Tag Archives: Dancing

Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 and Paiwan 排灣族 Harvest Festival 豐年祭 @ Nantian Village, Daren Township, Taitung 台東縣達仁鄉南田村, Taiwan

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Yes, the Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 is THE trail to hike!  And especially when the sea and the sky are blue, blue, blue ~ like they were on Saturday ~ YES YES YES!

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The Alangyi Trail runs maybe 8-10 km along the S.E. coast of Taiwan, and walking it takes about 4-5 hours ~ from the very southern tip of Taitung County across into Mudan Township 牡丹鄉, Pingtung County, finishing at Xuhai 旭海 Village, famous for its hot springs and grassland.  The trail is significant in that it is the only section of the whole Taiwan coastline where there is no road. No road means no cars, no lorries, no coaches, no random tourists, no 7-elevens (always a sign of economic development!) ~ and to preserve the natural environment, the area is established as a nature reserve, and strictly managed.  But this only happened after years of protests and disputes about whether to build a road or not.  Fortunately wisdom prevailed, and the Alangyi Trail is just fantastic!

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Nowadays, only 300 people are allowed on the trail per day, permits are required, a guide is needed per 20 people and there are police on duty at either end of the trail.  During the summer, the temperatures are boiling hot, and there are few people hiking on the trail.  In fact, we only met one other group, 30+ youngsters from Changhua – going in the other direction.  Fortunately we had a nice breeze to blow us along!  A typhoon was slowly heading towards Taiwan, but still far off, and as often happens a day or two before a typhoon, the weather was really great (as I write this on Wednesday morning, 3 days later, the typhoon is roaring around outside as it passes northern Taiwan)!

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It is truly an amazing walk, with incredible views!  Is it easy?  Yes.  Is it difficult?  Yes. Both / and!  Much of the walk is right down near sea-level, along the upper part of the stony beach, but at the rocky promontory that is called Guanyin’s Nose 觀音鼻, everyone has to ascend 150m to go up and over the top and down the other side.  It is very steep, so ropes are supplied to grab onto, and there’s steps in some places.  But hey, the views are spectacular – and see the turtle-shaped rock down below!

For centuries, the Alangyi Trail was used by the local indigenous peoples to get from place to place along the coast.  The local indigenous people in that area are mostly the Paiwan People 排灣族 (pause here while you open that link to the Wikipedia site to read about the Paiwan People – it’s fascinating)…. Wonder if in years gone by, they enjoyed this stream as much as we did at the end of the trail?  Yes, we got soaked, but it was oh so refreshing!

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My good friends from Advent Church, 選櫻 (Hsuen-Ying, Grace) and her husband 生豐 (Sheng-Feng, Simon), invited me to join a group of their friends (mostly Grace’s former high school / college classmates and their families – all very lovely!) who they had invited to spend the weekend visiting Grace’s home village of Nantian, in Daren Township, Taitung (台東縣達仁鄉南田村).  This is Grace and Simon… as romantic as always!

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Grace is Paiwan, Taiwan’s second largest indigenous group, and Simon is Amis, Taiwan’s largest indigenous group – who mostly live further north in the Hualien area.  These days there is a certain friendly rivalry between the different tribes / groups ~ although in the past, things were not always so friendly!  Both Grace and Simon work at TamKang High School, Tamsui (as did 2 others in our group), and the school has a teddy bear mascot that travels around with them all over, including on the Alangyi Trail!

Nantian Village is the southernmost village in Taitung County, and runs along a single road between the mountains and the sea. Most people coming to Taitung from the west coast do so over the mountain road from Pingtung, this is the first area they reach on the east coast.  For cyclists on the round-Taiwan circuit, it’s a welcome relief to get over the mountains and down to the coast. But the only people passing through Nantian itself are on their way to the northern entrance of the Alangyi Historic Trail.  Within a few minutes of starting the trail, there’s a river, and that is the border between Taitung and Pingtung – and it is just over that river that the police have a checkpoint to check permits.

And what else is going on in Nantian?  Well, there’s fish farming, mainly for shrimp, there’s a camp site, small guest houses, a cement factory out on the main road, 2 Presbyterian churches, and a beautiful stony beach.  In the past, the stones were big and well-rounded, so people collected them up and carved them for sale.  These days, apparently the coast has changed, the sea level is rising, the stones are much smaller, and well, it’s not easy to make a good living.  Many of the local people have moved away to the cities looking for work – and return for festivals, and some in their retirement.

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Some scenes of Nantian and the local area, starting with the chief’s stone…

There’s an interesting bamboo art work installed there too, ‘The Vector of the South‘ 南方以南 ~ the bamboo looks like waves coming up from the shore, over the seawall and across the fields….

Grace’s elder brother, who we call ‘Da-Ge’ 大哥 (literally ‘big brother’) returned to the family home 10+ years ago, after quite some time in northern Taiwan, to take up his responsibilities as one of the chiefs of the Paiwan Tribe.  He is just so lovely!  He kept us entertained with stories, songs and jokes, and he and his wife are such committed Christians, sharing their faith, testimonies, choruses and music with everyone!  They, together with relatives and members of the village, welcomed us into their lives for the weekend ~ they were just so hospitable and generous.  By inviting us to join their village for the weekend, we could learn so much about their culture and traditions, and they were able to get some income from taking care of us ~ such visits are officially known as (starting with their Paiwan name), ‘Jakisuvung Cultural and Educational Eco-Tourism’ 家給蘇豐文教生態旅遊.  We stayed in a local guest house (B&B), which was run by the lady who was our guide for the Alangyi Trail, and whose younger sister was Grace’s former classmate!

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The Paiwan Harvest Festival 豐年祭 is an annual event in many Paiwan communities, celebrating a successful millet / rice harvest, and copious amounts of millet / rice wine are on offer!  It involved a whole weekend of activities in Nantian Village, starting on Saturday morning with the official opening ceremony when VIPs from the local government, the elected official representative from Taitung County Council, tribal chiefs and many others came along. There was dancing and singing too….

The main event of the day was the archery competition ~ wow, they are so skilled!  Every village has a team and they were all there, competing all morning.  Women, men, old, young, everyone took part; apparently they practice for hours – and it shows!

We even had a go ourselves, though we only shot from half the distance – and still managed to miss, ha ha! But Grace, who said this was her first time to try, got a bull’s eye, first time.  Actually it’s not a bull, it’s a mountain pig!

And then we all went off up the river, through the river in fact, wading upstream until we came to a clearing where we had a really fun Paiwan-style barbecue.  In fact, 3 days later and I can still smell that smoke all over!

The following day, the community spent the morning killing and preparing the pig, and certain other ceremonies.  The main event of the festival for us was on Sunday evening. Just beforehand, the heavens opened, the rain came down, and they decided to relocate to the village community centre. Da-Ge’s wife and the ladies of the village had been cooking all afternoon, and there were huge amounts of delicious Paiwan-style food. “Must try everything”, they said. Just don’t ask in too much detail what everything is – and remember that nothing in that mountain pig goes to waste!  Ah, I had a great time!

Most of the people were there in traditional Paiwan costumes, and we had flower head rings….

And there was dancing.  There’s always dancing at festivals, and we joined in too.  I filmed the following video for 5 minutes before I got down and joined the end of the line!  Do watch – and keep an eye on the blue bucket of millet / rice wine 小米酒 in the middle of the table, and the ‘waiters’ who go around serving everyone!

And this was the final dance – just for the community themselves… watch to the end, but I had to stop filming at the final minute, I was laughing so much!

On Monday morning, our group had a chance to visit Da-Ge’s home and try on some of their traditional Paiwan costumes.  There is apparently no special significance to the colours, blue, red, black – it’s personal choice.  We also had a chance to wear the chief’s headdress, which is, oh, so heavy!  The rules are that at ceremonies and festivals, only the chief and his family can wear the headdresses, but in their home and for photos at other times, anyone can try them on.  So we did!

We also visited a massive huge tree, Bischofia javanica (considered sacred, hence the red ribbon).  That’s where we learned all about the local ecology and more.  Teddy came too!

What else?  Well, actually I had arrived a day earlier than most of our group, and together with Grace and Simon, the 3 of us went to visit the newly-opened social welfare center run by the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross 聖十字架慈愛修女會 (known as the Maria Theresia Social Welfare Foundation 財團法人台東縣私立天主教聖十字架瑪利德蘭社會福利基金會) in Shangwu Village 尚武村, Dawu Township 大武鄉, which is very near Nantian ~ in fact it was in Dawu that Grace went to junior high school.  And the first person we met when we arrived at the center there was one of her old classmates. Ah it’s a small world!  This is their church and fruit growing in the garden. The fruit is Morinda citrifolia, known as cheese fruit / vomit fruit / starvation fruit, and I can tell you it is totally 100% disgusting!

In December 2016, St. John’s University and Advent Church raised NT$ 325,000 (US$ 10,000) as part of our annual fund-raising project and donated it to the sisters (see that blog post here) for their ministry.  They were planning to convert their kindergarten classrooms into a day care center for elderly local people.  Thanks be to God that the work is completed, and the official opening ceremony and mass was held on June 16, 2018.  We couldn’t go to the ceremony, but we were able to visit on Friday instead.  They are still waiting for the final permission from the local authorities to be able to use the new buildings, and we had a tour – they are so light, bright, well-equipped and fully furnished.  It was so good to meet Sr. Miljenka Schnetzer 宋玉潔修女 again, she arrived in Taiwan from Switzerland in 1979, and has been in Shangwu since 1992….

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We also visited the famous train station at Duoliang 多良, famous because if you stand there long enough a train will come out of the tunnel and pass by – such a pretty photo-op ha ha!

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And then there were the sunrises over the sea – 2 of them in fact.  On Friday we got up and left at 4:30 am to see the sunrise from the high viewpoint…

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And then again on Monday morning, when there was more cloud – the only sign that the typhoon was coming.  Great that we could still see Lanyu and Lyudao Islands from up there (but too far away to appear in the photo)….

One of the main highlights of the whole weekend was meeting Grace’s family, especially her big brother and his wife and family.  I had dinner at their home on Friday evening.  They are so friendly and welcoming!  This is Da-Ge and Simon…

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And yes, we spent a lot of time laughing!  Da-Ge’s wife told me that on the chief’s headdress there are some tufts of red hair, and yep, sure they’re there – and very red!

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She said that those tufts of red hair represent the hair of the foreigners who had had their heads chopped off by the Paiwan people in years gone by, when they arrived on the Taiwan coast to invade and attack the people here.  The Paiwan were a headhunting people, and always kept some of the hair as a mark of pride.  It’s true.  That was really what was happening along the Alangyi Historic Trail all those centuries ago.  It might all look very scenic and beautiful now, but in those days it was not a place where visitors were assured of a warm welcome!

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Wikipedia says, “In the past the Paiwan had a fearsome reputation as head-hunters. When Paiwan warriors returned home from a headhunting foray, the women would gather together in front of the courtyard to welcome their heroes and would sing songs of triumph. The heads of their enemies were then hung on stone pillars in front of which were displayed wine and offerings.” The Japanese, Americans, Dutch, Spanish all came to Taiwan – either to invade and attack, or they were trying to pass by the island on their way elsewhere but got shipwrecked in a typhoon, and many of them were attacked and killed.  Check out the Rover Incident of 1867 and the Mudan Incident of 1871, the latter took place in Mudan, which is at the Pingtung end of the Alangyi Trail.  It led to the Japanese invasion of Taiwan in 1874, and eventually Taiwan came under Japanese rule  from 1895-1945, during which the Japanese tried to control and subdue the indigenous peoples, leading to endless conflicts, armed uprisings, massacres – and resulting in even more oppression.  Many indigenous people, including Grace’s family (in the time of her great-grandparents and grandparents) were forced to relocate during the Japanese colonial era – they moved from Pingtung to Taitung, eventually settling in Nantian.

The Dutch are famously remembered in Taiwan as having red hair (here in Tamsui we have Fort San Domingo, known as 紅毛城, the ‘fort of the red-heads’, originally built by the Spanish and then seized by the Dutch, and rebuilt by them in 1644).  Hence the tufts of red hair in the headdress!  So we spent all weekend laughing together about whether I was gonna get my head chopped off before we left on Monday – and wondering whether I’d live to see another day!

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But Da-Ge assured me that now that Paiwan people are Christians, love has conquered all.  No longer do we need to kill each other, but we can live and work together in peace.  We’re all one family, of whatever tribe – and even whatever colour hair!  That’s the main theme of the song sung at the festival, where everyone joined hands to dance. These days even the shaman’s traditional rituals associated with the harvest festival are replaced by prayers to Almighty God, giving thanks and asking for God’s blessing, and all in Jesus’ name.  And here we all are, one family!

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So, Grace is from a Paiwan family and Simon is from an Amis family.  Nowadays, such marriages are very common.  In Advent Church, I like to tease Grace and Simon as being the most romantic couple in the church ~ they are members of the church choir, and they have quite some competition from other choir couples for that title!  But these two still win the prize ~ every day they are like they just got married.  And they just really like each other so much…. so adorable!

Thank God for a wonderful weekend of gracious people, deep culture, rich traditions, beautiful scenery, amazing weather, delicious foods, safe journeys and lots of laughter.

Thanks to Grace and Simon for all their leadership and organization, to all our group for their willingness to learn and to fit in with everyone and everything, and to Da-Ge and his wife and family for their warm welcome and kindness to us.  It was truly inspiring to see how God is working in one family, in one community, in one people, in one small corner of Taiwan, to His honour and glory!

St. John’s University Student Fellowship Graduation Party ~ SJU愛的團契 送舊晚會2018!

An amazing evening last night ~ so many smiles and laughs, and of course, photos!

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Yes, it’s the end of the school year here in Taiwan and at SJU we are gearing up for tomorrow’s graduation ceremony, and saying many congratulations – but also sad goodbyes – to our lovely graduating students.  For our 4th year undergraduate students in the student fellowship, last night we held the annual much-anticipated, highlight-of-the-whole-year graduation party ~ this year on the theme of ‘復古’ ‘Vintage’.  Everyone’s been busy for weeks in preparation, not least finding an outfit, vintage style ~ grandparents and parents to the rescue!

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Our fellowship has 7 student members graduating, led by Vincy, who was last year’s student fellowship leader, the first girl to be elected to that position for over a decade and our first ever student leader from Malaysia.  Jing-Sen was also one of the student fellowship leadership team.  Pei-Ching and Mao-Ge are 2 other committed members, and Pei-ching was baptized only recently, at Easter.  Here they all are – making their presentation to Jing-Ching, the current fellowship leader…

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I arrived a bit late and missed the food, but in time for the party proper!  We had singing, dancing, games, drama, catwalk, presentations, videos, gifts and prayers.  And many many photos.  So so so so much going on, all evening!

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One of the highlights was the dancing ~ this is Jailhouse Rock, led by Tony and Nai-Nai…

Video No.2 features our graduating students, Jing-Sen and Vincy…

And this one features our chaplain Rev. Wu and his wife, Vicky… they certainly know how to dance!

And so to the photos – and yes the lights were flashing all different colours throughout the evening!

And a few photos taken by students, my vintage style is definitely, well, pink!

Plus the group photo….

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Then, this morning, Vincy’s parents and family arrived from West Malaysia ready for graduation tomorrow, and their first stop was to visit the SJU Chaplaincy for a photo!  Actually, after weeks on non-stop sun and a major lack of rain, today started 5 days of predicted heavy rain. It is absolutely pouring down out there, but still, anyway, a very big welcome to Taiwan!

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We have at about 10 students in our fellowship from Malaysia, maybe more.  These are most of the girls ~ they are all so amazing, so mature, and bring so many blessings to us in SJU!  For the boys, well there’s Calvin and Tony, spot them in the photo album above, they bring a whole lot of life and energy to the fellowship group!

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And finally a special mention and congratulations to Dong-Gua, one of our students on the master’s program, finally he is ready to graduate.  He’s been here longer than most of us, and we will miss him so much.  He’s the student who can always be relied on to come to our rescue whenever we need anything technical or practical, or needing muscles or clear thinking, always willing to help!  Here he is posing with Rev. Wu.  Ah, congratulations Dong-Gua!

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I can’t be at the graduation tomorrow, so I gave the students my congratulations and best wishes last night.  As always, they’ll leave a big gap that will be hard to fill, but we send them out into the world with our prayers for God’s blessing and grace to be upon them. And of course, we hope they’ll keep in touch ~ and come back and visit us very often!

MANY MANY CONGRATULATIONS AND BEST WISHES TO ALL THOSE GRADUATING THIS SUMMER ~ YES!

 

新北市淡水區興仁國小創校100週年慶祝會 ~ XingRen Elementary School, Tamsui celebrates 100 years!

Many congratulations to our local elementary school, XingRen 新北市淡水區興仁國小 on celebrating their centenary today, with beautiful sunny skies and temps of over 30 ºC!

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St. John’s University and Advent Church are in the XingRen Elementary School catchment area, and we have a really good relationship with the school ~ the principal, teachers, staff, children and parents are all our good friends, and there’s lots going on ~ here’s some of our friends on the school welcome desk this morning!

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Hundreds gathered for the centenary celebrations today ~ and we joined in! Advent Church has a drum class who were invited to perform, and we also invited the drum class from St. John’s Cathedral to join us ~ the teacher is the same for both groups.  The cathedral group has been going for 8 years, whereas our group has been going for only 8 months – so their support was much appreciated ~ and everyone had a great time!

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The drums were the opening performance, first thing at 8:30 am ~ they did 2 songs, and I filmed the first half of each…. do take a look at these 2 short videos, the group performed really well ~ ah, such talent!

The next performance was an amazingly agile and very fast group of Rollerblading Dragon Dancers who zoomed around and around… check out the first 40 seconds of their performance here!

Had a great time meeting lots of people we knew, including our good friend Jasmine (second left below) from our neighboring junior high school branch and some of her students who had made special centenary bags for the occasion!  Here they are with the principal of XingRen (third left below) …

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And the final performance of the morning was our lovely Advent Church Band who performed 3 songs, and the highlight was the final song, ‘Happy 100th Birthday!’

It was such a great way to end the morning’s celebrations!

Congratulations to all who performed and to all involved, there was a lot of hard work for everyone, and it was very hot – not typical October weather, but we were all so happy the weather was so good – we’d been praying all week!

And very special congratulations to XingRen Elementary School on their 100th anniversary ~ and here’s to the next 100 years ~ YES!

Chinese New Year Celebrations @ St. John’s University 聖約翰科技大學 尾牙餐會 Wei-Ya Banquet!

Chinese New Year is coming, and coming soon ~ YEAH!  Our students have all gone home, the local schools have broken up for the holidays, and everyone’s getting ready!

Last night was our university Wei-Ya 尾牙, the end-of-year banquet for all our staff and faculty, plus VIP guests.  There was food – lots of deliciousness all packed together, lion dancing, singing and dancing shows from our students, and lots of gifts for the lucky names pulled out of a box – red envelopes, an exercise bike, huge teddy bears, and the top prize of an Apple iPhone 6 Plus …

And see that big pink teddy in one of the photos?   It’s currently been given by the winner to our SJU Chaplaincy…. groan groan ha ha – but our students will just love it, they’ll be taking photos, photos and more photos galore!

A great evening ~ and a chance to forget the miserable weather outside (and the even colder and wetter weather forecast for this weekend!), and to concentrate on the happier things of life like food, friends and fun ha ha ….. and so ~

A Happy New Year to you all!

Happy New Year 2016!

New Year’s Eve extravaganza at Taipei City Hall and the fireworks at Taipei 101 ~ THE place to be on New Year’s Eve in Taiwan!

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An extract from the Taipei Times report of the evening, sums it all up wonderfully …..

Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Taipei’s Xinyi District (信義) on Thursday night for the city government’s New Year’s Eve countdown party and to celebrate the new year.  The star-studded party was organized by the Taipei Department of Information and Tourism and a coalition of private enterprises, including Taipei 101, SET-TV media group and Union Bank of Taiwan.

Taiwanese techno diva Jeannie Hsieh (謝金燕) appeared before the crowd on an elevator platform and began the event by performing one of her hits, sending the audience gathered in the plaza in front of Taipei City Hall into a frenzy.  Accompanied by a group of back-up dancers, Hsieh performed six songs while going through several very quick costume changes.

Other performers included singers Wilbur Pan (潘瑋柏) and Elva Hsiao (蕭亞軒), while hosts Jacky Wu (吳宗憲), Lin Yu-chih (林郁智, better known as Na-Dou) and Lulu (黃路梓茵) sang two covers of Western pop classics, including the Beatles’ Hey Jude.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Chen Wei-yin (陳偉殷) was also called onstage, where he was asked to demonstrate his pitching skills by passing a baseball to Wu.  Chen later presented Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) with a baseball glove bearing the logo of the 2017 Summer Universiade, which Taipei will host, and said that he wish the city success in organizing the sporting event.  However, Ko declined to catch a ball thrown by Chen when the hosts suggested that he do so, saying that Chen did not seem to have good control of his pitching.  Chen agreed with the mayor, saying his jacket was too tight and impeded his movements.

Later on, Ko was back on stage to preside over an opening ceremony for the World Design Capital (WDC) 2016, during which he and WDC selection committee member Mugendi M’Rithaa placed miniatures of five iconic buildings on a map of Taipei to signify the launch of the event.

Ko also sang a Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) song by pop group Mayday (五月天), which his aides said he had been practicing for days.  However, he got off to a rocky start, missing his cue to start by two full verses, and beginning during what should have been the chorus, which led organizers to stop the backing track so that the mayor could finish the song a cappella.  Despite his less-than-ideal performance, the crowd cheered Ko for his effort.  “That scared me to death,” the mayor said afterward about his performance.  Before leaving, Ko told the crowd to “have fun and go back to work tomorrow,” before reminding the partygoers to “take your trash with you” to lessen the workload of Taipei Department of Environmental Protection personnel.

The countdown party culminated in an extravagant 238-second firework show designed by French pyrotechnic firm Groupe F, for which the Taipei 101 management said it spent about NT$50 million (US$1.51 million).

Pop superstar Chang Hui-mei (張惠妹), better known as A-mei (阿妹), finished the show with a one-hour set that ended at about 1:30am.

The Taipei Department of Environmental Protection deployed 800 employees at the party — some of whom held up placards reading “Please hand me your garbage” — to collect trash, including cigarette butts.  The agency said it collected 12.35 tonnes of trash after the event, 670kg less than the amount collected after the 2014 New Year’s Eve event.

The concert was incredible, as always ~ such talent!  Dancing and singing, standing and sitting, and taking photos all night.  Great atmosphere, and couldn’t fail to be amazed at the organization and crowd control with record numbers in attendance.

Definitely THE place to be!

Wishing you all a Happy New Year 2016!