Moon Festival in Taiwan – Traveling the Island

ChadTaiwan, TraveloguesLeave a Comment

Beach in kenting
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 What is moon festival in Taiwan like?

Moon festival (also called mid-autumn festival) is one of the biggest holidays in Taiwan, which means travel plans during the holiday need to be made well in advance. During the holidays Taiwanese flee the major cities and head to popular destinations around the island. The most popular places to go during moon festival in Taiwan are Yilan (宜蘭市), Hualien (花蓮市), and Pingtung County (屏東縣) which is home to Kenting national park (墾丁). The thing they all have in common is their access to beautiful beaches and good weather. If I’m being honest I must say Taipei’s weather sucks – it’s no wonder everyone chases the fresh air and sunshine. I absolutely love Hualien and have visited Yilan a few times during the holidays. This moon festival I finally got the opportunity to visit Kenting national park.

Setting the tone

Our trip was threatened by a pair of typhoons (Meranti and Malakas) which were expected to hit Taiwan around moon festival. I was preparing to fly back from a business trip in China when Meranti arrived. It brought the typical amount of rain and wind to Taipei, thankfully, my flight was able to take off and land with relative ease. The south of Taiwan wasn’t so lucky. Hundreds of thousands of homes were faced with power outages, including the hotel we planned to stay at in Kenting.

A day in Kaohsiung

The original plan was to take the High-Speed Rail to Zuoying station in Kaohsiung, transfer to a rental car, then drive to our beachfront hotel in Kenting. As you can imagine a beachfront hotel isn’t exactly the best choice of accommodation the day after a major typhoon. We decided to spend our Friday exploring Kaohsiung and found a good hotel close to the HSR station. The HSR from Taipei to Kaohsiung only takes 2 hours, well worth the price if you ask me, so we had the entire day to explore the city. After dropping my bags at the hotel we headed off to Dream Mall, a popular shopping mall in the area, to get some lunch.

Moon festival in taiwan

Lining up for the tram – Dream Mall Kaohsiung

I didn’t do my research so I was really surprised by how massive this mall is! Seriously, you can get lost in this mall for days. There are a massive number of restaurants catering to the diverse group of tourists soaking up Taiwan’s ‘sunny south’. There was even a Dairy Queen which I may or may not have snuck off to enjoy. The part I liked most about the mall was the sports area. A section of the mall is outfitted with pitching machines, batting cages, pool tables, etc. It is a good way to pass the afternoon or evening if you don’t have anything better to do. If that wasn’t enough the mall also has a Ferris Wheel and other amusement park rides as well as a tram that can take you around the perimeter of the mall.

Moon festival in Taiwan

This monstrous shaved ice is literally the size of my torso!

After a short nap at the hotel, I took the MRT to the Ruifeng Night Market which is also in the Zuoying district. The night market was insanely crowded and, although I looked around for a bit, I didn’t buy anything. I visited this night market a couple of years ago and it was pretty nice. The problem was visiting on the Friday night of a holiday weekend. It is a good night market but I wasn’t keen on fighting the crowds this time.

Resuming the trip

On Saturday we all hopped in our rented car and headed for our hotel in Kenting. The owners of the accommodation had called to inform us that the power was back on and we were eager to continue on. The drive from Kaohsiung to Kenting takes the better part of two hours if traveling by car, and slightly longer if you take the bus. The effects of the recent typhoon were quite noticeable during our drive. Growing up in Southern California sheltered me from extreme weather and natural disasters (other than earthquakes) so I am always fascinated by tropical storms. The powerful winds brought on by Meranti careening along the side of the island caused a significant amount of damage to the more rural communities in the south of Taiwan. In addition to the countless broken trees lining the road, many aluminum roofs and water tanks had been dislodged by the fierce wind. The most striking image was of a Toyota dealership that had partially collapsed crushing a number of cars parked inside. Certainly a bad day for everyone affected by the storm.

We made one stop on the way to Kenting and that was to visit the rural fishing town of Tungkang. As you might imagine the Tungkang Fish Market is the town’s major tourist draw. The fish market is fairly large and sells a wide variety of seafood. You can find and buy everything from tuna to crab to sea urchin here. If you are into fresh seafood the Tungkang fish market is definitely worth the stop.

Tungkang fish market in Taiwan

Live crab on display at the Tungkang fish market

After the two hour drive, which was quite scenic I might add, I arrived at the hotel in Kenting. Rain or shine my third moon festival in Taiwan would be spent in Kenting.

It’s all about the beaches

Moon festival in taiwan

I couldn’t ask for a better view

The first thing you will notice when you visit Kenting National Park is the beautiful coastline. As you drive along the coast it alternates between rocky shores and sandy beaches with numerous outcroppings of rocks located offshore. Without a doubt, the most popular areas for visitors are the sand covered beaches. While they aren’t as clean as the pearly white beaches back home, they have clean water, fresh air, and offer warm weather. The irregular, and at times rocky, coastline also adds a unique flavor to the area.

Water sports are very popular activity in Kenting. There are numerous operators in Pingtung County who can provide access to the equipment you desire. Surfing lessons, jet-ski rentals, tubing, kayaking, and many other activities are all available here. I was able to spend some time at the beach on Saturday and Sunday and really enjoyed it, a welcome change from the big city.

Kenting has a night market too…

…and it’s huge! The night market in Kenting is called and lines a single street in the city. This makes navigation easier than at most night markets, just keep walking till you reach the end then double back and check out the other side! It sounds simple enough but the night market covers a lot of ground – around 2km on each side – so prepare to do a lot of walking!

You will find a wide variety of shops, most selling fried food/grilled meat, and others selling an assortment of tea. There are also a fair number of stalls selling clothes and souvenirs. The biggest difference is the presence of alcohol stalls. Kenting is a popular destination for tourists and spring breakers and the numerous street-side ‘bars’ make for a fun (and cheap) night out. Drinking in public is legal in Taiwan but make sure you don’t overdo it!

Moon festival in Taiwan

Moon festival in Taiwan

View of the sunset during moon festival. Photo Credit – Cherry Liu

If you celebrate moon festival in Taiwan you will see lots of barbecues taking place in front of apartment buildings and businesses. The moon festival barbecue is the most loved tradition of the holiday. If you get invited to a barbecue jump at the chance, it will be a lot of fun.

Moon cakes are commonly eaten and given as gifts. I usually get more moon cakes in Taiwan from friends and acquaintances than I know what to do with! These sweet pastries come in a variety of flavors and often have an egg inside which is considered a delicacy. The cake is usually cut into portions equaling the number of members in the family. This means everyone gets a slice and is symbolic as all members of the family assemble into one complete unit.

Pomelo, the seasonal fruit is also a common gift during moon festival in Taiwan. The pomelo is a large, light-green citrus fruit with a mild taste. It isn’t as acidic as other members of the citrus family. This large fruit is quite rare in the west but is a favorite in Taiwan!

Feel free to ask me any questions about visiting Taiwan or traveling around the island. I’ll be happy to answer them in the comments below or you can reach me privately at chad@adventurefilledlife.com

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