An otherwise sleepy town, a short drive inland from Nankunshen, YANSHUI (鹽水 (yánshuǐ) attracts thousands to its annual firework festival (鹽水蜂炮; yánshuǐ fēngpào), one of Taiwan’s most famous. What makes this pyrotechnic display unique is that the fireworks – lodged in over two hundred walls or “beehives” the size of a truck – are fired horizontally into the crowds creating a cacophony of noise, fire and smoke throughout the night. Protective gear is essential if you want to participate but note that the crowds can be suffocating: around 300,000 people attend. The tradition began in 1885 when locals paraded an image of Guan Di around the town to ward off a cholera epidemic; their prayers were answered only after shooting off a ton of fireworks to “wake” the god. Each year during the Lantern Festival, usually in February, Guan Di is once again paraded around the town before the fiery climax.

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