Fireworks light up the sky during New Year's Eve celebrations on Sydney Harbor on Monday in Sydney, Australia.(Photo: Cameron Spencer, Getty Images)
CANBERRA, Australia -- Fiscal cliff? Recession? Not in Asia,
where the first countries to see 2013 are enthusiastically welcoming the
Increasingly democratic Myanmar is having a public
countdown for the first time. Jakarta plans a huge street party
befitting Indonesia's powering economy.
In Sydney, eager revelers
camped Sunday night on the shores of the harbor to get the best vantage
points as 1.5 million were expected to gather to watch the fireworks
show centered on the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
The shores were packed
when an eight-minute preliminary show for young children exploded over
the harbor three hours before the main event in Sydney and as the clock
struck midnight in Samoa and other South Pacific islands to the east,
ushering in the new year there.
In Hong Kong, this year's 12.5
million Hong Kong dollar ($1.6 million) fireworks display is billed by
organizers as the biggest ever in the southern Chinese city. Police
expected as many as 100,000 people to watch, local news reports said.
buoyant economies of the Asia-Pacific are prepared to party with
renewed optimism despite the so-called fiscal cliff threatening to
reverberate globally from the United States and the tattered economies
Celebrations were planned around the world, with
hundreds of thousands expected to fill Times Square in New York City to
watch the drop of a Waterford crystal-studded ball.
One day after
dancing in the snow to celebrate the first anniversary of leader Kim
Jong Un's ascension to supreme commander, North Koreans were preparing
to mark the arrival of the new year, marked as "Juche 102" on North
Korean calendars. Juche means self-reliance, the North Korean ideology
of independence promoted by national founder Kim Il Sung, who was born
102 years ago. His grandson now rules North Korea.
In New Delhi, the festive mood was marred by the death Saturday of a young rape victim.
clubs and residents' associations in the Indian capital decided to
cancel planned festivities and asked people to light candles to express
their solidarity with the victim whose plight sparked public rallies for
"Let there be no New Year celebrations across the
country. It will be a major tribute to the departed soul," said Praveen
Khandelwal, secretary-general of the Confederation of All India
Traders, an umbrella group of operators of shops and businesses across
In a field in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, workers
were testing a giant digital countdown screen with the backdrop of the
revered Shwedagon pagoda.
Arranged by local Forever Media group
and Index Creative Village, a Thai event organizer, the celebration is
the first public New Year countdown in Myanmar, a country ruled for
almost five decades by military regimes that discouraged or banned big
"We are planning this public New Year event
because we want residents of Yangon to enjoy the public countdown like
in other countries," said Win Thura Hlaing, managing director of Forever
Blossom company, a subsidiary of Forever Media.
With live music
performances by celebrities, light shows, food stalls, fireworks and
other activities, the countdown is expected to draw 50,000 people, Win
Thura Hlaing said.
Jakarta's street party centers on a 7-kilometer
(4-mile) main thoroughfare closed to all traffic from nightfall until
after midnight. Workers erected 16 large stages along the normally
car-clogged, eight-lane highway through the heart of the city.
Indonesia's booming economy is a rare bright spot amid global gloom and
is bringing prosperity - or the hope of it - to Indonesians.
in the capital have been further raised by the election of a new,
populist governor who is pledging to tackle the city's massive
In Sydney, Lord Mayor Clover Moore said
about 1.5 million spectators were expected to line the harbor to watch
the 6.6 million Australian dollar ($6.9 million) fireworks display,
while another 2 million Australians among a population of 22 million
would watch on television.
"This is really putting Australia on
the map in terms of welcoming people to the new year," Moore told
reporters before the event.
Thousands lined the harbor shore in
festive crowds under a blue summer sky by late afternoon, their number
undiminished by Australian government warnings that the Washington
deadlock on the U.S. debt crisis was partly to blame for a slowing
Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue was hosting the event.
tourist Melissa Sjostedt was among the thousands gathered near a
southern pylon of the bridge. She said seeing the fireworks would
fulfill an ambition that began a decade ago when she read about them in
National Geographic magazine.
"Ever since that, I've always wanted to see this for real, live, in person," she said.
New Yorker Mathieu Herman said he had flown to Australia specifically for the New Year celebrations on the harbor.
"I saw it last year on TV and it looked fabulous. I said to myself it's something I've just got to do," Herman said.
a somber mood in the Philippines due to devastation from a recent
typhoon, a key problem for authorities remained how to prevent revelers
from setting off huge illegal firecrackers - including some nicknamed
"Goodbye Philippines" and "Bin Laden" - that maim and injure hundreds of
Filipinos each year, including many children.
A government scare
tactic involving doctors displaying brutal-looking scalpels used for
amputations for firecracker victims has not fully worked in the past so
health officials came up with a novel idea: Go Gangnam style.
government health official, Eric Tayag, donned the splashy outfit of
South Korean star PSY and danced to his Youtube hit "Gangnam Style"
video while preaching against the use of illegal firecrackers on TV, in
schools and in public arenas.
"The campaign has become viral,"
Tayag said. "We've asked kids and adults to stay away from big
firecrackers and just dance the Gangnam and they're doing it."
Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo predicted 2013 would be less turbulent
than 2012 because the Chinese New Year in February will usher in the
year of the snake, bringing an end to the year of the dragon, which was
associated with water. Water is one of the five elements in feng shui
theory, the Chinese practice of arranging objects and choosing dates to
"Water is fear. So that's why we have had so much
turbulence especially in the winter months," such as doomsday
prophecies, school shootings and concerns about the fiscal cliff, said
"But the good news is that the coming year of the snake is the
first time that fire has come back since 2007. Fire actually is the
opposite to water, fire is happiness. So therefore the year of the snake
is a much more optimistic year. So you can see signs of economic
recovery now," he added.
"The positive thing is that people are
very optimistic, therefore it will have a very strong drive on the
economic recovery. We expect the stock market will do well, the property
market will do well," Lo said.