lanterns in the sky: shi fen, home of railroad wishes


I met the sweetest family in Taiwan.

After being invited to go eat dinner with one of my SF State classmates and his friend’s mom, we hit it off, bouncing back and forth in Chinese over dinner and then over after dinner coffee (I was on a roll that day!) Both meals were her treat, and to top it off, after I mentioned off hand that I was planning on taking myself to Jiu Fen the next day. She offered, on her husband’s day off work at that, to take me to the equally lovely Shi Fen [ 十分 ].

And we didn’t JUST go to Shi Fen.

On a cloudy gray day, I was picked up by air-conditioned car and brought to New Taipei City accompanied by my friend’s friend’s Mom, and her Husband, and my friend. Wonderful company, and the most re xin [  熱心 ] or “warm-hearted” couple I have met! The whole day was their treat, and when I tried to return the favor they wouldn’t let me. I felt like such a horrible mooch.


 Our first stop: I’m not exactly sure.


My Chinese wasn’t exactly on a roll that day….


But it was a pretty place…


AND, I am however almost a bit certain I might have possibly visited San Xia Old Street [ 三峽老街 ] or San Xia Lao Jie… (I said I was only mostly positive).

I say this because recently we went on a class trip to San Xia (post coming soon!), and the streets felt familiar, like I’d been there before, in a dream….

…or like on a Sunday morning my second week in Taiwan.


We walked around.


I saw some pretty carvings in the concrete.


Breathed in the smell of delicious foods wafting in the breeze.


Such as the Chou Dou Fu [ 臭豆腐 ] or Stinky Tofu.

Now, yes, Chou Tofu, is well…kinda “chou” [stinky]…but it’s not nearly as bad as people have claimed. I’ll put it this way…if I had to choose to live next to a Chou Dou Fu vendor for a week, or a durian (an equally smelly, but popular fruit in Taiwan) vendor…I’d pick the Chou Dou Fu vendor any day!



It’s really yummy! We had La Chou Doufu [ 辣臭豆腐 ] or Spicy Stinky Tofu.


A Taiwanese Steamed Chicken Dish.


A tofu oyster soup.


And bamboo!

The bamboo is amazing.

Afterwards we headed out to Pingxi District [ 平溪區 ] or ping xi qu and made a pit stop at Jing Tong Old Street [ 菁桐老街 ] or jing tong lao jie.



My favorite thing about these old streets is the railroad tracks that run through them.


The trains blast their horns so as to warn stragglers they best move out of the way…


Yes. I took a dorky photo in front of the train. grrr. argh.

My second favorite thing about Jing Tong Old Street is the wooden wish tubes hanging from colorful strings.


Some people wish for love, health, peace for family, a smooth job, better exam scores…


It’s hard to decide on a wish…


Like crossing a really long and shaky bridge…


It isn’t certain if your wish will come true by the time you get to the other side…


But in Shi Fen, everyone still launches up a lantern scribed with wishes…


People snap photos as they watch their hopes and dreams float up to sky…


Coming up with my own wish was hard…especially because I was determined to write in it Chinese. And what can you really wish for with limited vocabulary?



So I wrote my name.

That my Chinese will improve.

That I’ll be happy.

And that my family will have peace and safety.

Then, we sent it to the sky…


If you look up you can see other lanterns, smoldering in the distance, little specks of color in the sky…eventually they crash and burn.

But people still make wishes.

They still send them to the sky.

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