The Pingxi Sky Lantern festival has been around for a while so you can trust on them to be quite organized. I was lucky to be in the area for the last day of the festival and largest-scaled one too.
Making your way to Pinghsi Sky Lantern Festival
The most straightforward way is to get to Shifen ahead of time, preferably by early afternoon; arrive at Ruifang station, and ask your way around. 😂 It’s likely that there will be shuttle buses since they prohibit private vehicles into the event area. Take note to ask about schedule of the return trip as well. The round trip cost me NT30.
Tips for Sky Lantern Festival
Take note of the location
There will be multiple ‘sessions’ spanning over the festive period each year; the last one will be on the last and 15th day of the Lunar New Year. Take note that each session is at a different location each time!
Arrive early OR be prepared to queue
At 4ish, I entered the event area for the festival with ease. The signs are super prominent so you can’t possibly miss them. There is no entrance fee but you got to make it into the area before it becomes too crowded. By the time I got there, a sizeable crowd had already formed.
Prepare something to sit on, plus snacks and drinks
To last through the afternoon and night, prepare picnic mats or mini stools. Or for tourists, plastic bags will probably work too. Snacks and drinks will make the wait more bearable as well. I went with neither but was lucky to have a fence to sit on, albeit it being rather uncomfortable.
And something to shield you from the rain
Chinese New Year is typically towards the end of spring and drizzling is to be expected. Seasoned locals will be armed with ponchos or brollies. Remember to wear sufficient layers to keep yourself warm too.
Be warned of photography enthusiasts and their flashes
Photography enthusiasts or professionals will station themselves to get the perfect shot, and more often than not, it comes at the expense of other audiences. This was my view for the entire night:
I wasn’t too affected as the lanterns would eventually be released into the sky and it wouldn’t really matter if the view in front was blocked. But the flashes were rather irksome as they cast white light on the lanterns, multiple white lights. 😩
Don’t worry if you miss the first shot
I gasped really loudly when the first sea of sky lanterns went up into the sky and couldn’t concentrate on the shot.
With 800 lanterns in the sky, it was hard not to be impressed.
But not to worry, as there are 8 rounds of sky lanterns. I left after the fourth as it was getting dark (shorter days in winter) and I needed to get back to Taipei. It is more than sufficient repetition for you to get sufficient and multiple shots on your camera, phone, gopro, action camera, polaroid and whatever other devices you might have. 😂
Prepare torchlights and know your return route
If you read through the earlier parts, I took the shuttle bus up to Shifen. Unfortunately, I didn’t take note of the location of the shuttle bus stop and almost had a mini panic attack when heading back. Fortunately, there were people going to the same spot and strategically-placed ushers to guide me to the boarding location for the shuttle bus. The route was so dimly lit and I had to use the torchlight app on my phone to see clearly.
The shuttle bus took me back to Ruifang, where I bought a TRA ticket back to Taipei.
The sky lantern festival is a sight to behold but keep your expectations reasonable, especially if you have been likening this to the famous scene in the animated film, Tangled.
The entire event is a party; it’s festive and very lively. There would be jostling among the crowds, loud gasps, noisy conversations, greetings between acquaintances and friends but they all softened their tones and footsteps when the sky lanterns went into the sky. 🙂