Updated: 12/14/2018 | December 14th, 2018
“Where are the lanterns?” I asked.
“These are the lanterns,” my friend said, pointing at the lit-up parade floats that littered the park.
“Huh? These are parade floats.”
“No, they are lanterns.”
Clearly, he and I had different opinions as to what lanterns are. Or maybe it was my cultural expectation that differed. In Thailand, they have Loy Kratong, a lantern festival that’s sort of like Thailand’s version of Valentine’s Day. Moreover, every month during the full moon, people light paper lanterns and watch them float off into the sky. It’s a sign of good luck.
I figured there would be people lighting lanterns off into the sky as a sign of good luck and fortune. Instead, I got parade floats….and they were better than any lantern I ever say.
The Taipei Lantern Festival is an annual tradition that commemorates the first lunar month of the new Chinese year and all the lanterns (floats) were about the year’s animal. Wandering around the grounds, it was interesting to see the floats. Some were commissioned by businesses, and others were done by schools or private individuals, but all were fun to look at.
The history of the Taipei Lantern Festival event goes back centuries. During the Qing Dynasty, remote villages were difficult to control and protect. To protect themselves, villagers sometimes hid in the mountains after the winter solstice when the final harvest was complete to avoid bandits and thieves. After the winter passed, the men (who had stayed in the village) would release lanterns to signify it was safe for the others to return. This practice eventually evolved into the festival it is today.
In the 1980s, as the festival lost popularity, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau decided to gather all the light displays in one spot to create awareness to for the festival – and boost the event’s stature and tourism. That’s how the Taipei Lantern Festival of today came to be.
There were a lot of interesting floats, from farm scenes to a panda wedding. Take a look for yourself:
How to Attend the Taiwan Lantern Festival
The dates and location for the Taipei Lantern Festival change every year based on the Chinese New Year, though it usually happens in February/March. The theme also changes each year to reflect the neighborhood in which the festival is held. It’s a good idea to follow along with the Taiwan Lantern Festival website for details closer to festival time.
During the festival, there are free shuttle buses that run to and from the site from various points around the city. You do not need to purchase a ticket to attend the festival — it’s free! The Taiwan Lantern Festival also lasts a couple weeks, so you have a fairly large window to enjoy the festival. Just make sure you book your accommodation early, as things do fill up quickly.
If you’re coming from Mainland China, expect to pay around 4,600 TWD (150 USD) for a flight from Beijing and at least 3,900 TWD (120 USD) for a flight from Shanghai.
For more ideas on what to do in Taiwan, check out these posts:
Book Your Trip to Taiwan: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. I use them all the time. My favorite places to stay in Taipei are:
- Formosa 101 – This hostel is located right near the Taipei Tower and the Tonghua Night Market. They offer free breakfast and have a laid back lounge for relaxing.
- Meander Taipei – The staff here is really helpful and the beds are comfy. They have free breakfast as well as other daily activities available.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!
Photo credits: 1-4, 5