Mid-Autumn Festival in Taiwan

A time for mooncakes, lanterns, and roadside (or indoor) BBQ…

A crowd of people sitting and playing amongst lanterns at night, next to a small urban canal.
Meinong Mid-Autumn Water–Travel–Art Festival.

This year in Taiwan, I’ve already enjoyed the Lunar New Year Lantern Festival, and the mid-summer Dragon Boat Festival.

The Mid-Autumn Festival—also called Moon or Mooncake Festival—is the third of Taiwan’s big three, annual, family-centric celebrations. It takes place on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when the full moon marks the beginning of autumn harvest.

This year, it fell on Friday 29 September—a national holiday, and the start of a three-day weekend.

Although Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated across Asia, a uniquely Taiwanese element is the tradition of barbequing on the street. Or indoors.

But first, mooncakes!

Friday: Mooncakes

My long weekend started with a gift from a friend who owns one of my favorite local cafes: Caffé Bird (咖啡鳥) in Lingya District.

Caffé Bird (also spelled Coffee Bird in English) specializes in healthy cooked meals. But, more importantly, it sells the most delicious bread in Kaohsiung.

My friend gave me nine mooncakes in a beautiful colored box. I don’t eat egg—which comes standard in mooncakes—so she made these with mochi, red bean, and taro instead:

A colorful cardboard box with golden-cord handles. The box is printed with the words ‘wonderful day’ and ‘best wishes’ in cursive script.
Per the writing on the box, indeed the day I received a surprise gift of mooncakes was a wonderful day.
An open cardboard box. Inside is a plastic tray covered in nine round mooncakes. The mooncakes are either green or pastry-colored, and topped with small seeds.
Inside, nine beautiful (egg-free) mooncakes…
Two sliced-open mooncakes.
…And inside the mooncakes, mochi (left) and taro (right). Some also had red bean paste, or a mix of mochi and red bean. All were extremely good.

Friday night: BBQ

Another friend said he’d bring dinner to my house. We often eat street food, but this time he arrived with a barbeque grill in his bag.

Barbequing for Mid-Winter Festival is a Taiwan-specific tradition. On Thursday night, while walking in the cooler (29ºC) evening heat, I’d seen five or six groups barbequing on the sidewalk outside businesses and apartment buildings.

In New Zealand, if I was walking at 9pm and saw a group barbequing on the sidewalk, I’d look for a detour. But on Thursday, the atmosphere was—as is typical in Taiwan—warm, safe, and inclusive.

Seeing my friend’s barbeque in-hand, I asked if we should set it up on the balcony. He looked at me like I’d asked the world’s strangest question, because of course not: we’d be barbequing on the dining table.

And we did, and it was excellent:

Close-up of an indoor electric grill with skewered broccoli, zucchini, and tofu.
We started with broccoli, zucchini, and tofu…
Close-up of vegetables on an indoor grill.
…Added capsicum, taro cake, dried tofu, and potato…
…Bamboo, cabbage, and eggplant…
Chicken cooking on an indoor barbeque grill.
…And, after some bean curd rolls, some chicken.
An air purifier. The screen on the purifier shows 387 PM2.5, with a red color indicating hazardous concentrations of particulate matter.
At this point we were full, and the air was full of particulate matter. My purifier showed a PM2.5 level of 387 (anything above 12 is unhealthy). I opened more windows.
We went for a walk after dinner. The Taiwan Coast Guard had a few large vessels docked at Kaohsiung Harbor, including this offshore patrol catamaran. There were no obvious security restrictions: we could walk right past the unmanned gangways. (Similarly, pilot boats and fishing boats are also docked in accessible public areas.)
Nighttime view of Kaohsiung skyscrapers from across the harbor.
It was a calm, humid evening.

Saturday: Water–Travel–Art

Unable to read Chinese characters, I usually don’t know what’s happening in Kaohsiung. Instagram helps, but recently a friend told me about khh.tainanoutlook.com—an extremely-useful events website. Although it’s in Chinese, the in-browser translation works okay.

On this site, and also via Instagram, I learned about the mid-autumn Water–Travel–Art Festival in Meinong District. It’s a rural Hakka district that’s still technically in Kaohsiung, but 90 minutes away by scooter.

Last night, another friend and I went to check it out:

Scooters and cars parked in an alleyway at night.
We parked our scooters in this riverside alley…
An empty street in Meikong, Taiwan, at night. There are crowds of people in the distance.
…And wandered along this street…
A crowd of people taking nighttime photos on a small concrete bridge, lit by festoon lights.
…To this small bridge, which marked the mid-point of the Water–Travel–Art Festival.
Three people standing on a bridge at night, looking at the view of a lantern-lit canal. One of the people is holding a phone above her head, taking a photo.
Downstream, crowds of people were gathered on either side of the canal, sitting amongst the lights.
Crowds of people alongside a Meinong canal at night, lit by canal-side lanterns. A few people are in, or touching, the water.
It looks docile, but the water was fast-flowing and opaque. A minority were brave enough to jump in.
A dog on a leash, drinking from the canal next to a lantern.
This dog, too.
A crowd of people sitting and playing amongst lanterns at night, next to a small urban canal.
As always, the atmosphere was warm, safe, and inclusive. (I know, I know… I could copy-and-paste this comment into every post about Taiwan…)
Small wooden umbrellas, illuminated from below, alongside a canal with crowds of people sitting on either side. A few people are walking in the knee-deep water.
This stretch was lit with wooden umbrellas.
People walking, single file in each direction, across a long footbridge illuminated by small lanterns.
Further upstream, we crossed this 100-meter-long footbridge across the Meinong River…
Market stalls, crowded with people, alongside a canal.
…To a craft market operating along another stretch of the canal. It was around 8pm and the stalls were beginning to close. By now, we’d experienced the three aspects of Meinong’s Water–Travel–Art Festival (the canal, a scooter ride, and the craft stalls), so it was time to travel home…
…Passing mid-autumn roadside BBQ along the way.