This year's Taipei Lantern Festival will begin on Feb. 6 in the Xinyi business district, with more than 100 lanterns in nine different lantern theme zones featured in the weeklong festival.
The festival, which will run through Feb. 15, will feature various lantern designs based on the theme of the Year of the Ox at different places in the district, including the Sun Yat-sen Memorial, Taipei City Hall and Renai Circle (仁愛圓環).
Unveiling the city's handheld lantern design yesterday, Taipei City's Department of Civil Affairs invited the public to participate in the annual festival — a major part of the Lunar New Year celebrations.
Huang Lu Ching-ru (黃呂錦茹), commissioner of the department, said that this year's budget of more than NT$80 million (US$2.3 million) was the highest ever.
The department expects the festival to attract more than 5 million visitors this year.
A total of 80,000 free handheld lanterns will be given out at the main entrance of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall on Renai Road starting at 2pm from Feb. 5 to Feb. 9, and at the main entrance of Taipei City Hall starting at the same time on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8. More information is available online at www.taipei-festival.com.
The handheld lantern is designed in the shape of a small bull sporting a leaf-shaped hat. Lantern designer Lin Chia-wei (林佳葦) said the Chinese character for ox (牛) is inscribed at the bottom of the lantern, with the character being reflected on the ground when the lantern is lit.
In related news, the Taipei City Government is encouraging the public to take advantage of its free bus service to the Dihua Street Lunar New Year market in Datong District (大同).
The market around Dihua Street is a major shopping hub for Taipei residents preparing for the Lunar New Year holidays. The street is one of the city's oldest and most traditional shopping hubs selling Chinese medicine, traditional snacks and dry goods.
Taipei City Commerce Office director Liu Chia-chun (劉佳均) said the free buses would run from 12pm to 10pm everyday through Jan. 25, with stops at Dihua Street, Wanhua Municipal Sports Center, Zhongshan MRT station and Mackay Memorial Hospital.
For those planning extravagant banquets during the holidays, Liu said Taipei's Binjiang Market was a good option for finding top-notch cooking ingredients from fresh seafood to exotic imports. From this Saturday to Jan. 25, Binjiang Market will be open between 6am and 5pm to allow ample time for holiday shopping.
The office also recommended Huayin Street — which is filled with stores selling leather accessories and high-quality clothing — for holiday shoppers.
For tasty snacks, it recommended Ningxia Night Market, and for electronic goods and other gifts, the MRT's Underground Mall and the streets behind Taipei Railway Station, a commercial district packed with shops offering products ranging from toys to suitcases.