Hong Kong New Year


Last year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. Photo by sunday driver

New Year’s Eve has always been a bit underwhelming for me, never quite living up to the big-screen romance of fireworks exploding above jubilant crowds. Maybe that’s because, until now, the warmest place I’ve spent New Year was Vancouver, where it was a relatively balmy 5 degrees — virtually tropical compared to the -15 I was used to in Montreal and Calgary. Being in Hong Kong finally gave me a chance to get out, watch some fireworks and celebrate in public like I felt I should do.

So last night, some friends and I headed to what I thought would be a little-known spot on the North Point waterfront, a small cul-de-sac near the water surrounded by graffiti-covered walls. There’s a perfect view of Victoria Harbour and the Central skyline. Unfortunately, nothing in Hong Kong is ever as obscure as it seems, and at ten minutes to midnight this out-of-the-way spot was thronged with people from the surrounding neighbourhood, each of whom, I’m guessing, had gone there thinking that nobody else would know about it.

Luckily, there was a poorly-secured construction site nearby, and the construction office had an outdoor platform that gave us a completely unobstructed view of the harbour. We were sandwiched between a photographer with a serious camera mounted on a big tripod and a bunch of flash-happy families. Thirty seconds before midnight, a giant digital countdown appeared on the front of 2IFC and languid streams of fireworks began streaming out of the tops of Hong Kong’s tallest buildings. At midnight, the streams became geysers. It was strangely and amusingly phallic.

The show lasted only five minutes—nothing compared to the 20-minute Chinese New Year extravaganza that will take place later this month—but people cheered so excitedly we could hear them from across the harbour. Later, I sat at the back of a double-decker tram as we rode away from North Point, through the crowds streaming home from the countdown at Times Square. We stopped at a red light and the tram behind us pulled up close, only a couple of feet from me. A man sitting at the front rolled down his window and looked at me.

“Happy new year,” he said, smiling.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Thursday January 01 2009at 11:01 pm , filed under Asia Pacific, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Comments are closed.