Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

This weekend we headed to Taipei for the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. We met up with our friend Susannah and a couple visiting Taiwan on a three month rock climbing tour of Southeast Asia. While we knew the festival attracted many people, we were unprepared for the actual turnout.

The Sky Lantern Festival is an annual event held in various locations around the country. Depending on the location, lanterns are decorated with written wishes and either released into a river or into the air.

Here's how it works...
Step 1 : Decorate a lantern with your New Year's wishes

Step 2: Insert paper money soaked in lighter fluid into the wire support at the base of the lantern. Light and use your foot to hold the lantern to the ground and hands to hold the "corners" away from the flame until the lantern fills with hot air.

Step 3 : Once the lantern is filled with hot air, the paper will become tight and you can release your hands and feet.

Step 4 : Once you release your lantern, you pray that it doesn't float into a nearby tree, house, or power line.

Step 5 : Watch as your lantern floats higher and higher...

In addition to individuals setting off lanterns throughout the night, the festival scheduled the release of some 8,000 lanterns. They would release hundreds at a time, creating a beautiful image in the sky.

We even took some time and decorated our own lanterns to release...

Around 8pm we decided to make our way back to the buses...however ended up spending 2 hours in a mass of people waiting to board. They corralled people into two lines, one for sitting and the other for standing, however with the mass of people, there was confusion on which line was which. Luckily we were in the standing line which moved faster. We spent another hour standing/sitting on the floor of the bus and arrived back to the train station just in time to catch one of the last trains at 11:45. We finally arrived at the bus station around 12:45 where we caught the last bus back to Hsinchu and were in bed by 2:15am.

After sharing with our co-workers on Monday, we learned that it was broadcast on television not to go on the first day due to the expectation of such large crowds and that the crowds exceeded any previous years attendance. It was worth it, but, like Times Square on New Year's Eve, I don't ever want to go back!

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