For about a week, the few remaining students on campus have been throwing out potential plans for new years. No one wants to have a lame new year, especially with all the options available here in Hong Kong; however, it is worth noting that with each plan there are certain drawbacks to whatever advantage it may pose.
There are two basic new year standards here in town that one can latch onto and exploit for their own holiday extravaganza when throwing a party with friends or family appear to be out of the question: whether it be due to the tiny size of one’s apartment – aka “sleeping hole” – or the inevitable distance and travel of those we know around this season. The first standard is TST, or Tsim Sha Tsui, to pack in with tens of thousands of your closest friends and ring in the new year watching fireworks over Victoria Harbor. Think New Year’s countdown at Times Square in New York City, without all the bands, TV coverage, and slightly less cold: only the crowd remains.
The second major new year’s staple in Hong Kong is to hit up the clubs for the night. Pony up anywhere from HK$1000 to HK$3000 and you’ve got 4 hours of all you can drink, discotec, over-dressed, coked up young professional mayhem to ring in the new year. After around one, the drinks stop being free, the music still sucks, and the groundlings enter and spoil your high priced fun with their touristy meanderings. Yee-Haw!
As usual when faced with such a stellar array of choices, I did what I normally do: something completely different.
The concept: enjoy the countdown and harbor fireworks, avoid the crowd, don’t spend a ton of money on drinks and partying, and have just as wild and ridiculous a time as if we had dropped three months rent on a cover charge for the night. This line of thinking inevitably drove us to a certain vagabond mentality: a traveling party that went wherever we went. The plan which developed: bring supplies up to Victoria Peak, set up a picnic party and watch the fireworks over the harbor from atop the island, then make our way down to Lan Kwai Fong and check out the street and the clubs in all it’s new year splendor.
The plan was set, and all that was to be determined were the players, time, etc. Many classmates around my hall expressed some interested; however, in the end they all had either decided against something so unplanned and free form in favor of TST or to join plans of their other friends. In Abraham’s case, he would be leaving on the first to fly back to Shanghai for several weeks, and the possibility of being out all night did not fit in with traveling for him. In the end, it came down to Magi, her visiting friend Katarina and Raphael. Then Raphael ended up getting early tickets for the Armani bar’s New Year’s party that a friend of his was throwing, so HK$650 later he had to cancel Peak plans for those. None the less, the three of us would prove a great group for the night of merriment and ringing in 2008 in style.
The four of us met up at the bus stop at 6:30 and made our way to Po Lam mall. Magi and Katarina had some snacks on hand, and I had my backpack with a few blankets, cards and my camera. Raphael, while having other plans, decided to tag along with our adventure until we got down to Central, at which point we’d take towards the peak and he to his party. At the mall, we set about procuring our party necessities: I had to get a jacket so as not to freeze what little ass I have available completely off; Raphael picked up some much needed contact lenses; and Magi & Co. started on the shopping. Regrouping in the liquor aisle of the Park ‘n’ Shop MEGA STORE, we refined our supplies to the bare minimum. I challenge you to find a single unnecessary item on the list:
- (1) HK$45 bottle of rum
- (1) 2 liter bottle of Coke
- (12) Cans of Tsing Tao beer – Official sponsor of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
- (1) Bag of pretzels, or bretzels for my German readers
- (1) Bag of Lays “Sour Cream and Onion” potato chips
- (4) Sets of Winnie the Pooh party supplies, each set containing 1 goody bag, 1 party hat, and 1 noise maker
- (1) Bag of balloons
Packing the supplies into my backpack, we moved on to have a Macau style new year’s eve dinner before leaving the mall. Despite the great amount of confusion we were able to create for our waiter (changing salad for potatoes, ordering both salad and potatoes, cream soup or broth soup, ordering the restaurant’s specialty beef noodles – though they were not on the menu for the evening, everyone buy Raphael and I communicating in 2nd or 3rd languages) the food came and we feast upon New Zealand mutton chops under black pepper gravy. We finished dinner around 9:45 and began our journey downtown for 2007’s last adventure, and our first of 2008.
The MTR was packed as we rode down the island line towards central, but fortunately most passengers left to head off to TST. Based on my national day fireworks experience, they started about 4 hours too late to actually get a view of the show from the waterfront. I expect police would have barricaded the area by 9, long after there was any room for more people to join the Avenue of Stars crowd. At central we wished Raphael a happy new year and soldiered on to the peak tram station. There were a good deal of people waiting in line at the peak tram, and the time had already moved past eleven. The tram operator ensured us that the wait would not be any longer than 10 minutes, so we ventured forward, riding along the steepest of inclines to the top of Victoria Peak.
From the Peak one can enjoy a view of Hong Kong that rivals all others, and we were fortuned by as clear a night as could be desired. We made a last pit stop, wandered the maze of the peak mall, and finally escaped to search for a spot outside to set up our party. Following Magi, we wandered down the small road which winds around the mountain, leading to a number of billion dollar mansions that sit atop the peak, as well as to a number of fantastic lookout points where the tree line path opens up, giving way to fantastic views and deadly falls off the mountain side.
We walked for several minutes, passing a number of great lookout points before we found ours. The first few were not necessarily bad vantages; on the contrary, they provided phenomenal night views of the city. The problem lay in the fact that the railing space was already captured by a crowd! Having passed 11:30 before our arrival, we were certainly the biggest 2007 procrastinators out for the view. Making the most of it, we found some secondary railing to sit upon, giving us an extra few feet to see above the tripods and gawkers who had grabbed the prime path real estate. I opened up some well shaken Tsing Tao cans, the Lays were torn apart, and as soon as I hopped into my railing seat the fireworks began.
Well… sort of. Fireworks were scheduled to shoot off at every minute starting at 11:40 until midnight. With our already full evening, we made it just in time for the beginning of the show. At first, only a few buildings were launching fireworks; by 10-minutes to midnight, over twenty buildings had simultaneous launches on the minute. The anticipation built steadily as midnight approached, the crowd readying for the grand finale and 2008 to begin.
But, alas! Something was wrong! Where were our new year hats, and noise makers!?!?! How were we expected to ring in the new year without such essentials? Katarina jumped down and tore open the party pack, and soon we had our noise blowers blowing and Pooh hats on, much to the amusement of the crowd that gathered at the lookout point: and we were having a ball!
Then something happened. Fireworks rapidly shot off all the way up the IFC building, with a follow up shot off the top of all harbor buildings. What the devil? Is it new years yet?!? My watch didn’t seem to think so. Then it happened again, and a third time. Streams of fireworks shot off in succession from all the buildings several times. It must be 2008… hmm. Then we all shouted a dazed “Happy New Year!” somewhat flabbergasted by the lack of warning. The grand finale lasted for 10 or 15 seconds, and then the fireworks were done …
This isn’t how it should be, though. We stared at one another, stunned and shocked at the transpiriance of the past moments. We need a countdown! We need the suspense! The buildup! We need a re-do!
So, a re-do we had.
“TEN, NINE, EIGHT,” we began, shouting and counting down to the new-new year.
“SEVEN, SIX, FIVE, FOUR,” as the crowd slowly caught on a joined in our newly instigated official new years countdown.
“THREE, TWO, ONE,” we sang through the cold air, high a top the peak, shouting out into the night, with the whole of Hong Kong lit up below us. The crisp winter air could not contain the excitement of our newly made year: the year for us, the year by us!
“HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!” we cried out. Noise blowers a blowing, drinks a drinking, pipers probably a pipping somewhere in the world. Welcome to 2008!
Amidst all this action, there flowed traffic of returning partiers making their way back towards the Peak tram. With each passing traveler we bid a warm “Happy New Year,” and for each well-wished returned we blew a triumphant blast on our party favors. The crowds thinned and we had the peak essentially to ourselves once again. Having only been perched at our place for some twenty-odd minutes, and barely breaking into our vast supplies, we held our ground and finally started the new year’s party we were want to have.
[read 2008 Hong Kong Style – Part 2: Good Start to the New Year]