We traveled to Taiwan to specifically witness the Sky Lantern Festival. YAY!!
Since it only happens every 15th day of the Lunar New Year, we booked this trip as soon as the festival date was confirmed.
The event was on the same day of our arrival in the country. Thankfully, we took an early flight so we had enough time to check-in, eat and rest a bit before taking another two hour travel from the city to Pingxi by train.
One station before Pingxi is called Shifen, an old street where you can find local street food, souvenir items (postcards and trinkets mostly), or buy lanterns to write your desires or wishes on, then send it up the sky. It’s a popular place for tourists and this is where most of the individual lantern take-offs happen. As there was no direct train service to Pingxi at that time, we alighted at Shifen station and waited while enjoying the sights of busy tourists prepping each of their own lanterns.
…and then we hopped back on the train.
We went to Pingxi Station (because it’s Pingxi Sky Lantern festival right?!) only to find out that the festival was in Shifen. T_T Seriously, my heart sunk. I cannot miss this event. #panicmode
We tried to ask for directions to confirm but communication is really a challenge if you don’t understand and speak Chinese! The trick is to repeat the key words and use body language. But even so, sometimes, the locals just answer ‘yes’ or nod their heads even when they don’t really understand what we meant. Same as what I do when I’m trying to avoid a conversation. :)
We walked around a bit while we wait for the train back to Shifen. The trains were not frequent; I think there’s only one or two of them going back and forth. We waited for 30 minutes or so before we were able to board again.
Good thing, releasing of lanterns happen three times every hour from 6:30 – 9:00 PM. From Shifen station, we had to walk around 15 minutes to get to the open area where the collective launch of sky lanterns are, which took 30 minutes for us because of all the interesting festivities going on in the street. There’s a lot of food, shopping stalls, registration booths and singers entertaining everyone.
As we near the main area, there were television cameras, musicians and security everywhere. A giant stage and several huge screens were setup, too. Celebrities entertain the audiences while locals prepare and write on their lanterns. And when the countdown starts…
It was dreamlike to see those lanterns flicker in pitch dark background, in the clear of any light. I really felt that ‘Tangled’ movie moment. It was beautiful and surreal and full of hope. Nakakakilig!
One needs to register in order to join approx. 100-300 people releasing the lanterns. We did not manage to do that but we enjoyed watching from the side lines.
We waited for another set to be released after 20 minutes and this time, the lanterns are lighter (or yellow).
“The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is one of the most colorful activities of the Lantern Festival. Pingxi is a remote hillside town. In the past, those who worked or farmed in the mountains faced the risk of being robbed or killed, and they used lanterns to inform their families they were safe. The lanterns do not function as signals anymore, but are now used as symbols of peace and good fortune.” (source)
Now, not only did lanterns act as signal device in Pingxi, it also observes the official end of Chinese New Year. The release of the lanterns symbolizes their openness to let go of the old ways and to welcome a prosperous and bright future.
Watching hundreds of paper lanterns floating in the night sky was such a beautiful sight to behold.
It’s really a bucket list material and I’m happy it’s another thing off my list. :)
How did you spend your Chinese New Year?