The last time I blogged it was cold in Taiwan. I hadn’t traveled by myself. I hadn’t been on a two week vacation. I hadn’t had a horrific sunburn. I hadn’t seen my parents in 6 months. What a whirlwind it has been since then.
During my 2 week vacation in Thailand I took a few minutes each day to jot down what went down. So after this post I will do a recap. I haven’t decided how to do that yet. I wrote a LOT because I did a LOT in Thailand. So gettttt excited!
Then, my parents came to Taiwan and we galavanted for 10 days. Such a precious time.
Yesterday, I rallied myself from my slumber to travel to the Pingxi Lantern Festival in northern Taiwan. I had to take a train to the High Speed Rail to the MRT in Taipei to a shuttle to get there, but it was so beyond worth it. I went by myself because the rest of the Taichung ETA’s had decided to go to Yilan this weekend. I have already been to Yilan twice so I opted out of that trip and decided to go to the Lantern Festival instead.
Since diving into Asian culture studies (going on 9 years ago), I have been absolutely hypnotized by the Lantern Festivals celebrated throughout southeast Asia (yes, even before Tangled came out, but that certainly added to its mystique).
Upon arriving in Pingxi I wandered around a bit and was already a little bit overwhelmed with everything going on: the grand stage set up, the gargantuan amounts of cameras set up to capture the photogenic lantern releases, the MASS amounts of people. Luckily I then ran into a local friend and her boyfriend who were SO gracious and showed me around, even inviting (cough forcing cough) me to try squid balls!
There was an “old” street that functioned essentially as a day market with tons of trinkets and local Taiwanese “小吃” or snacks to eat. So I had fried sweet potato balls, twice. I also had a local specialty that is like a burrito of shaved peanuts and ice cream…sounds strange I know but it is delicious.
Then they invited me to set off a lantern with them.
After a bit my friends had to leave so I went to a coffee shop and wrote a few postcards to friends. I reemerged when the sun was going down to grab a few snap shots. The streets were filled. One of the glorious things about traveling alone, however, is that large crowds aren’t really a problem. You can move seamlessly through them and get to your destination without worrying about anyone getting lost or disconnected. I would daresay it’s fun.
I grabbed myself the second round of friend sweet potato balls and walked up to the town’s library and went up a few floors to grab a shot of the hullaballoo
I can’t truly put into words how magical it all was. I’ve had this on the “Dreams” list for so long! I kept on thinking, “Dear Taiwan, thank you for sharing this with me.”
Once dusk had settled the official program began and there were thousands of lanterns released from a junior high in pingxi at one time, every 30-45 minutes (I think).
Lastly, before leaving I decided to release one more lantern. I wanted to be apart of the excitement! and I love how the lanterns look at night.
It was nearing 7 o’clock, but the day was far from over. After releasing my lantern I started walking though the masses to get onto the shuttle to head back towards to Taipei. I had read that around 8 PM the line gets REALLY long because the shuttle back is free and thousands upon thousands (literally) of people are trying to get onto these shuttles. I realized that I had the same idea as about about 10,000 other people. So I started bopping and weaving through the crowd to work myself up as far as I could. Then I actually found the line. I was aghast. It looked like it would take HOURS to get to the shuttles. I asked the guy next to me and he said last year he waited 2 hours.
Luckily, the line moved very quickly. I think I got through in an hour and change. In the process I met a really kind couple from Taichung who invited me to dinner and to join them in celebrating the Lantern Festival in Taichung next week. With that couple and their friend, I bumped into the guy who had told me how long we would be waiting. They insisted we exchange numbers because we were both single (LOL) so we did.
And then it was just a quick HSR and a (stupid expensive) cab to get back to my home.
And all this happened in 12.5 hours. I’m digging this solo travel thing. Thailand/Mom+Pop Adventures to come!