If you told me earlier this year I was going to ring in 2017 in Taipei, Taiwan I would have asked you, “Why?”. Afterall, Taipei isn’t really on a lot of people’s radar unless you have family in Taiwan or have a longer than usual layover to some other destination in Southeast Asia. But in the past three weeks, Taiwan has opened my eyes to a different Asian culture similar and different to the one I grew up in. So, when my initial plan of meeting up with Elaine and Kouji in Tokyo for NYE got too far out of reach, I wasn’t too bummed to see what Taipei has to offer.
Since it was our first NYE, we had to view the fireworks blasting off of Taipei 101 (台北101), the world’s tallest building from March 2004-March 2010 until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was built. We’ve never joined the crazy crowds at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf or New York’s Times Square because being in a crowd of drunk, loud, obnoxious people makes me cringe. So, the thought of joining over a million people watching a five-minute fireworks show made me a little nervous.
We weren’t sure where to actually go and watch the fireworks, so we left just before sunset to scope things out. The first thing we saw was a big rainbow with a bright, full arch! A good sign. Then, we hopped on some YouBikes and started our evening off at our neighborhood’s celebrations.
A concert has started (with an EDM set ending promptly at 12:10am), vendors were setting up food stalls, games, and Coca-Cola was handing out samples of Coke. I haven’t tried Taiwan’s coke yet and it tasted just like American coke, bummer. We played a round of the Coca-Cola basketball game and I made Jon pose with the polar bear, it’s secretly his favorite mascot.
Then, I willingly said yes to riding the Miramar Ferris Wheel. I thought I would be fine since I’ve been on the Hong Kong Observation Wheel and Disney’s California Adventure (even though Maijken and I screamed to be let off as soon as we took off). The ferris wheel is atop Miramar’s 5th-floor rooftop which brought us up high, quickly. We had the option of riding in a cab with clear bottom but the wait was 40 minutes. No, thank-you! This feat of bravery was enough for the time being.
After the ferris wheel ride, we headed over to Taipei 101 to see exactly what kind of madness we’re going to have to deal with this evening. There were suggestions to take the stops before and after Taipei 101 but we were there relatively early. The trains were not filled to the brim yet and getting out of the MRT station was a cinch. As soon as we exited the Taipei 101 station, we were met by a crowd of people sitting on one side of the steps with a neck-craning view of the building. We still had four hours to kill until midnight so, we skipped that thought.
We walked towards a stage where most people gathered because a Mandarin Pop concert had begun. They played some danceable beats but we were the only two fools compelled to move. We must have looked drunk. The stage turned into interview hour so we left and saw a lot more people coming from all corners of Taipei including vendors, rollerbladers, bikers, club kids, families, and a big group filming a music video. Everyone was out to party or sell you something! All of the malls were also open to literally help you pass time through shopping.
Instead of shopping and having to carry something until gawd knows what time, we ate and drank from the numerous food and booze vendors: quail eggs, scallion pancake, octopus, dim sum, squid jerky, cane sugar juice, etc. As we head to find a spot in the now massive crowd, we stop when we see two parked cars and hoards of people trying to pass between them.
No one knows where the cars have come from and we only hope there is no one inside the car, but we don’t really know because the tint is so dark you can’t peer in. But I follow suit and plop my purse, jacket and snacks on top of the car while we watch the tame crowd turn angry as they fight or cry for a good spot. Then, the show starts and here’s what we saw:
After the show, I realize we ate way too many snacks and indulged in more beer than usual, I was starting to get a hangover on our way home. We walked and walked until we could either find a YouBike or a station without any of the massive lines. Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones walking, as thousands of people were trying to find their way home via the MRT and the streets were still filled. We walked about 3.2km to the Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, a station without any lines! Over an hour later, we were home and my hangover has gone into the second phase, nausea.
We hope you have a Happy New Year and here’s to 2017!