Taitung (台東) - Luye Gaotai (鹿野高台) - hot air balloon - 2017 Taiwan International Balloon Festival (臺灣國際熱氣球嘉年華) [Travel in Taiwan 170707: A Midsummer Night's Dream Part 5] | Travel in Asia

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Taitung (台東) - Luye Gaotai (鹿野高台) - hot air balloon - 2017 Taiwan International Balloon Festival (臺灣國際熱氣球嘉年華) [Travel in Taiwan 170707: A Midsummer Night's Dream Part 5]


4:10 am. The departure time of the bus going to the Luye Gaotai forced me and my girlfriend to wake very up early. With only less than three hours of sleep, I wasn’t an easy thing to do. The weather forecast was cloudy but we were hopeful that we would see the hot air balloons of Taitung this year.

The event is officially called the Taitung International Balloon Festival and for the 2017 edition it started last June 30 and will end on August 6. There are only two flying times every day and it happens every 5:30 am to 7:30 am and 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm. The hot air balloons do not fly in the afternoon due to the very hot weather during summer. 

Luye. The town of Taitung that inspired me to write the second part of my Utopia series back in Taiwan Day 1037. Bordered by two mountain ranges, the view of its valley is a temptation for those who are skilled in paragliding. On top of the mountains is a plateau that is full of grass. Luye Gaotai! It is the hot air balloon capital of Taiwan. 

The popularity of the festival prompted the other provinces of Taiwan to copy what Taitung had been doing. Taoyuan and Hsinchu had organized their own mini-version of the hot air balloon festival. The green Yoda balloon that I saw at Shimen Reservoir was also here in Taitung. Comparing the one in Taoyuan to Taitung's was like comparing apples to oranges. 

 Getting to Taitung is a common question for most travelers wishing to see the hot air balloons. If you are coming from Kaohsiung then you do not have a problem because there are trains that run from Southern Taiwan to Eastern Taiwan. But if you are coming from the Taoyuan International Airport or Taipei, then it will be a bit difficult. Train tickets are very scarce during the summer season especially the routes going Hualien and Taitung. 

Even though getting train tickets to the east coast of Taiwan is based on pure luck. There are still public transportation options that tourists can utilize do to visit Taitung. First, is to buy combo bus-train tickets from Taipei City Hall Bus Station. In this method, you will have to ride Bus 1570 and then transfer to a train going to Hualien Station at Luodong Station. A three-hour express train at Hualien will then take you to Taitung Station. Second, board a High Speed Rail train to Zinzuoying Station in Kaohsiung and then transfer to a TRA train going to Taitung Station. The third way is to fly to Taitung Airport. If you are reading this post months before the hot air balloon festival is about to start then you need to buy a plane ticket now. It would be the fastest and easiest way to get to Taitung province from Taipei Songshan Airport. 

The shuttle bus at Taitung Bus Station was on-time so all the efforts in getting up early were not put to waste. With not much traffic, our vehicle arrived at the venue before 5:30 am. It was a weekday so the road leading to Luye Gaotai was not filled with private cars. 

Hot air vs cold air. When air is heated, its molecules move faster making them farther apart to each other. The hot air takes the shape of its container and if it is elastic enough to expand just like the envelope of a hot air balloon it can be grown to its maximum size. The decrease in the amount of hot gas per unit volume inside a hot air balloon causes a decrease in its density making it lighter than the cold air surrounding the envelope. Hence, the balloon floats and soars in the sky carrying people on its basket below.

While my girlfriend was busy taking her selfies, I took the time to mingle with the other visitors and watch closely the burners of the giant balloons. I could feel the heat as I get closer to one basket with an inflated balloon above. The flame that is being emitted on the burner was exciting to watch. On how the balloons do not burn despite the fact that a fire was shooting upwards is a wonder of science.

As the clock nears 7:30 am, the balloons were deflated one by one. I returned to my girlfriend who was sitting on the slopes of the hill. The look on her eyes was full of love as I slowly approached her. A loving wife waiting for his husband. I could not ask for anything more.

The sky was still cloudy at the end of the morning flying session. I was planning to take her to either Shalun Beach or to the hot spring town of Zhiben depending on the weather conditions. But first, we need to get back to our hostel and have some sleep before deciding where to go next. (To be continued...)

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