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Taiwan’s Beehive Rockets Festival

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One part Blade Runner and another part Hello Kitty, Taiwan’s urban nightscape is a mesmerizing reminder of the accelerated pace of technological change.

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Massive cable-stayed bridges dot the horizon, illuminating the Taiwanese night with resplendent light displays in purple, fuchsia, and blue. 24-hour stores sell bubble teas and consumer electronics while LED billboards scale the sides of 50-story buildings in urban landscapes where 50-story buildings are rapidly the norm rather than the exception.

High-speed trains race from city to city at speeds above 180 mph – and Taiwan’s sleek new airports are a reminder that aviation is the future and the future is now.

One of the oldest local folk festivals in Taiwan, Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival has been celebrated for 180 years. Locals carry palanquins with statues of Guangong into busy intersections – and then proceed to launch a cacophony of beehive rockets (aka bottle rockets).

The festival’s antecedents date from 1875, during the Qing Dynasty, when cholera plagued the city of Yanshui in southern Taiwan. After watching the disease wreak such havoc, the city’s fathers decided to take matters into their own hands – with firecrackers.

Each year, during the Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival, thrill-seeking tourists from around the world clog the city’s streets. Dressed in helmets, gloves, and fire gear, the festival’s fanatics shout and cheer and stomp their feet to the explosions rocketing all around them while fireworks explode in the sky.

During the two-day festival, more than a million firecrackers are set off, insuring scores of injuries and visceral thrills.

Not for the faint of heart, Yanshui Beehive Rockets Festival takes place on the 14th and 15th day of the lunar New Year.