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Wang Yeh Boat Burning Festival
Travel & Leisure

Why were you inspired to do this?

After living in Taiwan for 2 months, I wanted to experience a real traditional Taiwanese holiday. I heard of the Wang Yeh Boat Burning Festival from other expats, who said it was one of the most amazing cultural festivals on the island. Since it's only held every three years, I knew I had to go.

What were 3 things you did to make this happen?

Inter-city rail travel. I lived at the top of the island in Taipei, and the festival was held in Donggang, which is near the very bottom of the island. To save money I took the slow train, which ended up being an eight hour trip.

Helpful fellow-English speakers! My friend and I couldn't find the bus that would take us from Kaohsiung (where we got off the train) to Donggang (where the festival was held). Lucky for us, I ran into someone who spoke English, and knew where they were going. They led me in the right direction.

A camera. The festival was amazing, and luckily I captured a lot of it in photos and video.

How did you feel once you had accomplished this?

I'm so glad I went to the festival. Taiwanese religious culture is so interesting, and it was amazing to see it up close and personal. It was a bit hard being one of the few foreigners there, but once you got past that, it was fun.

Additional notes and tips:

  • Be prepared to be in a mob. I have never seen as many people in my life as I saw there. During the festival the carry the boat from the temple to the beach where they prepare to light it on fire. During the procession, you're in a giant mass of people pushing their way down to the beach. Once the boat is actually on the beach, you might get stuck in the same mass of people vying for a spot near the boat.
  • Make sure all your information is correct, and plan ahead! The festival is usually over 7 days, with the climax of the burning occurring near dawn on the last day. However things can change, as we learned the hard way. For us, the boat burning was supposed to take place on the day after we arrived, but ended up being a day early. Luckily we made it, but it was close!
  • Speaking Mandarin helps a lot, but isn't necessary. As with everywhere else in Taiwan, having a basic grasp on Mandarin Chinese is infinitely helpful (especially being able to read traditional Chinese characters), but you'll survive without it. My Mandarin was only at the beginner's level, and I got around.
  • If you see large piles of sacks, don't climb on them even though they'd give you a great view. These piles of sacks are ghost money, which are loaded underneath the boat, and set on fire. At the festival, I didn't know what they were, and in order to get a good view, I climbed on them (along with a bunch of other people). Unfortunately the festival people started taking them out from under our feet, causing some of us to fall down.

1/9/2011 8:52:46 AM

Congratulations, we have linked your story on the My Life List 90 (#89) to inspire others. Thank you so much for sharing this great experience.

3/26/2010 11:04:20 AM

What an amazing experience! Wow. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. Thanks so much for sharing, this is something I'm sure many people will have never heard of but sounds amazing. Very cool its on my list. My brother was very impressed with Taiwan so now I have a couple reasons to want to go!

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