For whatever reason, we tend to put New Years parties on a pedestal above all other annual events and fantasize about champagne showers with beautiful people in the world’s most exotic locales.
I can’t really help you with the Moët or the models, but after living most of my life abroad, I can give you my top four places to wake up on New Year’s Day.
4. Manila, Philippines
Fireworks are officially illegal in the Philippines, which doesn’t stop all 10 million residents from firing off a continuous flow of explosives, starting at about 9 p.m. on NYE. The humming and popping grows steadily in frequency and intensity, until about 11:30 p.m., when the crescendo begins its long climax. At this point, individual pops no longer exist, there is simply a consistent roar of combustion and the black night is blocked by neon greens and reds. The air smells thickly of gunpowder. I’ve never been to war, but I think a battle might sound and smell similar. Don’t expect to see the first half of New Year’s Day in Manila – the party goes all night, and so do the fireworks. So find someplace high to watch the show and give yourself up to the chaotic jubilation.
3. Hong Kong, China
First, for those who have never been to Hong Kong during the holidays, most of the buildings along the harbor are decorated, lobby to lightning rod, with Christmas lights. The magnitude of the dedication to this decoration is stunning (particularly in an officially secular nation) and makes an excellent backdrop for the NYE fireworks show. Find a spot on the waterfront, and once the fireworks are launched, you will see them threefold: once in the air, once reflected off the water, and once reflected off of the many glass buildings lining the harbor. Additionally, if you’re looking to get down, many of the city’s best bars are within walking distance and are open all night. Oh yeah, and it’ll probably a beautiful 65 degrees outside.
2. Las Lajas Beach, Panamá
Las Lajas is a long, sandy beach in Panamá with no resorts or other significant development. This is my personal representation of a larger concept: New Year’s Eve doesn’t have to be about buying a table in a club downtown or even about big fireworks displays. This type of NYE is about creating your own experience: no need to dress up, no need to ball out, no need for a big countdown. Just BYO Friends and wake up to the waves on a New Year’s Day.
1. Taipei, Taiwan
On NYE, six of the seven million people in the city attempt to get as close as they can to the world’s third tallest building, Taipei 101, to countdown and watch the fireworks fire off of every side. I’ve lived in some of the biggest cities in the world and I have never been so overwhelmed as I was by the crowd heading downtown on NYE in Taipei. This may not sound appealing, but it is so absurd that it becomes entertaining. Plus if you’re a young white guy shuffling through a crowd in Taiwan, you’ll probably encounter at least two groups of teenage girls furtively snapping your picture and asking you if you’re Brad Pitt. That’s right Brad, I know how you feel, and you feel damn good.
The clubs in Taipei are open until 6 a.m. and so, on New Year’s Day in Taipei, you may, like me, wake up at the last stop on the train line, which is 10 stops too far, but you’ll still be smiling.
Happy New Years everyone – be safe and here’s to waking up smiling at the wrong train stop in 2013.