Over the weekend, Taiwan Observer traveled south of Taipei to check out the hot air balloon festival in Hsinchu. The festival was easy enough to get to with several locations offering shuttle buses to the event, with each ride costing about NT$ 10 a head. It was a blistering hot day with temperatures in the mid 30’s, but only a few tents were set up to accommodate the thousands of visitors expected to turn up for the festivities. The sponsors had prepared a market with all the usual fixings you find in local open-air food markets. An enormous green field had been cleared out to make room for the hot air balloons. There was also a hip little area devoted to kids, furnished with slides that went about 3 stories down, on top of other playground amenities.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. What was it like? In all honesty, it was rather underwhelming. To begin with, we had traveled almost 2 hours to the location, only to find that none of the balloons were on display. We were told by the organizers to return at 4:30 PM to see the balloons in action. And so, we hopped in a cab and went for a few drinks with a friend in town, and headed back 3 hours later, returning just shy of 5 in the afternoon. To our disappointment, there was not a single balloon in the air. With the wind speed being as high as it was at the venue, the organizers prohibited any of the balloons from taking flight. Deciding to make the most of the situation, we decided to live stream the event as is, without the flying balloons, on Taiwan Observer.
The event provided a couple of hot air balloon baskets for people to snap some photos in. A festival attendant was posted next to the balloon and tasked with releasing the burner on top of the basket to spice up the photo op. There was also a large balloon on the ground where children could run around on as wafts of air blew the balloon up around them. The third balloon-related activity involved a large hot air balloon that one could go inside of to take a tour and grab some pictures of. Other than these activities, there wasn’t much else going on, except, of course, the aforementioned slide and market.
We’ll give the festival organizers the benefit of the doubt, as obviously, the weather was out of their control. The balloons did go up for a bit early on Sunday morning, but were grounded for the vast majority of the day, so we had unfortunately missed the opportunity, and weren’t presented with another one. Also unfortunate was the stench from the bathrooms, one that the festival-goers had no choice to endure, as it traveled far downwind. This was a problem only exacerbated by the heat.
The festival was a modest one and was great if you had kids, but this was more than likely a major disappointment for any serious balloon-watchers out there. So, all in all, you could say it was an OK festival. Hopefully, the winds will blow in the festival’s favor next year.
Hot air balloon Festival live stream
Hot air balloon festival market live stream
Photos from the festival
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