TAITUNG (The China Post) — Ever since the first Taiwan International Balloon Festival was launched in 2011 at Luye Highland, Taitung, the event has grown tremendously in scale throughout the years, and now gaining popularity worldwide.
This year, the festival lasted for 45 days, making it not only the longest hot air balloon festival in the world but also the one with the largest number of hot air balloons.
Last year, it was even named by Travel Channel, the popular tourism channel, as one of the top 12 hot air balloon festivals around the world. Taiwan International Balloon Festival has successfully brought tourism to Taitung and share its beauty with the world.
This year, the event kick-started on June 29 and lasted for a duration of 45 days. Every day, more than ten decorated hot air balloons traveled through the air of Luye Highland. The hot air balloon ride is available twice a day in the early morning and late afternoon, offering visitors a one-of-a-kind experience.
In the evening of weekends, hot air balloons were even showcased at other popular tourist attractions in Taitung, such as Sanxiantai and Jhihben area. The festival also featured nine concerts for visitors to enjoy music under a starry sky in breezy summer nights.
Located on the hills of Huadong Valley, Luye Highland is sandwiched by the Coastal Mountain Range and the Central Mountain Range.
With an elevation of around 350 meters, Luye Highland has the perfect geographic conditions, including stable airflow and flat terrains, for air sports and was thus chosen as the location for hosting the festival.
The annual event made Taitung a known stage for air sports, attracting many hot air balloon-enthusiasts, paragliders and hang-gliders to the area. Furthermore, encouraged the establishment of aviation training centers in Taitung.
Around 60 hot air balloons with various designs were present in this year’s festival. This includes 12 balloons from Taiwan, such as those with designs inspired by the PX Mart and 7-11 mascots.
The festival also had hot air balloons from other countries, such as balloons that look like SpongeBob, the Smurfs, clowns, racing cars, birthday cake, even Van Gogh!
Visitors could watch hot air balloons take off in the early morning when the temperature is cooler and the sun softer.
Besides watching, tethered balloon ride, which the balloon hovers above the ground but does not fly off, was available every day from 5 to 7 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., so visitors could experience being in the sky with other colorful hot air balloons.
Free flights were also opened twice a day to visitors, for them to embark on a journey that flew above the breathtaking view of Huadong Valley.
Hot air balloon lifts off the ground when the burner heats up the air inside the balloon and generates a sufficient amount of buoyancy. However, to successfully ride a hot air balloon, the pilot also needs to know the wind direction and wind speed at different heights on that particular day, in order to properly control the burner for a smooth and safe journey.
Therefore, balloon flight is dependent on weather conditions. If you are lucky and have the chance to take a hot air balloon ride, it will for sure be a memorable experience!
In addition to the colorful hot air balloons, the night glow concerts on Saturday nights together gave visitors a new experience that was both visually- and audibly- stimulating.
The night concerts took place at different locations across Taitung, each with a different theme, bringing visitors a variety of remarkable visual experience!
Besides the hot air balloon festival, there are also renowned tea farms nearby that are worth a visit! Luye Highland’s climate and soil create the perfect conditions for tea cultivation.
So the area was developed into tea farms in the 1950s, producing high-quality tea, such as Fulu tea, Qingxin Oolong and Jin Xuan tea, which are all popular souvenir options.
While immersing in the tranquility of the surroundings, visitors could have a chat with the farm owners and understand the relationship between tea and local culture. ●
By Joyce Lee and Lesley Lin
Translated by Joyce Lee, Shelly Yang, and Chen Wen-yu