Why the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is Worth the Trip
Lantern festivals represent the end of the Chinese New Year and have been part of the culture for more than 2,000 years. With a blaze of luminous glory that lasts from the 12th - 15th day of the New Year, colorful lanterns made of sheepskin, bamboo filaments, rice paper, and silk or satin brighten up Chinese towns across the land.
The intent of the festival is to ask for blessings so that your future hopes and dreams come true. It's also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day since it's an auspicious time to meet a mate.
I chose Pingxi, which is an hour’s drive from Taipei via narrow mountain roads. To get there you take shuttle buses that leave from in front of the Taipei Zoo.
Upon arriving you can either walk up to the Old Street or to the main stage. Nearly 80,000 people arrive in a village built for a few thousand. Tip: take the $2 round trip bus early enough in the day, as it starts at 10 am, to get a vibe for this little town.
Buy a lantern (they're not small) and write your aspirations on it before lighting the inner candle and letting it go in the air. Your lantern will fly as long as the flame is alight. All of this happens on the train tracks, which creates a certain amount of risk.
And, just as you’ve given attention to someone launching a lantern right in front of you, there’s another one about to go airborne in 10 seconds just behind you.
Visually, this has got to be one of the top festival events in the world. Such a joyous and captivating atmosphere.