One of the prime activities (other than penguin-walking on the railway track) to do in Shifen is to send off a sky lantern. Visitors flock by the hundreds to the many vendors lined up along the railway track and pen their wishes on the sides of these paper hot-air balloons. They strike a pose, light the lantern, and give it a final shove into the air. Some say problems get sent away with the lanterns, while the more fanciful view it as sending their hopes and prayers to heaven.
This practice of lighting up sky lanterns is not unique to Taiwan, but also observed in Thailand as well. In fact, some celebrations involve mass lighting of such lanterns at night, and it will be quite a sight to behold. This is also where Disney’s Tangled got its inspiration from. Of course, if the lanterns catch fire and start to fall en masse, the scene will probably resemble a storm of fire from the ten plagues of Egypt. But until then, preeeetty. =)
Afterword: For those interested, click here to see what happens during a sky lantern festival.