Gearing up for gearless, blissful ghost town

By Jason Gerock

I’ve lived here for two years and seen many strange things worth writing home about, but despite the political parades, sometimes unidentifiable foods and amazing temples, one of the most interesting things is what happens when the Lunar New Year rolls around.

My apartment sits on the outskirts of Xinyi, and once a year the sounds of construction out my window seem to vanish as if they were never there. The multitudes of cars and scooters are blissfully absent during my commute to work and I learn to live without the dumpling cart that usually sits just down the street from my office during lunch.

Every Lunar New Year for about a week or so, the people of the city pack up and head to their families’ homes in the countryside or on the other side of the island. From what I hear, most would rather avoid the journey, and instead spend their precious time off relaxing or enjoying a few nights out with friends. Instead, they’re grilled by family members over why they don’t yet have kids or how much cash they’re pulling in at work. While I can sympathize with these folks, I have to admit that being this far from home makes me wish I was surrounded by family eagerly wanting to know about my little adventures. But as that’s not the case, and since a trip back home won’t be in the cards for a while, I might as well enjoy the rare peace of this annual exodus. If this is your first Lunar New Year in Taiwan, no we’re not being invaded, nor have the end-days arrived. It’s just that time of year when the gods want the locals to visit family, and the foreigners to curl up with a book and a nice cup of tea.