shi nian quai lu (or something like that – happy new year!)

After seeing New Year’s celebrations in two countries, I’m beginning to believe Americans are weenies when it comes to fireworks, with stern nursemaid laws. While they don’t get quite as wild as the Dutch (who get to escape their own strict laws and go wild once a year) the Taiwanese put on a spectacle too.

We decided to just go to the riverbank park a five-minute walk from our apartment, to see the Taipei 101 fireworks. We’d considered going closer, but neither of us wanted to brave the crowds downtown, and there was a perfect view where we were; we could have followed the river to get closer but the view was excellent right there. The Taipei 101 fireworks were supposed to be something really special this year; the building is 75% occupied now and is expected to be fully occupied by next year, leaving them no empty rooms to shot fireworks from. Also by this time next year it will probably have been surpassed as the world’s tallest building by a tower in Dubai. So this year they had planned the best show ever.

We had dinner early, spent the evening playing games (the ASML version of monopoly, our company’s holiday gift to us!) and arrived at the park around 11PM. About half of Taipei seemed to have had the same idea, but the park, which stretches down the banks of the Keelung River, is big enough to absorb large numbers without crowding. We stood on a curb and had an unobstructed view. The wait wasn’t boring; there were fireworks all over the city, especially all along the river bank. There were everything from sparklers to the fountains and Roman candles Americans set off in their front yards for July 4th to the huge fireworks arching high overhead that we usually restrict to professionals, but here they seemed to be set off by any individual who wanted to.

The big fireworks at Taipei 101 began at midnight and lasted just a few minutes; first all the normal lights of the building were dimmed, then layers of lights raced up its segments, then the fireworks began, in separate volleys arcing out from the sides and up from the top. Later there were some hearts and other shapes lower down, but we were too far to see those as clearly. (You can see a video of last year’s fireworks here.

We came home after they and the majority of the independent fireworks were done, took a look at our pictures (we’ll post some here tomorrow), and finished the champagne. I’m up writing this at 3AM because the smoke from the fireworks didn’t do my lingering cough any good, and because there are still lots of fireworks being set off along the river, close enough to be very loud. Fireworks were invented in China, and apparently they’re a part of the cultural heritage here that is still fervently embraced. We do have New Year’s Day off, fortunately.

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