Taiwan and Japan

2015 - 2016

Day 4

New Years Eve

The last day of the year! We knew it was going be a long day so we tried to take it easy today. We didn’t try to get up really early because with the pace of this trip we knew we wouldn’t have made it to midnight, so we slept in a little and took it slow. We went to a local cafe for breakfast and headed out.

First stop was Longshan Temple which was fairly close to the hotel. It was fairly busy which may have been because it was new years eve. The temple was quite large and it had a nice courtyard out the front with some nice looking water features.

Inside was where all the action was happening, there were wide tables full of offerings and the smell of incense burning. There were queues of people at every turn.

There was quite an interesting ritual with these red, odd-shaped wooden stones. We’re weren’t exactly sure what these were meant to symbolise but people would prey holding the stones close, then gently drop them to the ground. From what we could tell there was some significance to the way in which it landed, but we didn’t fully understand it. It was interesting to watch either way.

After spending a little time at the temple we walked down to the station to go to the Lin Family Garden and Mansion. Once we got off the train and started walking in that direction we stopped at a small restaurant. It was pretty tiny with the tables only big enough to fit four people each, so we split up and attempted to order. This place didn’t have an English menu, nor did the staff speak English, but between pictures of food out the front and on the menu along with some help from Google translate, we were able to order and eat. The language barrier is half the fun but it is so much easier with a data plan on our phones. Even though the translations from Google are not 100% accurate, they are enough to work out the basics, like making sure there is no beef for Sarma, etc.

Just down the road from the restaurant were the gardens and they were pretty big! As we followed the paths around the mansion and through the gardens, there were a few ponds around with really nice (and really steep) bridges to cross them. There were fish and ducks in the water and you could buy food from the gift shop to feed them. No wall was blank with decorative art work either built in or painted on and bonzai pots lining the path through. It was a very picturesque place.

It was so nice that there were even a cosplayer getting some photos taken.

We went back to the hotel to take a break and Chris ended up finding an arcade nearby that had a Gundam game that he really wanted to try, we went there and had a look around. The arcade was pretty big and Chris found the game. It looks like a giant pod you get into and shut the door and inside it has a huge screen and a control panel that would make it feel like you were actually piloting a Gundam. Pretty cool. We also found a Bishi Bashi machine which we knew from back home. We had a game or two and then left to get some food before going to the center of town for New Years Eve.

We found a sushi restaurant and got a quick bite to eat. It was a pretty nice place and food was great!
On a small shelf at our table was a little box with some symbols on it. We didn’t know what it was at first, but then we spotted a USB port. The instructions were in Chinese but from what we could gather, you could turn the box over to request what you wanted. There was a symbol with a jug on it, another with a waitress, etc. Our tea was empty, so we turned it over to the put the jug symbol up and sure enough a lady came over and filled our tea cups. After we had finished our meals, we turned it over to the service logo and someone came to give us a out bill. Pretty neat.

To celebrate new years we went down to Rainbow Bridge park. To get there we took a train and had a short walk from the station and then over the rainbow bridge to the other river bank so we could see the city. The were tons of people along the river bank which had a nice view of the city, the bridge and also a good view of the Taipei 101 building. We walked up the river until we could find the best view of Taipei 101 between all the other buildings and sat ourselves on the sloped ground. It was a bit cold but we were lucky it wasn’t raining.

The atmosphere here was amazing! There were people everywhere but everyone left a clear path for people to walk up and down. There were a bunch of photographers with tripods standing on the outskirts of the path to capture the fireworks and at the bottom where there was flat ground a bunch of people had setup small bbqs with bricks and grill plates to cook. There were fireworks going off every 10 seconds from the locals and while there was some rowdiness, everyone was pretty well behaved. People were smart enough to only shoot their fireworks over the river as not to injure anyone and we couldn’t help but think of how dangerous it would have been if this had been Melbourne.

This video doesn’t really capture the atmosphere here, but its a start.

While we were sitting around waiting for midnight, we were approached by a group of young kids. They knew some basic English and attempted to start some conversations with us, asking us where we were from, etc. Very friendly people, but it seems like everyone that we spoke to would ask us where we were from and then immediately answer with the words “Kangaroo” or “Koala”. We found this pretty funny, after all we could barely speak any Chinese and they knew how to say the names of our native wildlife!

Once midnight came around the official fireworks display started. We didn’t know what to expect other than Taipei 101 lighting up so I chose my wide angle lens to try to capture the skyline, but in the end the best part of the display was from Taipei 101 so I should have used my zoom lens. Either way, we still got some decent photos of the fireworks. Its funny that having a constant barrage of fireworks for four hours from random people on the street from every direction, along the river bank, from the bridge, etc. it was actually more impressive than the official ones, although the official ones were much bigger there just wasn’t as many of them.

It was a nice way to spend new years eve, we said goodbye to our friends and started making our way out of the river bank area. Unfortunately everyone had the same idea and there were thousands of people trying to get up the same set of stairs at the same time. We were moving really slowly, but we eventually got up to the bridge and were able to walk at a decent pace towards the train station.

A few of us wanted to check out the night market there and the others were too tired, so they went home and we entered the very busy market. There were people everywhere and the aroma of all the amazing street food stalls. Taiwan is famous for stinky tofu and Rob was keen to try it, so we walked up and down in search of it. We didn’t end up finding it, maybe because of how busy it was, but we did end up getting some other snacks, I bought some dumplings that made a perfect early morning snack!

After a lap of the market, we headed back to the train station. It was surprisingly easy to get home, the trains were no where near as busy as we thought they would be judging by how many people were out that night. After speaking with Anthony and Amy who left earlier, they also had a good run home on the trains. Taiwan seem to also do a better job with trains than Melbourne, there was a very high frequency of services, it seemed like you were never waiting and if you were it would not be more than a couple of minutes. This was pretty welcoming after trying to get out of the crowd from the river bank.