Friday, January 11, 2008

Hello Taiwan Pt 9 - The New Year's Countdown

I’m actually glad we decided to spend the New Year’s abroad. Call it a chilling premonition, but I already knew how I’d have spent it if I was in Singapore. It’s a familiar routine of being packed in crowds and getting sloshed, the same bruising we subscribe to foolishly every year when we are too lazy to plan a decent house party.

So Taiwan came as a refreshed escape from my senseless delirium of knocking champagne glasses and superficial well wishes to random strangers in the clubs. What did we do?

We got packed in crowds.

It’s not like Taipei was some rural retreat where you can plant sweet potatoes and fetch water from the well to mark the close of the year. It’s another Singapore, except laced with diligent vendors and endless pretty faces.

There was only one place to be that would validate our presence in Taipei on the last night of this not entirely wonderful year; Taipei 101, where the fame fireworks display has drawn a mob of half a million, who have travelled from the city fringes to catch a glimpse of a vibrant display that would last 5 minutes. How smart.

Perhaps it was the festive soaked atmosphere, or the jibberish Mandarin chants that people were periodically shouting, or maybe it was just the $800 tickets, but I’ll be lying if I said there wasn’t a difference.

We were like the other half a million idiots who had jammed the peripherals of 101 (Taiwan’s tallest building), only difference was that we were tourist and hence allowed the occasional idiocy, like gushing over sparkles and fireworks, as if we just arrived from Bangladesh and seeing it for the first time.

Everyone else seemed more excited at it than us. There was this particular group of morons in front of us who were all holding helium filled balloons with resolutions scribbled on them. In the dozens of balloons, I hoped there was one that said, ‘shout less next year’, cos I fucking needed ear plugs.

Taiwanese get excited over the slightest stuff. Fireworks, they scream. Fireworks changes colour, they scream. Fireworks end, they scream. I really do not want to be around when they strike the lottery. They might just tear their vocal chords, crack their voice and maybe have a second puberty along with it.

The build up of anticipation was there as usual. Probably so, because we were just standing there with nothing else better to do and there were people around us who had started singing. From where we were, we couldn’t even see or hear the official countdown and I was interrupted mid speech by exploding fireworks.

Me
: “These fucking morons in front of me are…. Wooooo HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

The aftermath of it was the sort of scene at the start of a marathon. It’s like taking half a million people and marching them on a four lane street. And just for fun, you have them meet at an intersection. Total pandemonium. And maybe, just maybe to make things a little more interesting, you make LB extremely urgent to take a piss.

This is the sort of nightmare you dream of.

You need to pee. You are stuck in a crazy crowd with people connected by the shoulders and walking at a pace that will make Terry Fox look like Asafa Powell. The nearest toilet is 100m away or in this instance, 40mins. And when you finally get there, the toilet has an out of order sign. What do you do?

You beg.

LB: “I need to use the toilet.”
Waiter: “Sorry sir, our toilets are out of order.”
LB: “Can you open the back door for me?”
Waiter:Sorry sir, I do not have the keys"

LB grabs the waiter.

LB: “No no no… you don’t understand. I REALLY need to pee.”

The waiter took one look at LB, who’s face was a kaleidoscopic collision of agony and pathos, and immediately understood the gravity of the matter.

Waiter: “Ok..follow me.”

LB would eventually go on to break the World Record for Longest Pee Time.

The video is here.

This is Yiling. Queenie's friend and perhaps the darkest Taiwanese girl I know. She's also a great singer, rides a bike and loves tickling me on the bed. Nuff said.

The people we counted down with. The girl on the extreme right is very pretty and has a boyfriend that looks like he is grouchy 24 hours a day.

Human traffic jam. And this is JUST one small section. If you think walking with thousands in the same direction is crazy, you should see the intersections.

Morons with ballons. If you can actually read Chinese, the balloons says, "I am an idiot."

We had steamboat after the countdown with Queenie and Yiling. I actually loved the how we ended the night over supper and negated from having alcohol thrown into the equation. Well, that was largely because the clubs were already full, but steamboat is always a fair enough substitute for Vodka.

Farewell 2007..

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