Hope CNY has been super duper awesome! I had a pretty interesting first CNY with my new family: wrote a little about my CNY on my Dayre in this entry here, if you're keen to read a little more! :D
As you know, I holiday-ed in Taiwan last month (January), together with my best blogger buddy Evonne and our husbands both! It was my first time to Taiwan, and YZ and I enjoyed the trip tremendously. The people in Taiwan are mostly super friendly, and food is very affordable in Taiwan, which is awesome! Oh, and the weather was really nice and cool in January too, with it being around 12-20 deg most of the time. A light wool coat will do to keep you comfortable!
I'll be documenting some of the best parts of my Taiwan trip, and I'm starting with my favourite: 十分放天灯! One of the more touristy but also really fun (and yes, Instagram-worthy!) activity you can do in Taipei is to head over to Shifen, Old Street (十分老街) to release a sky lantern, which is a colourful paper lantern, on which you can write your wishes on, and then send it off into the skies for good luck.
In main Taipei city, it's mostly just a lot of eating, walking around and shopping, and Shifen is a refreshing change from the urban cityscape. Shifen is a short distance away from Taipei city (roughly 1hr drive), and we saved this activity for the second last day of our trip, as we planned to also stay in Jiufen (九份) for the night, before heading straight to the airport for our flight back to Singapore the following day.
Yangyang (Evonne's husband) booked us a driver which cost us 3500NT (approx 150SGD) for 8 hours, and this driver took us to quite a few places: from Taipei City to Yehliu, Shifen, some sight-seeing around the coast, and lastly to Jiufen where we stayed for the night.
If anyone needs the driver's contact, just lemme know so I can bug Yangyang for it. Hahaha. It made more sense for us to hire a driver because we also had all our luggages with us, but if you're travelling light or you're just making a day trip out, you could consider taking a bus/train/taxi instead.
Getting to Shifen
MRT Muzha Station (捷運木柵站) to No. 15 Taipei Bus (台北客運15路公車) to Shifen (十分)
1. Take the train to Ruifang Station (瑞芳站) at the Taipei Railway Station (TRA). It’s where Taipei Main Station is – follow the underground signs to get to TRA. Train schedule: http://twtraffic.tra.gov.tw/twrail/English/e_index.aspx
2. Alight at Ruifang Station and buy tickets for the Pingxi Line (平溪支線). Take the train to Shifen Railway Station (十分火車站). Rides are unlimited on the Pingxi Line.
Taking a Taxi from Ruifang Station:
You can save some time by taking the train to Ruifang Station, and taking a taxi there. The prices are regulated by the authorities and clearly indicated, so the taxi drivers cannot overcharge. Save even more by sharing a taxi with other travelers going the same way.
Single destinations: Jiufen (九份): NT180; Jinguashi (金瓜石); NT240, Shifenliao (十分): NT480; Shuangxi (双溪): NT600
- Package A (NT$1,000)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Nanya Rocks(南雅奇石), Yin Yang Sea (阴阳海), Thirteen Level Refining (十三层遗址), Gold Waterfall (黃金瀑布), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街)
– Package B (NT$2,300)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布), Shifen Old Street (十分老街), Taipei (台北)
- Package C (NT$2,000)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Yehliu Geopark (野柳风景区)
– Package D (NT$2,800)
Ruifang Railway Station (瑞芳火车站), Nanya Rocks(南雅奇石), Yin Yang Sea (阴阳海), Thirteen Level Refining (十三层遗址), Gold Waterfall (黃金瀑
布), Jiufen Old Street (九份老街), Shifen Waterfall (十分瀑布), Shifen Old Street (十分老街), Taipei (台北)
*Prices for reference only. Check the prices when you are there.
Shifen is a nice change from Taipei city, and looks like a quaint little town from olden days!
放天灯 happens at 十分老街, where there's a railway track/station right in the middle of the street.
Expect the area to be swamped with tourists from all over, I know I spotted Koreans, Chinese, Singaporeans and Malaysians, there were so many people there!
By the way, the railway track is still in use, and every once in a while, a train passes through and everyone has to scram off the track. The trains are quite slow so there's no real danger.
There are shops selling these lanterns, and prices vary depending on which one you get. You have those with single colors, two colors, or the most expensive ones which come in four colors. (I can't remember exactly how much, but it was around 150-200NT)
Each color is supposed to represent something different:
Red for good fortune, pink for romance, peach-red for decisions and opportunities, orange for money, yellow for success in school or career, white for health, green for growth, blue for hope that something comes true, and purple for idealism.
Though to be honest, I think I picked whichever one I thought was more visually pleasing.. Hahahah.
Some people like to do this in the evening or at night, cos you'll be able to see the lights from the lantern more visibly. It's really up to yourself, because I thought that day-time means you can see better and get better photo-taking opportunities too, even though night time may be prettier.
The four of us decided to get one lantern per couple! So one each between two of us to scribble and write on. Calligraphy brushes and ink are provided!
Here is YZ and his atrocious calligraphy/handwriting skills.
I take this very seriously! And you should too, because if you're not careful, you might just flick black ink on yourself/your clothes. 要注意哦!
Yang yang is also very serious, using his phone to double-check that the chinese characters are right.
You DON'T have to write in chinese, you know. It just seems like the cooler thing to do somehow. Hahaha. And for those who are really poor in chinese and you don't know what to write, fear not, because there's a little board on the side of the rack with lots of 成语 for good luck and blessings for you to refer to.
After I was done with generic wishes for myself and my family..
Another "page" dedicated to YZ and I!
I did have brief calligraphy lessons back in Higher Chinese lessons in secondary school so I tried my best, okay?
Obviously a posed shot but hehehe :D
And just because I could. Let's draw on the lantern!
Hehehe rather pleased with how my doodle turned out! :)
You get a chance to take a photo with all four sides of your lantern for keepsake!
So here's my wishes and blessings for myself and family..
YZ's wishes for me -.-
A wish for both of us..
And up up into the sky it goes!
Here's the video I posted on Instagram of us sending our lantern into the skies.
Though it did make me wonder where all these lanterns go when their fires burn out :( Our driver told us that the locals collect the fallen lanterns and sell them to be re-cycled, and even make more money out of collecting/selling the fallen lanterns. That's not too bad, I guess.
You can also find random shops/food stalls around Shifen, but most of them are probably rather touristy (read: expensive but not necessarily value-for-money). You can get souvenirs like little sky lantern keychains that light up when you shake it!
We did try some street food like mini sausages and this ngoh hiang thing above.
And a chicken wing that was stuffed with glutinous rice! Pretty yummy, this one.
Another popular destination in Shifen is the relatively well-known 十分瀑布, which our driver also brought us to!
The walk from the main road (where the driver dropped us off) into where the actual waterfall is took us about 15-20 minutes and has a series of steps and climbs, so it took some effort to get to the waterfall.
Which looks like this!
Entry to this waterfall used to be chargeable but is now free, so expect this area to be full of tourists too. It's sort of a been-there-done-that kind of place to me. Not amazingly spectacular, but since we were in the area, we might as well visit it!
The area around 十分 is really pretty though because it's near the coastal and mountainous areas.
We asked our driver to drive us along the coasts but unfortunately it was a gloomy day and everything looked grey :(
At a special part of the coastline, Nanya Rock Formation (南雅奇岩) where the rocks have eroded to form screw-like looking formations with layers and layers of rock.
One of the few rare occasions we got someone to take a group portrait for the four of us, thanks to Mr. Driver!
We went down to Jiufen and Keelung after this, but I'll cover that in another blog post soon!
Oh and a very important thing to mention is that whilst we were in Taiwan, we actually used these nifty wi-fi devices from Global Wifi that can be rented from Changi Airport: 100% connectivity to the internet with 4G/LTE speed almost anywhere we went! (Except for one super ulu part of the coastline when we were trying to find a lighthouse at this place called 鼻頭角, which was so ulu there was no reception at all)
|Photo credit to Evonne!|
I always prefer using such wifi devices over buying/renting a SIM card just cos it's way more convenient. I can stay connected on my Singapore number in case of urgent calls, and I don't have to trouble myself with the switching of SIM cards. Further more, you can connect multiple devices, even tablets and computers! Also, the battery life on the Global Wifi device we had lasted all day, which made it hassle-free cos we didn't have to worry about the battery charge running low.
It's a flat rate of $12/day for Australasia & USA and $25/day for Europe, so it's a lot cheaper than paying for international roaming with your service provider, especially when one wifi device can have up to 10 devices connected to it! PS. The first day is FOC; and if you are booking for more than 7 days, you can enjoy free Wi-Fi for the first and the last day as well.
You can just pick up these devices together with the provided charger and international adapter from the Changi Recommends counter at the departure hall so it's super convenient. Same for returning them, just pass them back to Changi Recommends! Their Facebook page is here at facebook.com/rentglobalwifi, or visit their website here for more information!
Read the rest of my Taiwan travelogues below (to be updated with more!)
TAIPEI JAN'15: 寧夏夜市! FOOD TRAIL AT NINGXIA NIGHT MARKET
TAIPEI JAN'15: 寧夏夜市! FOOD TRAIL AT NINGXIA NIGHT MARKET