(Note: The majority of this article is primarily based on personal experience during a day trip down to Chiayi Lantern Festival on Feb. 27.)
This guide is written by someone who lives in Taipei but has never been to this part of Southern Taiwan. For me, the expedition to Chiayi was a day trip - left at 10 AM and made it back by 5:30 PM.
I think my experience can help those who may be interested in going to this event but are having some second thoughts about the complexity visiting the venue might entail. After all, this is considered the more rural part of the country, where the people’s command of English may be rudimentary and coverage of the public transportation may be far and between.
Regardless, the Taiwan Lantern Festival Event is still an event backed by the central government, so it is comparatively easier to access than standard local events. You can even pick up English language guides of the lantern festival at the venue.
Like what has been announced before, the primary spawns within the Lantern Festival venue parameters consists of 8 UNOWNs (CHIAYGX) and Mr. Mime. You should be able to catch all of them with 15 minutes once you arrive on scene. The spawn time is between 9 AM to 5 PM. You can expect Chinchous and Lanturns at night (I didn’t stay long enough to see them appear).
There are enough Pokestops at the venue (think a 2x2 table). The highest concentration of stops is at the center intersection where you can just sit here and catch whatever you want - provided you can find an empty seat/bench. The good news is that all the food venders are at this location, so you can enjoy many of the famed local night market food while catching pokemons with your oily fingers.
If you want other juicy catches (such as shiny MagiKarp, Dratini, and Growlithe), you might have to try other places outside the lantern festival venue. The HSR station is a good place to hang around, or the area further north of the lantern festival venue where the National Palace Museum Southern Campus stands. Though be warned, it’s a LONG walk.
Other pokemons with higher spawn rates outside the lantern festival venue proper includes Treecko, Torchic, Mudkip, and Mareep. It’s a great opportunity for those who lack Mareep candies!
Bring HAT/Suncscreen, WATER, and SMALL UMBRELLA. The rural part of the country, is, well, empty. Think of plains + farmland. There’s no cover for you to hide from a blazing sun or sudden rain, so you better ready your sunscreen or hat, and be careful not to dehydrate.
Also, bring your extra cellphone battery pack. The last thing you want is to have your batteries die on you in the middle of nowhere.
Leave enough room in your Pokemon inventory for catches. There’s just to many to catch. Likewise, have the poke balls ready. While there’s no lack of Pokestops, the rate at which you use your balls is way faster than the rate you can restock them.
How to Get There
I won’t bother dealing with the part of how you get to Taiwan, but I’d start the guide where you get to the High Speed Rail Station (HSR). Note: this is not the Taiwan Railway Station, which offers train options spanning commuter trains to express services. Think HSR = Bullet Train. But the good news is usually TRA offers connection at some points to the HSR, but you have to figure that part out yourself.
Assuming that you are in Taipei, just get yourself to Taipei Railway Station. Buy one of the single-day non-reserved roundtrip ticket. It should cost you about a little bit over 2000 NT (roughly USD 65) from Taipei to Chiayi. Allow yourself roughly 1.5 hours one way, and since Chiayi is not a major stop you should checkout going and returning schedules. The non-reserved ticket allows you to take any seats from trains No. 10 - 12. Another advantage is you can board any train, so you won’t need to fear of bad time management (as long as you make it there before the HSR ends its service for the day). Furthermore, HSR Chiayi Station is in the same town as the venue of the Taiwan Lantern Festival, whereas those taking the standard railway will still need a 40-minute commute by bus. For those who wants to save cost at this point, they can even WALK to the venue from the HSR station (if you don’t mind spending 40 minutes with nothing more than farmland and nothing to catch).
Also, despite its higher cost than another transportation options (standard railway, coach, etc.), HSR has the added advantage that members of the staff usually has better command of English than the other options. So as long as you’re inside the HSR station/train, speaking English shouldn’t be a problem. And yes, the other options are cheaper but will take more time and involves more pre-planning. Not something I’d recommend for non-Chinese speakers.
Once you get to HSR Chiayi Station, you have several options. First is the free shuttle getting you to the venue of the Lantern Festival. While it’s free, the bad news is that it starts at 3 PM on weekdays (2PM on weekends and holidays) and you probably see a long line. The second choice is to hop on the standard BRT bus taking you to Chiayi County Government (just ask the HSR people which BRT bus to take to the lantern festival venue. It should be free if you show the bus driver your HSR ticket. Otherwise its roughly 50 NT). A third option is carpool taxi. You can hear random drivers asking 50 NT per person, waiting to fill up 4 people before leaving. Of course, you can also walk if you really want.
There’s also car rental at the HSR station so that might be an option for those with international driver license - especially those expecting to visit other areas of the county. However, be warned that parking near the lantern festival is heavily regulated.
Once You’re Done…
Keep track of time, since the spawn most people probably want takes place between 9 AM and 5 PM. My personal experience is 2 hours is the maximum anyone can take to catch decent IVs for all the special spawns.
The good thing is that the lantern festival is a major event, so you can actually spend time to explore the venue and enjoy the various displays from daylight hours and further into the night. There’s a bunch of good snacks - meat buns, sugarcane drinks, sausages, dumplings, and more - and even Taiwan Beer has an exhibition area offering alcohol.
As for the lantern, most of the lantern areas are completed, so you can explore them at your leisure. My personal recommendation is the temple lantern area, a place where you can really witness the resource and beauty of Taiwan’s folk religion. There’s also a huge Pikachu and Doriaemon lantern as well.
For those planning to take the shuttle back to the HSR station, be prepared for a long walk to the bus waiting area. It’s located a few blocks north of the venue (there’s a lot of waiting lines so be prepared to waste some time once you arrive at the lot to look for the bus that brings you back to the station).
Also, expect large turnouts during the weekend if you plan to drop by before March 3. That means long lines at the bus stops - both getting to and getting back from the venue. Just to give you a basic idea: I arrived at 11:30 in the morning on a regular workday and had to wait about 4 services before getting on the shuttle bus (roughly 1 hour wait).
Good luck to all fellow Pokemon trainers heading to the event!