Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Island glows with lantern festivals

Fengyuan's Disney lantern display is one of the most crowded and brightest celebrations right now, but Pingsi, Yanshui and Taipei offer their own distinctive night-outs

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER


As one celebration ends, another begins and depending on whether you head north or south, the Lantern Festival (元宵節) offers a spectacular demonstration of lyrical lights or deafening noise.

The festival falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month -- Feb. 23 this year -- but several locations will hold lighting ceremonies beginning this weekend. Whether its dodging fireworks in Yanshui, gazing at sky lanterns in Pingsi, or a fantasy wonderland in Fengyuan, each of the Lantern festivities has its own appeal.

Fengyuan's Disney Lantern Fun-tasy may not be the "happiest place on earth" but presently it's one of the brightest and most crowded festival locations. About 40,000 people looked over the 15 Disney-themed lantern displays at the opening last Monday, according to local media reports.

The idea originated in Singapore, but Fengyuan is the first city in Taiwan to host a Disney lantern festival, a decision that cost the small Taichung County city council more than NT$10,000,000 for materials, labor and copyright fees.

The hefty price tag wasn't the only difficulty to overcome; every detail from the lanterns to the logo had to be pre-approved by a Disney representative. It was a lengthy process, said Unine Wang (王俐心), project manager of the event, but "worth the effort."

"Most people in Taiwan are familiar with Disney characters and combined with a popular festival it works out to be a huge success." Wang said.

Each of the lantern displays represents a particular Disney fairy tale, from classics like Cinderella and Snow White to more recent animations such as Finding Nemo and Mulan.

The music and English songs accompanying the stories create a festive and lively atmosphere. The placing of the lanterns throughout the spacious grassy area and in the small stream helps to dilute the crowd and makes for a relaxing wander around the park.

The timelessness and popularity of the stories, however, are what attract most visitors. "This is more special, because each area tells a story. It's different from the single, large-sized lanterns at most festivals," said Amy Chung.

Accompanying her two nieces on their second visit to the park, Chung said she ordinarily attends the festival in Taichung city, but this year she is proud to have a major event in her backyard. Her apartment has a view of the park, but the noise and crowds don't bother her. "People here are in a good mood; it's a positive and exciting environment," she said.

The lanterns are lit daily at 5pm, but there is little to see until after dark. Things get busy around 7pm and remain bustling until the park closes at 11pm. There are no venders inside of the park, but plenty of tents selling food and beverages surround the outside area.

With the influx of people, driving and parking in the vicinity is increasingly difficult. The best option is to take a train to Fengyuan. Exit Fengyuan station and turn right. From there it is a 15-minute walk along Fengzhong Road (豐中). Alternatively, take a taxi from the railway station to Hulu Dun Gongyuan (葫蘆墩公園).

Fengyuan is a small city with only seven hotels so anyone planning on making more than a day trip out of it is recommended to reserve a room beforehand. Hotel names and phone numbers are accessible online at

Those with an aversion to commercial animation can take their pick from a list of other lantern festivities around the island.

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