The nation bid a collective farewell to a tumultuous year and welcomed the new year with fireworks and pop music.
Despite the drizzle and the chilly wind, the MRT Taipei City Hall station was packed yesterday evening as more than half a million revelers were set to attend the city's annual New Year's Eve Concert and watch the Taipei 101 fireworks show.
Traffic was already heavy in Xinyi District (信義) early yesterday afternoon as many tried to secure a spot with the best view of the evening's entertainment.
Convenience stores around the district were prepared to greet the crowd by taking down their automatic glass doors. Some even put tea eggs, steamed buns and other snacks outside store fronts, so customers could simply pay the cashiers outside.
Popular performers, such as the girl band S.H.E, Sodagreen (蘇打綠), Cheer Chen (陳綺貞) and May Day (五月天), were scheduled to perform at the concert. At 11:59pm, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) was to join the singers and the spectators in a countdown and watch the fireworks show.
Now perceived as the nation's New Year's Eve highlight, the 188-second Taipei 101 firework spectacle was to display the word “Taiwan” and four colored hearts shown on each side of the building.
Chunghwa Telecom (CHT, 中華電信) said yesterday that the company had added 38 mobile base stations nationwide to ensure quality mobile communications during New Year's Eve.
Eleven of them were placed around Taipei City Hall.
Shih Mu-piao (石木標), vice president of CHT's mobile business group, said yesterday that Taipei City Hall was expected to have the highest communication traffic nationwide on New Year's Eve. Both data and voice communication were forecast to surge at around 10pm before easing at around 2am.
Shih said approximately 18 million text messages were sent on New Year's Eve in 2007. He estimated that more than 20 million would be sent yesterday, or up by about 15 percent to 20 percent from the previous year.
Aside from the concert in Taipei City, counties nationwide hosted similar celebrations, including concerts in Taichung and Kaohsiung. The Taichung County Government's New Year's Party promised to be a raucous affair, as the county planned to have a live simulcast with revelers in China's Xiamen.
Part of the deal involved an agreement to ban the display of national flags, which upset members of the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Taichung Chapter.
As a sign of protest, DPP members planned to distribute more than 3,000 national flags and mobilize supporters in the crowd to wave the flags and shout “long-live the Republic of China.”
The county government has deployed 400 police officers to maintain order.