Saturday, October 22, 2011
Pingshi is a small, touristy mountain town nestled in the mountains just south of Taipei. It’s known for the lantern festival, when thousands of visitors go and write their wishes and dreams for the coming year on a giant paper lantern, light a fire at its base, then let it float off into the night.
If you’ve seen Tangled, you know what I’m talking about.
I got to go to Pingshi with my coworkers on a company-sponsored daycation. That means I only paid for my souvenirs, which means I spent a grand total of approximately $10. The souvenirs alone were totally worth it, but add in the pictures, fun day with friends, and a great experience, and I would’ve totally coughed up the $40 it would’ve cost to go.
Taiwan is cheap.
We headed out at 7:15am. For breakfast we were served McDonald’s muffins and black tea. Once we were at our first destination, we wandered around, took pictures, and I got in some souvenir shopping.
While waiting for the train to take us to our next destination, we wandered around the area taking pictures. There were several signs warning people to stay off the train tracks, but they were just so inviting.
Not long after the above picture was taken, we all scampered off the tracks to make way for an incoming train. Safety first!
At 11am, we boarded the train for our next destination further in the mountains.
Two stops later we arrived. I followed the group, which listened to the tour guide explaining the history and different aspects of the town. Since it was all in Chinese, I explored on my own.
Then, at 1pm, it was time for us to eat lunch. It was a typical meal in a typical setting: many, many courses of seafood and Taiwanese “delicacies” served on a large lazy susan in the middle of a round table. It was a good meal, and I tried sardines for the first time; they were whole and fried, and it weirded me out a bit to eat something’s head. I apologized to both of them before I ate them.
Once we finished we were led back to the buses, where we loaded up and set off for the Taiwan Coal Museum. Again, there was a tour, but I just wandered around. So did most of our group, to be honest.
As the tour went into the museum portion, Yvonne, Larry and I separated from the group and went into the back door of the museum to look around. Then we walked to a separate building where the bathrooms and bathing rooms were located.
The end of the tour called for a short, somewhat anticlimactic ride in a coal car like the miners did. I was hoping for some kind of rollercoaster, Indiana Jones-inspired runaway-mining-cart adventure, but we topped out at 5kph. Maybe. It could’ve been slower.
The exhilarating ride wore us all out; at least, it made our bodies sore from the bumpy tracks. Comfortable it was not. Luckily, the next step was to make our own lanterns and set them off at sunset.
I wrote my prayers/wishes, as did the others in my group, and releasing the lantern into the sunset was actually a bit of an emotional moment for me. It was a beautiful, peaceful sight.
The lanterns are so cool – and the photo of them is very moving.
I can’t imagine just how beautiful it is at night during the Lantern Festival when there are hundreds of lanterns. I was happy, though, that I was able to participate with a big group of people I knew. It made it a little more personal.
A “Goldilocks-perfect day…” You are such a good writer!
Coming from an English teacher, that’s a major compliment!