The Pingxi Lantern Festival is one of the coolest ways to celebrate Chinese New Year in Taipei if not all of Taiwan. I don’t know what goes on in the rest of Taiwan, so that’s why I’m so confident in that statement. If you know of something else that’s super awesome, let me know! It just so happened that I booked my five weeks in Taiwan to coincide with the Pingxi Lantern Festival. I didn’t even know it existed when I was planning my trip until shortly before I got to Taiwan.
Of course, I intended to go now that I did know about it. In 2016 (when I went) they had two or three festivals so it wasn’t as crazy at one, but it was still super busy. Also, everything in this is accurate as of the time of writing. If you see anything wrong, let me know and I’ll update it.
Once I got to Taiwan, though, I wasn’t so sure I was going to go. I didn’t want to go by myself (that solo travel spirit, right?) and I was having a hard time finding people that were going. Finally, a few days before the lantern festival, I found someone to go with!
The day finally came and we got up earlyish to make sure we made it in enough time. We decided to go by train, which, in hindsight, was maybe not the best idea, but it was a pretty good experience. First, we took the MRT to Taipei Main Station, then the train to Ruifang. All was good, then, leaving Ruifang is when the experience really started.
We were sent through a line to the platform to wait. At this point, the platform wasn’t super busy, but there was still a good number of people in it. Slowly but surely it started to fill and we went from having elbow room to practically being in strangers laps.
Then it was time to get on the actual train. It was almost like that scene in Mean Girls where they break out in a fight in the cafeteria or in the mall, but this time it was on the way into the train. We managed to get seats, but only so many people can. There were so many people in the car, it was crazy. I’ve never seen one that full, but I also haven’t been on many trains. This is what I imagine trains in India to be like, but more sweaty there.
Once we were on the train, we were finally on our way to Pingxi! We got there a couple hours before the festival actually started, so we got some noodles from 7-11. I mean, what else would you eat?
Finally, we got to the festival grounds over at the school. We staked out a good spot, then just hung out waiting for it to start. It was a warm day, so I wore shorts, but I brought pants for when it got dark. I decided to go change, but they only had porta potties. So I get in line and every person that came out before me made a horrible face, then I went in and made the same face. It smelled horrible and it was a squatty potty, but it was like, overflowing with everything you don’t want a toilet to be overflowing with. I didn’t let any of me or my clothes touch anything else in there. I should have just skipped it all together.
Soon, the festivities began and lanterns were being released in groups into the clear skies above Pingxi. I think there were five or six groups of lanterns that went up with a little time between to get them all ready. I was surprised how big the lanterns were. We watched them float into the sky for a couple hours before the slightly less packed trek back.
I think if you want to send a lantern up as part of the festival, you either have to register ahead of time, or right when you get there, I’m not 100% sure. If you want to send one up officially, definitely research that more ahead of time.
It was only after we got back that we found out we could have done this in a fraction of the time if we had taken the MRT to the Taipei Zoo then taken a shuttle bus, but where’s the fun in that, really?
Tips for going to the Pingxi Lantern Festival:
- Register ahead of time if you want to be part of the main lantern releases, but you can launch your own anytime at the train station or lots of shops.
- Take the MRT to the Taipei Zoo then the shuttle from there. It’s a LOT faster than taking the train.
- If you do want the train experience, take the MRT to Taipei Main Station, get a train to Ruifang, from there it’s easy. Follow the people, take the Pingxi line to Pingxi. There are signs and lines, but be ready to fight for a space on the train and for lots of waiting. Give yourself extra time if you go this way.
- Wear pants and a sweatshirt or jacket, it gets chilly.
- Go to the bathroom before you get there. The port-a-potty’s were super gross. Like, really, really gross.
- If you plan on using a tripod for pictures get there super early. We got there a few hours before it started and there was already a ton of people around the launch area with tripods set up.
- It’s free! But bring money to eat and for trains of course.
- Enjoy! And feel free to ask me any questions you have about it!
Have you been to the Pingxi Lantern Festival? What did you think of it? What about another lantern festival? Do you want to go?