-friend thing on him. Then Phil actually made us take a photo together... that was weird. He then started talking to us in Chinese and thankfully I could kind of understand a little of what he was saying. Pretty fun to have conversations where both parties barely understand what is being said. Later we had to hustle pretty hard core to make sure we caught the last bus out of Taipei back to Hsinchu, made it with enough time to spare to grab dinner at McDonalds. I think during Erica and Phil's visit here, we ate at McDonalds at least three or four times...

The Details
Shifen Waterfall
cost: $80 NT, $70 NT if you have a Youth Travel Card

website for Pingxi County and the different attractions you can find there:

1 comment:

  1. Lol. People reading aloud your prayers means they won't come true.