“As the sky lights up a blazing orange, whatever stress we suffered to arrive here was suddenly worth it. The sight was breathtaking, magically, surreal.”
As a kid, I watched on television programs showing lanterns filling the sky with golden balls, coloring the dark sky with dots of orange.I imagined it as bright yummy oranges that float into the sky and I told myself, I want to see these “oranges”. This sight become one of the item in my bucket list and here I am, right now, making my way to cross out this item on my list. Armed with excitement and as usual nothing in my brain except to bring back happy memories, I enrolled my whole family to go Pingxi together for the yearly lantern festival. It is considered a once in a life time, life changing event.
Pingxi (平溪) sky lantern has over 100 years old history. Originally, the Taipei Pingxi Sky Lanterns were released to let others know that the town was safe. These lanterns are decorated with wishes and images relating to the owner. To spread this traditional folklore festival, the Taiwan government starts to promote this event with a yearly Lantern Festival and mark the end of Chinese New Year (which is the 15th day of the first month in lunar calendar.
Every year around the Lantern Festival period, attracting over 100 thousand people with thousands of sky lanterns lit up and gradually rise in the dark sky, sending everyone’s wishes to God. The sky lanterns festival is now in its 13th year.
The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival has been elected as the world’s second largest festival at night by the Discovery Channel. This brought numerous foreign tourists to join the event, from which it can be seen that the activity for happiness and hope has no boundaries.
To reach Pingxi from Taipei, you can board the train from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang, then change to Pingxi Line where you have the option to choose a hop on and off train or straight to Pingxi.
With a brain that only think of positive outcome, I have NO IDEA that the crowd to Pingxi will be that crazy. If there is a sale in Chanel, and there is a crowd queuing to grab the discounted hangbags, then that’s how it is right at the train station. I felt trapped in this crazy sea of people waiting for the ride. The train service officer manning the ticket entrance shouted that the interval for each train is one hour. OMG! I need to wait for one hour to board the next train! You can hear a rumble of noise in the crowd, people deciding whether they should wait or they take the alternative transport: bus, to Pingxi, which has a shorter waiting time.
I have dragged my whole family along this mess, the total age in my group exceed 700 years old (imagine a group consisting of many white hair camouflaged in black hair elderly)! And they are to be volunteered sardines in a travelling can. We have no choice since we have already bought the tickets, thus we can only add the bravery ingredient to be thin silver fish for the next few hours.
The train from Ruifang to Pingxi took around 1 hour…..travelling slowly along the old tracks. On a normal day, we are supposed to enjoy hopping off and on this train, but with the 1 hour interval between each train and the crazy crowd (it’s totally impossible to hop on the train again once you alight at each station), we can only choose to alight at our final destination – Pingxi. The scenery along the way is breathtaking. Unfortunately, I’m standing in a back-to-back packed train, I can only take a limited number of photos.
The map above indicate the different stations you can alight, but these stations are so near yet so far for all of us packed in the train. None of passengers in the train dared to alight.
The lantern festival is split into 3 different days, where 15 day of the first month in the Chinese calendar being the final day of the lantern festival, which is known as Yuan Xiao Day and is also the Chinese Valentine’s Day. I am attending the first day of the festival which falls on the 4th day of the Lunar New Year. This is the day for welcoming the “God of Fortune” and is considered as the most auspicious time for praying for hap and happiness in the coming year. This year, Chinese-ingot(Yuanbao)-shaped sky lanterns will be launched for the theme of welcoming the God of Fortune. A total of 600 lanterns: 120 Chinese-ingot-shaped lanterns along with 480 traditional lanterns will be launched into the sky over the course of 10 sessions. My plan is to catch the first session and before the place explode with home hungry people.
The first session is held in Jing Tong Elementary School No.45 Jingtong Street,Pingxi Dist., New Taipei City 226, second session in Pingxi Junior High School No.92 Shi-Di Street, Pingxi Dist., New Taipei City 226, and the final event with the releasing of the most lanterns at Shifen Sky Lantern Square No.136, Nanshanping, Pingxi Dist., New Taipei City.
This is the crowd in Pingxi Station once we alight. It’s OMG!!!
We passed through Pingxi old street (of course after we took care of our growling tummys) and walked towards Jing Tong Elementary School using our trusty legs. The sun was setting and you can see the sky lanterns one by one being released into the sky in the far horizon. You can almost hear a romantic melody playing the background.
Once we reached Jing Tong Elementary school, it’s just like how a bubble is burst or rather someone knocked your head while you are halfway in your daydream, when we saw loads of human crowded in the open courtyard of the school.
After many attempts of trying to find a good spot for photos, I gave up and decided to pretend to be invisible and sneak my way right into the center of the court, acting as one of the participant…..Things I will do, just to get a good photo.
One last shot before taking the train back to Taipei City again. (peek into the background to see the amount of people waiting patiently for the next train). I will come back Pingxi again to take another set of emotion triggering pictures when there are less people. For now, I’ve crossed out Pingxi Lantern Festival. Will I come again? Maybe, but I will plan to drive next time.