Chinese New Year in Taipei

So, I was awoken this morning by the sound of firecrackers, lots of them.

Today is the second last official day of the Chinese New Year holiday and when stores, shops or restaurants reopen today (those that aren’t willing to wait to do business tomorrow or Monday) they will light off a string of firecrackers in front of the building. Every Chinese New Year is considered a new beginning to each business, and so they are lighting firecrackers to celebrate their “grand opening” for the NewYear. Some of them even burn special papers (called “Hell Money”) in front of their shops as well, to appease spirits and hope for future success.
Now this is a nice idea, but you have to realize there are probably several hundred thousand businesses in Taipei and a very large majority of them are doing this. The end result is the air is filled with smoke and you’d think there’s a war going on. In front of some office buildings there were displays loud enough to wake the dead and so much smoke you’d think the buildings were on fire. And, this isn’t the day when most of the fireworks are going off! That will be tomorrow or Monday.
Luckily for me, I leave for Singapore ay 7:40am tomorrow morning, so I will miss most of the mess. Darn. 😉

I have to say that the experience of having Chinese New Year here has been nothing short of amazing. I have been fortunate enough to spend it as part of Connie’s family and have met a lot of very kind relatives and eaten a huge amount of good food. After this week, I truly understand why the Chinese love food so much, eating here is an experience I can’t even begin to describe. So many tastes and ways of cooking things I had never thought of; you can tell that Chinese cooking has been developing over thousands of years.
One experience I have never had before was going to what I will call an “Iron Chef” restaurant, there you pick a large live fish (carp in this case) or chicken and tell them how many dishes from the list you want them to make it into. They literally turned a single huge carp into 10 completely different fish dishes by combining it with different ingredients. This feast included sweet barbecued fish, battered and fried rolls of fish and banana, a type of fish dumplings, fish head soup, fish stew with tofu, and several other types. The 9 members of the clan (including me) couldn’t begin to finish what they gave us, I wish I had thought to take a picture but like the rest of the people, I was too busy eating. *^_^*
I have made a point of trying almost everything that gets put in front of me since I’ve been here, and I have to say that at least 90% of it I have really liked. They even got me loving vegetables, which speaks for itself.

Well, the plane leaves early.
My best to all of you, and I hope the New Year brings only love and happiness to everyone reading this. ^___^ Xin Nian Kuai Le!