January 04, 2008
Happy New Year from Taiwan!
2008 arrived with a crash and a flash from the north to the south and east to west. Loving any excuse for a party, the Taiwanese were out in force to celebrate.
In fact, there seemed to be more of a buzz around the country this year than ever before. People left work wrapped up against the cold front and headed straight to the main areas of celebration. Every local TV station had coverage from venues all over the island counting down for hours before midnight (thankfully there was no countdown to Christmas Day this year).
In Taipei, the focus was of course on Taipei 101 although there were other popular destinations like the Miramar Entertainment Park in the Neihu District.
The Xinyi area, where Taipei 101 is based, was crammed with over 500,000 people alone and the MRT (the subway system in Taipei) drew a record high of 1.93 million passengers on New Year's Eve and the early hours of New Year's Day as it ran around the clock for the first time.
Despite the huge number of people however, I didn’t see any reports of trouble or arrests. The free concerts given by the best of Taiwan’s pop stars seem to have provided all the “high” that the revellers needed.
That of course, and the fireworks. You’d expect the fireworks display to be impressive this side of the world, and spectators weren’t let down.
The display from Taipei 101 lasted 188 seconds, in which time 12,000 fireworks had exploded at heights of up to 500 m (1,600 ft). With gasps at every coordinated flash of light, it really was an impressive sight. It’s one of those things you wish could go on and on, but at over US$3,500 per second, we had to be content with what we had.
In addition to the fireworks on Taipei 101, a message is also illuminated for the world to see. This year the message was "2008 Taiwan," with a pink heart replacing the dot in the letter "i" which is meant to represent, “Love Taiwan”.
The throngs of people also brought new year cheer to local businesses. Hotels were reportedly fully booked throughout the city, convenience stores had to take the doors off the stores to cope with the number of customers, and night market vendors were dishing up food well into the early hours of 2008.
What some people might not know is that there are actually two calendar systems used in Taiwan. The Gregorian calendar is widely used but the “Republic of China” system is also used, especially for government type documentation.
In this system, the year of the founding of the Republic of China, 1912, is the first year. So for example, 2008 is also 97 (read more here). So if you find some products which look to have expired 11 years ago, this might not be the case!
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