Sunday, 13 May 2012

Pingxi - Mining for Kids

I can't say that mining has ever been a subject that particularly interested me, unless it has something to do with gold or dwarves, but when I heard about my son's next school trip I thought I should be a good mum and go along. School trips are also a great opportunity for me to meet and chat with the other mums and dads and see areas of Taiwan that would otherwise be more challenging for us to visit.

I'd heard of the Pingxi branch line and the surrounding area and also of the Coal Mining Museum (from another blogger who's more enthusiastic on the subject than me). It sounded like a nice enough day out and there was a coach laid on directly from the school so I signed up. It took us about an hour to get there and the kids watched half of Toy Story 3 as we wound our way through the mountains north-east of Taipei city.

One thing that I do love is the scenery in this area. It was a lovely day too so as we were given a guided tour of our first stop I was able to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

On the bottom right is the former abode of a Japanese prince.

Children have an unending enthusiasm for travelling by train and on this trip they weren't disappointed. Our first train ride was on the branch line itself. Time for a group photo while we were waiting:

And then here comes the train:

We stopped at Shifen. The Old Street here is a popular tourist destination, full as it is of souvenir and sky lantern shops. The children had a quiz with prizes, given by our tour guide. We also walked a little way out of town and over a suspension bridge, which was a little too wobbly for my liking with 50-odd children scampering across it.

Then we got back on the coaches to travel up to the Coal Mining Museum. After eating our packed lunches the children watched a short film about the history of the mine. Then they got the chance to don hard hats and scramble through a mocked-up tunnel so that they could experience similar conditions to the miners. I swear that for some of them putting on a hard hat was the absolute highlight of the trip.

Next came the second train ride of the day, this time in the old carts that used to be used to transport coal. Many screams and shouts of excitement were heard as the engine jerked the carts into motion. Then we trundled out -

- and back again.
Once more, some beautiful views:

The final activity of the day, before the coach trip home with Toy Story 3 part 2 showing, was to decorate and launch some sky lanterns. I'd shamefully missed the signature festival that took place a couple of months ago so this was particularly interesting for me. 
First, the decoration

Then the carrying out


And airborne
I was curious as to how the lanterns are launched. There are two crossed wires underneath the lantern and some combustible substance is wound round these, then set alight. The launchers wait until the lantern is full of hot air and straining upwards, then they let go. There were eight or nine lanterns launched that day and we watched them float off into the distance. 

The Sky Lantern Festival takes place every year and hundreds of lanterns are launched simultaneously at night, which must look spectacular. I'll make sure I don't miss the next one!

No comments: