What started as a pagan festival, turned to be one of the biggest New Year celebrations in the world. Indeed, Pinxi Sky Lantern Festival has became a world-known.
This, of course, has some downsides to it. You can forget about any intimacy. Thousands of people crowd the tiny streets of Pingxi, concentrating around the main release spot. That also means an impenetrable forest of tripods and a constant stream of people that will carry you wherever they go.
Seriously, it's stupidly crowded. But also increasingly lacks the feel of the old days, any spontaneity.
The main stage is inaccessible. People camp hours before the start to get the glimpse of some photos. The release is reminiscent of a military exercise: endless speeches, not so good performances and lantern releases that look like from the North Korea. A shouty man with a megaphone makes sure each group of releases gets in place as expected, releases on the command and moves away to make space for another speech followed by another mass release. It goes for ever. Honesty, it becomes quite boring at some point (especially the speeches...). Trying to leave Pingxi is quite a task: the endless crowd will carry you wherever it moves. It's impossible to set up a tripod. Trying to keep together is near impossible. Like sardines in a tin...
Then come the issue of the thousands of lanterns being released to the skies. These go only that high and soon will land somewhere - most likely in the surrounding hills. While the councils puts some effort into the cleaning of the mess, you can see hundreds of lanterns at any time of the year stuck in the trees or on the peaks.
It's not good. Seriously.
So if you visiting Pingxi - take to the hills, visit a cafe but skip launching a lantern. Unlikely the wish will come true -- and you will make the place cleaner and safer.