1 Sky lanterns at Pingxi

Bandits and wayraiders once ran riot in this terrain. When they struck, the women and children would hide in the nooks and crannies in the surrounding hills. The men would stay back and fight. The lanterns floating in the clear sky were a message that the coast was clear. Today, there are no bandits, but the tradition thrives.

We reach Pingxi after a steep trek to the spectacular Shifen Waterfall. There’s a row of shops on either side of the railway track. Once an hour, the local train chugs past. The minute it leaves, the track turns into a launching pad for lanterns.

The shopkeepers help you choose your pattern — plain, floral or multi-colour. They also supply you with black ink to paint your wishes, and then light the inflammable material placed in the centre of the lantern and set it afloat.

Most of ours bore messages of world peace and education. Someone, somewhere, will hopefully listen! This is also a great place to shop for local sweets, especially nougat, dried seafood strips, and porcelain figurines of sleeping cats and smiling pandas.

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