I couldn't have been happier to have chosen the rural town of Shifen for our first full day in Taiwan. After we acquainted ourselves with our CouchSurfing host, Jiiavani, and settled into our room where we took a much needed nap, our host shared some rather unsettling news with us: That Sheila and I had missed the Lantern Festival by one night.
Talk about being the bearer of bad news.
If you recall, the main reason why we had visited Taiwan in the first place was because of the Lantern Festival, where thousands of sky lanterns are lit and released into the air.
I could have sworn that the Taiwan Lantern Festival lasted a few weeks - and it does. But with one tiny caveat that I'd seemed to have missed: The first night of the festival is the only night where the government subsidizes the event, resulting in the thousands of lanterns that are seen in pictures and on television which make the festival so alluring.
People, however, are free to purchase their own lanterns which are readily available throughout the town and certain areas within Taipei. So we were still going to be able to participate and witness people releasing lanterns, but just not in all its glory that we had hoped.
However, once Jiiavani told us that the largest waterfall in Taiwan was only a short walk away, our mood instantly changed from gloom to glee.
Talk about an emotional rollercoaster.
So we set off to see the Shifen Waterfall, and the town's surroundings.
Next, we took a short train ride to the town of Pingxi and wandered its streets. I think Sheila was a bit perplexed as to why we were aimlessly roaming around this small town. But I like exploring a new destination from time to time without any specific purpose, immersing myself in new surroundings. Usually it leads to something interesting happening.
A bomb shelter built during WWII
Once we returned to Shifen, we purchased a few sky lanterns and officially participated in Taiwan's Lantern Festival. But before we released our lanterns, we made sure to write a few wishes and notes of our own.