Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival
Remember that scene from Disney's Tangled? The floating lanterns? Yeah. Well it's real.
This was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had while travelling: the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, in Taiwan. The festival is a continuous stream of approx. 1m3 paper lanterns. How continuous? About 100,000 to 200,000 lanterns are released during the celebration. It's epic to watch these lanterns float around and... sometimes crash and burn.
Way back when I visited Taipei to see a client's parents. I used to teach a politician's daughter and I had the honour of being toured around and fed. While talking they mentioned that this was the BEST lantern festival in the world and it occurs about 2 weeks after lunar new year. I literally bought the flight over to Taiwan JUST for this festival. The Beehive Firework Festival was just a bonus. The food and drinks also helps. Taiwan is delicious.
Here's the info!
1) Fly to TPE airport. Taoyuan International Airport.
2) Take a local train from Taipei Main Station to Rei Fang. This is a very cheap ticket and the trip takes about 45 minutes.
3) Transfer at Rei Fang via bus or train to Pingxi. This trip is beautiful and I recommend the train if you can get the timing right. This is an equally cheap ticket... and also takes about 30-45 minutes.
4) If you arrive early, go register to be a part of one of the big group lantern releases. If you arrive late, plan on jumping in one of the later sessions. Also, if you're there early, go check out some of the nature paths and local spots.
5) buy some lanterns. They're around $5 and there are pens and brushes available. Bring our own if you want some special character and if you don't want to wait in lines. These lanterns are NOT for the main area. Security guards may even stop you. This is because it will get destroyed as you fight the crowds and because the lanterns that are released from the main stage are all timed and uniform. If you want to light your own lanterns do it somewhere else. I saw some people lighting them on the train tracks (not recommended).
6) buy some food and walk around. Try to locate bathrooms early on as they are a rare find.
7) Getting into the main area sucks. There are HUGE crowds and people are always elbowing. If you can, sneak in the back. Have a little patience and you'll be walking around in no time. It's just the bottle neck that is a pain.
8) The exit is interesting. They have huge line ups of approximately an hour for shuttle buses and trains back to Taipei. From there you can catch a taxi to your hotel/hostel.
Bring a date! I wish I had a special someone with me too, but I'll settle with Andrew.