Taipei’s New Year’s fireworks are world-renowned, so it was impossible to pass up the opportunity to see them. That was the primary driver of the most intense all-nighter I have pulled. Despite the difficulties, it was an enriching experience.
Our night started in the day with a 1:30 pm train from Tainan to Taipei. Given our student budget constraints, we opted for regular rather than high-speed rail. Still, New Zealand’s transport pales in comparison. Within roughly four hours, we had traversed the length of almost the entire country for less than the cost of half a tank of petrol.
Arriving in Taipei was overwhelming in the best way. We had been told that Tainan was known as a ‘retirement village’; Many older Taiwanese want to come here to retire due to its ‘slow pace of life’. This was a tidbit we were incredibly sceptical about. However, arriving in Taipei showed us that this was relatively true. Suddenly hundreds of people were rushing through the subway station, and the city abounded with life.
We weren’t the only people to make the pilgrimage to Taipei to celebrate the new year. Something evidenced by our inability to find anywhere to buy dinner (apart from a quick 7-11 run). None of this mattered in the end, though, because come midnight, we – together with fellow Auckland students currently studying at NTU – got to see the incredible fireworks. They were worthwhile and lasted an excellent 5 minutes, alongside light displays on Taipei 101.
The rest of the night was hectic and long but culminated in seeing the flag-raising ceremony. Unfortunately, we missed the actual raising – it turns out security is tight when the President is in attendance – but it was well worth it to soak up the atmosphere. I cannot wait to return to Taipei in a few weeks and experience the sights and sounds of the genuinely international-feeling city.