In keeping with my strange backlog of travel posts, its about time I shared the trip we took back in February. I haven't been on any other trips since so this will put me all caught up in the category.
When I told people we were going to Taiwan for a holiday, I often got a weird look. And the people that gave us the strangest looks were the few native Taiwanese people I know! Everyone seemed to ask "Why Taiwan?"
Well in a word: Lanterns! Once a year Taiwan holds a large lantern release festival that looked so amazing we had to see it for ourselves.
I admit it's nothing like the calm zen like experience I imagined. Its more like being placed in a foreign country's version of grand central and then figuring out how to get to your train on time. Thankfully we arranged a guide to help us get to the valley and figure out all the details. Although it was nothing like I expected, it was still a magical experience.
The big release is at night but you have to get there way early to grab a spot. Earlier in the day we spent a little time in the small town of Pingxi, which just so happens to sit right on top of the railroad tracks, to paint our wishes on our own lantern and send it skyward. Every so often a train would stop and send all the painters onto the tiny sidewalk. Since there are virtually no western tourists here, we were quite the spectacle as people were taking photos of us as we wrote ours in english.
When it was time for the big release, the anticipation in the crowd was high.
My photos don't really do the experience justice. Maybe a video will help. You definitely need to turn your audio on for this one. You can hear the excitement very clearly as well as our own giggles.
So having crossed the Pingxi Lantern Festival off my life list, what else is there to do in Taiwan? Eat!
The food is delicious and exotic and cheap. Taipei is famous for its night markets that feature stall after stall of little nibbles. If it weren't for the smell of fermented tofu wafting around, its heaven. I had the most amazing fried chicken and freshly made donut at the Shilin night market. Yum!
There are other things Taiwan has to offer like interesting temples, natural wonders, hot springs and fun shopping.
But it was all about the lanterns and the food for us on this trip. We had a great time and would love to return one day.