I planned my whole vacation around Taiwan and its lantern festival.
Last year, a few days after I came back from Myanmar, my friend Alberto and I were relaxing snapchatting and eating gelato when we stumble across a video of the Pingxi Lantern Festival. I fell in love with it in a matter of seconds and immediately started researching the dates and details of it. I think sometimes we are just destined to live some experiences and coincidentally this year the festival, which follows the lunar calendar, was set to be on February.
The idea of going to Taiwan was stuck in my head for months and months, I became “obsessed”, started downloading pictures and videos and that’s when I realised I had to go otherwise I’m sure I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. Taiwan is located 3500km north of Singapore and it takes around 5 hours by plane to get there, so, as you can imagine, it is not around the corner! Anyway, I couldn’t let the chance slip by so I booked a way too expensive flight with an unknown airline to Taipei for a 4 and a half days trip.
The journey itself was nice, I really recommend Scoot Airlines. I got to Taipei completely unprepared from a clothing point of view, I didn’t check the weather and it didn’t cross my mind it could be a cold country. Because I was there for just 4 days I had left my big backpack with my sneakers and jacket in a luggage deposit in Singapore bringing with me only summer clothes… how smart Camila, congratulations. I landed in Taipei at 3pm and there were 8 degrees, I was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt, leggings and flip flops (so we can all agree now that there are seasons in Taiwan and it is Winter in February ahahaha). I took an hour bus to the town center and when I hop off everyone started staring at the weird girl wearing flip flops in winter. Since I couldn’t feel my pinkies anymore I decided it was a good idea to buy some shoes, a warm and cozy jumper and a scarf ( best moment ever!).
After regaining some warmth and energies I walked to my hostel and wow, wow, wow, wow IT WAS AMAZING. It was the cleanest and most modern hostel I’ve ever been to. There was only a slight problem, no one spoke english. In general in Taiwan it was really hard to communicate and it was really hard to understand how to use means of transportation because a lot of things are not translated. Luckily Taiwanese people are amazing, they would always at least try to help you even though they don’t speak english; most of time I was actually able to find someone that through smiles and broken english would take me to my destination. The day of the festival I was really excited, I was like a child on Christmas day waking up multiple times during the night waiting for the morning to arrive.
The event was scheduled to be in the afternoon/evening so after lunch I took the train and got to the village of Shifen where the main lantern festival was held. It was packed with tourists, you could barely walk and there was some really loud Chinese music in the background… I wasn’t expecting anything like that! In my romantic mind I thought it was gonna be way different ahahhah it took me 3 hours to get close to the main stage from where the lanterns where launched, but it was so worth it! That moment was absolutely amazing and I’ll cherish the memory forever. I was hyped and I remember meeting some random British-Australian girls and out of nowhere we all started singing and dancing, it was an unforgettable moment (there’s a video of me singing but I care about my readers hearing and I’ll spare you the suffering ahahah). If you want to see a video of the festival go and check my Instagram account out: cami.somewhere.somehow!
On the train on my way back to Taipei I met Jasmine, an Italian girl, and her friends Federico and Chan… crazy people must meet each other I guess, but never in my wildest dream I would have thought that night was gonna be that much fun (I miss you guys ahaha). We immediately connected and they convinced me to go to a club that night after dinner, there was only one problem: for some weird reason my card wasn’t working with Taiwanese ATM’S so I couldn’t withdraw any money and I couldn’t exchange my euros because all the exchanges points were closed due to the festival. The biggest nightmare of any traveler had materialised: being cashless. I’ll be forever thankful to Federico that lend me some money even though we had met literally 3 hours before, I’ll never forget that ahahah I was about to give up and sadly go back to the hostel when I saw a huge sign saying “International Taipei bank” or something like that, so decided to make one desperate last attempt: this time it worked and I was able to finally get some cash! I gave Fede his money back feeling both pumped and relieved, so we all jumped into a cab and went to the club which was literally in the middle of a park and full of foreign people. The night was insane and I’ll end up just saying that I got back to the hostel at 7am ahahaha I obviously had to recharge my batteries so I slept in a little bit and then in the afternoon I walked around the city.
Sometimes you accurately plan things and they turn out completely different. Taipei was nothing like I had expect it to be, it was a continuous surprise from every point of view, I learned that sometimes you just need to go with the flow because surprises are around the corner. The country is still on my bucket list so I’m for sure coming back… next time maybe I can also include a trip to China (mom that’s a hint for you ahahahh )… but who knows!