The Yenshuei Fireworks Festival (Yenshuei Fong Pao) is a festival held in the Yenshuei township in Southern Taiwan every year. During the festival millions of fireworks are shot out of large hives into crowds of revelers dressed in heavy clothing and full-face motorcycle helmets. Each hive may contain as many as sixty thousand fireworks. If proper safety precautions are taken, the activity is not very dangerous. However, each year some people are injured. To learn more about this festival, read my post Standing in the Fireworks.
Note: This is a heavily reworked version of an article that originally appeared in Highway 11 Magazine. Don’t miss the photo gallery from the farm at the bottom of this page!
I tipped back my cowboy hat, which I had brought to wave in the air while riding the crocodile, and sized up the dinosaur-like behemoth. His head looked like that of a crocodile, but his body looked more like it belonged to giant mutant toad. His belly spread out on the pavement beneath him like a green leather sack of water.
On Febrary 27, 2010 a Chinese New Year fireworks celebration in the Guangdong province went awry and killed 19 villagers.
When I woke up around nine that Sunday morning my cell phone showed that I had 33 missed calls. It rang again in my hand. It was the head teacher from the school I worked at. “We’re at the hospital.” She told me. “Jana was hit by a bus.” On the way to the hospital I zipped and dodged through the heavy Sunday traffic on my motorcycle. The scents of sewage, fried food, and exhaust alternately wafted into my helmet. Westerners find driving in Taiwan, like in most Asian countries, to be lawless and chaotic. Cars pull slowly out in front of you without looking. Taxicabs whip by just inches from your shoulder. People drive without helmets, run red lights, and do u-turns on crowded thoroughfares as a matter of course. Driving in Taiwan, however, is not lawless; the laws are just different. There are two unspoken rules of the road: first, you’re responsible for not hitting the vehicles in front of you no matter what they do. Second, you can drive in front of anyone as long as you can force him to stop and let you by; driving in Taiwan is basically a game of chicken. The larger your vehicle is, the greater your advantage in the game.
Had Jana, driving her scooter, played chicken with a bus?
The Wang Yeh boat burning festival occurs once every three years. Disease spreading ghosts, or Wang Yeh, are lead onto the boats by priests and mediums. The boat, sitting atop a mountain of ghost money (money burned by locals for the benefit of their dead ancestors) is then burned, sending the spirits back to their world, hopefully taking their plagues with them. This year, I believe, there was a special focus on H1N1 (the Swine Flu).