Nate and I took a short flight over to Taipei so we could watch the Pingxi Lantern Festival, one of the top 14 festivals in the world according to Fodor's Travel. We arrived on a Friday night, checked into our hotel, and then set out in search of one of Taipei's many night markets.
The Tong Hua Night Market (通化夜市) (also known as Lin Jiang Ye Shi (臨江夜市)) is one of the lesser known markets in Taipei, catering more to the locals. The market has over 100 vendors, featuring local foods, other cuisines, and even shops selling little knickknacks, clothes, and accessories.
Nate and I tried a few different foods. We couldn't resist a banh mi sandwich, had a garlic stuffed sausage, sugar cane juice, a cubanos sandwich, and finished up with some little pancake eggs of deliciousness stuffed with butter and chocolate. #mmmm #iwanttoeatallthefood
One of the things I love about traveling in Asia, is having the opportunity to meet up with my dads old work colleagues. For our Taipei trip, my dad connected us with his friend John, and his wife Ferra, and warned us we were in for a good time (he was not wrong!). I emailed John to coordinate before we headed over. He was more than welcoming and offered to pick us up and spend the whole day with us before going to the Lantern Festival with us #score
John and Ferra hired a driver and picked us up at our hotel around 10am before we set out on our busy day #fancy We quickly hit it off and made a fast facetime call to my dad. (Bet it was weird for him seeing his daughter and her hubby hanging out with John on the other side of the world!) Our first stop on our whirlwind day was a beautiful view along the coast. Even though it was a cloudy day, the view was still nice - reminded me of northern California.
They then took us to Yehliu Geopark. When we arrived, there was a Chinese New Year celebration happening in the parking lot where men were carrying around alters with holy spirits/gods on them in circles around the parking lot. #funwaytostarttheday
Yehliu Geopark is one of most unique, beautiful stretch of coastlines in the world, stretching 1.7 km. The limestone rocks have been shaped and formed by waves, wind, and earth movements, creating rare and stunning rock formations that look like candles, mushrooms, ice cream, etc. It was quite a stunning site to see.
Queen's head rock is the landmark of Yehliu and one of the most well known rocks at the park. It's over 4000 years old and got it's name for it's likeness to England's Queen Elizabeth I. Unfortunately, due to the weather and erosion, the rock may soon topple over and break since the neck of the rock is getting thinner and thinner (in the next 10 years). #gladwegottoseeitwhileitwasstillthere
After the cool views at Yehliu, we then started making our way over to the Gold Museum. On the way, we saw some creepy, old, abandoned mines and buildings.
We finally arrived at the Gold Museum after sightseeing around the area.
The Gold ecological park is made up of old offices, dormitories, processing plants, and other facilities of the Taiwan Metal Mining Corporation. The Gold Museum includes the Gold Building, Benshan Fifth Tunnel, Crown Prince Chalet, Jin Shul Special Exhibition Hall, Gold Refining Building, and Four Joined Japanese-Style houses.
We started out our tour by visiting the four joined Japanese houses and watched an informational video on the area.
The Gold Building provides information about the discovery of gold in the area, with displays on the Benshan Tunnels, old mining equipment, mining transport systems and a brief introduction to the World War II Japanese Kinkaseki POW Camp (many POW were forced to work in the mine). On the next floor, jewelry, gold art work, and a massive world-record 220.3 kg 999 pure gold brick that visitors can actually touch! John, Ferra, Nate and I were trying to figure out how we could get this thing out of the museum and down to the van..... Unfortunately, we couldn't think of a way before it was our turn to touch it #ilooooveeegooooolllldddd
On the way out, we had a quick snack - warm tofu pudding with bubbles and peanuts (and some ginger flavoring #spicy!) The ginger flavoring warmed us from within on the chilly day.
Next, we headed over to old Jiufen, the old gold mining mountain town made popular by the Japanese in 1893 when they invested in mining in the area. Now, it's a maze of lanes and alleyways with a rich history and culture, filled with tea houses, souvenir shops, and beautiful views of the ocean. #goldrush John and Ferra had us try a variety of Taiwan foods, which were tasty and different from anything we've had in America. #eatlikealocal #localtourguides
They took us to a local famous restaurant where we tried lots of little dishes of food: braised pork rice, fish ball soup (wasn't a huge fan of this), Shaoshing wine marinated chicken (drunk chicken), glass noodles, Chinese herb eggs, oily bean curd, chicken feet, and jellyfish! I tried not to look too hard at the chicken feet before I tried them so I wouldn't psych myself out - a bit chewy/crunchy. I think I was most excited about trying the jellyfish since I was stung by one of those fu*kers in Hawaii #revengeisadishbestservedcold #revengeissweet It was quite chewy but I ate as much as I could to get my revenge #muwahahhaha
We walked down the narrow alleyways and also got to try some peanut ice cream spring rolls - basically exactly like they sound, spring rolls with ice cream, freshly shaved peanut candy, and some cilantro. #tasty!! And we finished off our full bellies by trying some Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan. We got both a hot and cold option. Basically handmade taro, sweet potato, green tea balls, and kidney beans are served either in soup for the hot option or on top of ice for the cold option. Again, another refreshing tasty treat and I'm so grateful we had John and Ferra around to show us what was good and order since I would have had no idea. #lovetryingthelocalfood
We continued down the narrow, crowded streets to the old Shengping Theater. Built in 1914, this was the first modern theater ever built in Taiwan by the Japanese. We watched a short film in the historic theater - although it was in Chinese, John explained the main points to Nate and I #privatetranslator
After our visit to charming Jiufen, we headed to the train station so we could go to the Pingxi Lantern Festival. The driver dropped us off at the perfect time since the train was just about to leave and it was PACKED. I thought there was no way we could fit on the train since it didn't' even look like the doors could close, but after John had a quick chat with one of the station employees, we realized there wasn't another train for another hour! We had to find a way on this train.... (how?!)
We pushed and pushed, and somehow all 4 of us were able to slide in. My face was smashed up against Nate. And still a few more people barely managed to squeeze on. It was a 30 minute train ride up to the Shifen station and I have never been on a more crowded train in my life - haha it was a unique experience and all part of the fun. #sardines
Listed as one of the best festivals in the world and listed as one of the best New Year's celebrations by the Discovery Channel, the Pingxi Lantern Festival is a must see. The history of the sky lantern festival goes back hundreds of years. The "sky lantern" was first used in the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-265) to send military information and messages during wartime and to let villagers know when they should flee into the surrounding mountains. Eventually it turned into people writing their prayers and wishes onto the lanterns and releasing them into the air, rising up to God and their ancestors.
Over 100,000 people attend this festival every year with as many as 200,000 lanterns being released into the night sky. I was beyond excited to add a lantern filled with Nate and my hopes and wishes for the new year into the night sky.
Some of our wishes include hopefully having a a new addition to the family at some point this year (#babybond), traveling more, moving back to Cali (hey that one is coming true!), winning the lotto (I hope this one comes true!), our relationship continuing to grow, health, happiness for our friends and family, and of course some more fun memories with food and drinks. I think we covered most of it :) (See our lantern below)
Along the railroad track, after we wrote on our lantern, we were ushered onto the tracks to release our lantern up to God and our ancestors to hopefully make our wishes come true. The people who provide the lanterns to festival attendees are pros - quickly taking our picture with our lantern, helping us light it, and guide it up into the sky.
(Side note: The vendors and lantern releases are right on the railroad tracks so when a train comes, everyone has to scramble off the tracks and huddle on the sides, with the train passing only a few feet from you. Now it makes sense why there's only one train an hour!)
In addition to people releasing their lanterns on the railroad tracks, farther down the road there are 3 scheduled lantern releases were over 1200 lanterns are released at once. .It was a pretty moving experience, watching thousands of lanterns filled with people's hopes and prayers being swept into the sky, glowing like a beacon of light dancing in the air. It's hard not to be filled with hope for the new year surrounded by these magical lanterns and fascinating cultural experience.
Since no cars were allowed up near the festival, the only way to get back down was either by train or bus. We hoped on one of the shuttles provided and headed back down the hill. Fortunately, it wasn't as crowded as the train ride up! We got back to downtown Taipei where John and Ferra took us out to one of their favorite spots to eat dinner: Gordon Biersch - haha perfect. #alittletasteofhome (At least we did try a lot of local food before going to this American chain restaurant!)
The laughs and memories continued with our lovely hosts over dinner and drinks. John then took us down the street to a little lounge restaurant called Brown Sugar - tucked away in a little building. Apparently my dad discovered this spot on one of his many trips to the city #lol #lovemydad #ofcoursehedid This cracked me up and I can totally picture my dad having drinks here while enjoying some live music. We enjoyed some more wine and continued our awesome night.
Fun story: When I was showing Ferra how we could AirDrop photos to one another from our day, I turned her AirDrop option on. I just saw "iPhone" come up as an option for me and figured it was her, so I sent her a photo. During that time, the awesome singer was doing a Facebook live of her performing with the band when out of no where says "Who's Airdropping me a photo right now?!" #ohshit #whoops She looks up and sees that it's us and is just like "Nice photo guys!" haha #lovetechnology #wereallconnected
Finally, around 2am we decided to call it a night, but not before a drunk phone call to my dad where John and I both proceeded to tell him how much we love him #hahaha I'm sure my dad loved waking up to it since it was his morning time.#whowouldnt #showmethelove
The next day, John and Ferra picked us up to take us to lunch and then give us a ride to the airport #sonice! #besthosts We went to a delicious local dumpling spot, Goa Ji (basically the locals Din Tai Fung). We had these tasty pan fried dumplings, garlic shrimp, and orange chicken. Perfect meal for a hangover and glad we got to try a nice local spot! Then we grabbed some tasty coffee nearby that had some local art setup focusing on the year of the rooster - roosters everywhere!
All in all, another great trip to Taipei and my favorite one yet! (thanks to John and Ferra) John and Ferra were beyond awesome, showing us a fantastic time and some awesome local spots and introducing us to some more tasty food. Hopefully we'll get to see them again soon and repay the favor! #thanksTaiwan #thanksJohnandFerra!
Follow in our Footsteps:
No.167-1, Kantung Rd., Yehliu Village, Wanli District, New Taipei City 20744, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Hours: 8am - 5pm
Fee: Adult ticket NTD80
224, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Ruifang District, 金瓜石金光路8號
+886 2 2496 2800
Hours: 9:30am - 5pm (6pm Sat and Sun)
Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224
Pingxi Lantern Festival
(usually held on the 15th lunar day after the Chinese New Year)
Directions: Take the MRT Wenhu Line (brown line) to Taipei Zoo and then transfer to shuttle buses departing from in front of the zoo. The bus will depart every 5 minutes from 9:00-19:00. The last departure for the return bus is 23:00. (No cars allowed in the area) or take the train to Shifen Station
No. 11, Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
+886 2 8786 7588
Hours: 11am - 12am
Brown Sugar Live & Restaurant
No. 101, Songren Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
+886 2 8780 1110
Gao Ji (dumpling spot)
No.150, Section 1, Fuxing South Road, Taipei, Taiwan
+886 2 2341 9984
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!