If you’re not familiar with 放天灯 in Taiwan, this video should make you go, “Oh, that one!”
Yeah, you would most probably remember it from one of the scenes in 那些年，我們一起追的女孩. If you’re going to Taiwan soon, here’s one thing that you definitely need to do. Simply put, the idea of 放天灯 isn’t just limited to Taiwan, but in China, Thailand, Portugal, Brazil and India as well.
The Taiwan version gains popularity as a tourist’s attraction as they allow people to write their wishes on the lantern and, you know, release it to the sky so that the wishes can be fulfilled.
How it works is relatively simple: a shop near the area will give you lantern to write on four sides. Depending on the colours, it represents different things: for example, red is for general wishes while yellow / orange is for health wishes.
After writing, you’ll be led to a railway whereby an assistant will follow you. He’ll help you take pictures, and guide you as you release the lantern into the sky.
Throughout the whole process, another assistant will help to take images and even a video.
Here’s one interesting takeaway: the railway track isn’t an abandoned track, but one that is still operating. When a train is approaching, everyone would have to move to a side—so if you’re halfway through your 放ing天灯, you’re one unlucky person!
As for what you want to write, you can choose to write anything, or get a list of “templates” to write from. It’s very easy to tell the nationality of the people based on what they write: Singaporeans / Malaysians usually write “Huat arh! 中Toto arh!” while people from other countries write in their own language.
What to do there
Other than 放天灯, you could also take Instagram-worthy images on the railway track, because why not? The area is usually pretty crowded so if you’re going there during summer, prepare to sweat like crazy.
However, I won’t recommend going during winter or rainy season—you can’t do anything when you’re there. On your way to 放天灯, you’ll have to pass by many street stalls as well. The stuff there are slightly pricier (tourists mah, what you expect?), but there would be several dogs and cats within the stalls, so if you’re an animal lover, do remember to check them out!
How much it cost
The cost is relatively cheap—when I went there, it was just NT$200 for the entire service (including the lantern), which is less than SGD$10! If you would like more colours for your lantern, it’ll cost slightly more, but it shouldn’t exceed SGD$20.
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How to Get There
You need to be in Taipei to get there. Take the MRT towards Ruifang Station. After that, transfer to a train (this isn’t the MRT but a train) to Shifen. And yeah, that’s the track that you’ll be releasing your sky lantern! The entire journey, if you’re going from Ximending, could be more than 1.5 hour, so do plan your time wisely.
If not, you can take an Uber (taxis are plentiful, but Uber is cheaper there) there. And oh, you won’t need the address: the place to 放天灯 is just beside the station—literally.
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