放天灯 (Sky Lantern)
During our trip to Taipei, Rachel and I travelled to Ping Hsi (平溪) to release a sky lantern. According to the tourist pamphlets, the Shih Fen (十分) area used to be coal mines and are tucked in remote mountainous area not easily accessible by transportation. In order to let their family members know they have safely arrived at the coal mines, the miners will release these sky lanterns.
Over time, the releasing of these sky lanterns became a custom to seek for blessings and well-wishes from above.
Here are the photos documenting our journey to experience this tradition. 🙂
When we got off the train at Ping Hsi, the area was pitch dark although it was only slightly past 8pm. Most of the shops were closed and the lights in the residential dwellings were mostly switched off too.
Here’s what the place looks like in general:
There’s also a large creepy mural painting depicting various scenes of how to be a good citizen sprawling a full five metres wall.
Rachel and I were very hungry at this point as we have not eat anything since around 12 noon and the cold wind, coupled with light drizzling rain does not make it better for us. Hence when we saw a sole desert shop still open, we dashed in.
A kindly granny greeted us and serve us with sweet potatoes and yam balls. They were damn delicious! It’s probably because we were starving. I am not sure, but for that moment, those simple balls tasted like the best cuisine in the world for us.
Granny’s store also sell fruits. They look good too, but we have to rush off as we have to catch the last train back at 9pm and we have yet to achieve our objective of releasing a sky lantern.
Along the way, we encountered a few provision stores like the one below, offering sky lanterns for sale.
For some inexplicable reason, we settled for this hardware store below:
We were presented with a large red sky lantern by a stout looking shopkeeper. He passed us a brush and a bottle of ink for us to write and draw blessing messages onto the lantern.
To make things simple, we chose the chinese characters – 平安, 幸福, 快乐 and 大吉 (safety, bliss, happiness and prosperity) and Rachel wrote them onto the four sides of our sky lantern.
The shopkeeper then fixed the solid fuel into the sky lantern. The lantern is now almost good to go.
A final inspection was done. A small hole was discovered on the surface of the lantern and the shopkeeper promptly fixed it by just sticking a few layers of scotch tapes on the hole.
We are finally ready. 🙂 With lantern in toil, we marched with the shopkeeper to a nearby bridge to release our lantern. Countdown…
and up in the air it soared!
We watched as the lantern flew higher and higher into the air…
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Higher and higher till it was just a tiny flicker of light in the dark sky…
And it was gone.