Maartje wants to see more sky lanterns, so Maartje gets to see more sky lanterns. Hello Taiwan! And hello Pingxi sky lantern festival! From Ho Chi Minh we fly to Taiwan to experience the magic of another sky lantern festival. After Thailand, we definitely want to see more, but it’s not as easy as you would think to get information about the festival…
Read our travel journal about Vietnam!
We arrive in Taipei and Couchsurf at the place of a super sweet guy. We like Taiwanese people right away. They are friendly, polite and super well organised (they wait in lines for the bus). However, they are not too polite like the Japanese can be. Something we notice as well is that we are the only tourists everywhere, or well, Western tourists. We see many Chinese tourists (yes, we can tell by now who’s Chinese, who’s Japanese and who’s Korean).
What do we know about Taiwan?! Not much. Our only plan in Taiwan is to see the lantern festival which takes place in Pingxi and in Chiayi this year. But Maartje gets enthusiast after seeing some beautiful (Instagram) pictures of Taiwan, so we need to see more!! But first: Taipei and the Pingxi sky lantern festival. If the festival is called Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival you would expect it to take place in the town Pingxi right? WRONG! Or well, kind of.
We take a train to Pingxi Old Street – or that’s what we think. After arriving in Shifen, one stop before Pingxi, the train goes back! We are so confused, and I’m panicking (we can’t lose time, we want a good spot to take pictures). At the next stop, we step out and see we are not the only ones who are confused. There are many other (Asian) tourists that get off the train, and they are angry. Finally, we get more information: the main stage of Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is not in Pingxi but in Shifen, how weird. Later we find out that the province is called Pingxi, and there is also an event in Pingxi Old Street andJingtong, all in Pingxi district in New Taipei City: confusing!
We find a spot for our tripod, or to be honest, we just move another tripod. The owner isn’t there, so well… You can’t put your tripod somewhere to secure a spot and leave it alone for hours right?! Anyways, we have an amazing night. We meet wonderful people and are amazed by the magical lantern releases. It’s a little less magical than the sky lantern festival in Thailand since this one is way more organised, the lanterns are released in sessions. But still, it’s so magical.
Chiayi Lantern Festival
It’s time to go to the south of Taiwan, to Chiayi. Taiwan is not too big so travelling from place to place is super easy. Especially with the high-speed train, which we don’t take haha. We were thinking of hitchhiking again, but since we don’t have much time we will save that for another time. This year, Chiayi hosts the main part of the lantern festival: a huge field filled with light sculptures/lantern art. It’s fun to see but we expected a bit more!
Alishan National Park
Close to Chiayi, there’s a national park called Alishan. We didn’t know before but Taiwan has beautiful cherry blossoms like Japan! For the cherry blossoms in the Northern part of Taiwan we were a bit too late but maybe we are on time for the ones in Alishan! We go for a day trip to Alishan and love it. The hikes are pretty easy and the nature is super pretty. Some cherries were blossoming but for others, we are too early.
After Chiayi, we travel further down to Kaohsiung and we find out we love this city so so much. There are so many places in Kaohsiung we want to see and we are able to fit most of it in 1.5 days. Yes I’m now very happy Maartje looked up all those places and we travelled down south to see it ourselves. We see some fantastic (street) art in Kaohsiung and the biggest Buddhist temple of Taiwan. And again, we have a sweet Couchsurfing host with whom we talk a lot about LGBT in Taiwan – this country is amazingly LGBT friendly!
We take a train back north, to Taichung, and we wish we had more time there. We stay with Marco who’s incredible: we need to stay more nights! He shows us around Taichung and we go to the Rainbow Village. It’s a bit crowded but very impressive. It’s called Rainbow Village because of all the painted houses. A former soldier painted all the houses to save them from demolition.
Last stop: Taipei
Taipei, here we are again! This time we stay at W Taipei which is fantastic. From our bedroom window, we have a view of the famous 101 Taipei! We explore the city a bit more and go to some places outside the city. We visit Yehliu Geopark and go back to Shifen again before our Taiwan adventure is over. We wanted to see the Shifen Waterfall, but we don’t make it in time. And really: who closes a waterfall at 4.30PM?! Taiwan is a fantastic country and the best thing is: they are super LGBT friendly. The most open (minded) regarding LGBT of Asia! And they are going to be the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. Proud of Taiwan!
From Taipei, we fly to Macau, our last Asia stop for a while! Read more about it in our next travel journal!
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