Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Fireworks at Taipei 101

I can quite believe that once Taipei 101 was constructed no one in Taipei ever got lost again. It is Taipei's most famous landmark. For several years it held the title of the world's tallest building and it dominates the skyline in Taipei in a way you can't imagine unless you've been here to see it.

In the daytime it looks like this:

At nighttime, it looks like this:

And a few seconds after midnight on New Year's Eve it looks like this:

Here's a Youtube video posted by someone who was (slightly alarmingly) closer than us:

The video goes wobbly at the end as the person recording swings round to try to catch the other fireworks that started once 101's had finished, so apologies for any seasickness.

You can see that in the moments leading up to the display there was a small light that flew up to and around the top of the building. What was it? A lighted wick? A UFO? Superman? I don't know. You can also hear (readers in other countries) the crowd count down in Mandarin.

I have to admit I'm not a big New Year's Eve person. Usually I get woken up at midnight by fireworks then go back to sleep again. Also, I've been completely spoiled by the fireworks at the 10/10 celebration at Dadaocheng Wharf, and, spectacular though 101's were, I thought the 10/10 ones were better. So, the 101 fireworks were great, but the best thing about the evening for me was being out in the crowd in the moments leading up to the countdown and sharing in the excitement of the evening.

In the minutes before midnight we were all hunkered down on the cold ground in quiet anticipation. (When I say it was cold, I mean cold by Taiwan reckoning, which was about 14 degrees Centigrade.) Then there was an excited 'ooooh' as 101 went dark. As the countdown began, everyone joined in, shouting the numbers. Each bang and light explosion of the ensuing display was met with screams and shouts of appreciation from the crowd. Great fun.

Once the fireworks were over, impromptu sparkler parties started up in the streets.

Street vendors tried to sell the last of their snacks to the dispersing crowd, and sharp-suited men with made-up beauties queued to get into the fashionable nightclub parties. We started our long walk home. No hope of getting a train, bus or taxi for a mile or more from the epicentre. Being amongst crowds of excited teenagers we got more than the usual amount of 'hello!'s with some 'Happy New Year!'s thrown in, and several requests for photos of the Caucasian child. (I should start charging, I really should.) But it was all in good, friendly spirit.

Will we be back? I'd like to go but I may be alone. Eight year olds don't like being up at one o'clock in the morning, walking a long way home in the dark, it turns out. But probably he will have forgotten by next year.

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