SPRING BREAK IN TAIWAN
Does Taiwan have Spring Break? … well, there is a national holiday that falls right when kids get out of school for a bit: Qing Min Jie or “Tomb Sweeping Day.”
And these images from Chateau Beach Resort in Kenting certainly look like what people in many parts of the world might associate with Spring Break…
But how did we get from a holiday to honor ancestors to thousands of young people in swimwear on a beach?
SPRING BREAK TIMELINE
- 1990s First music event in Kenting is called Spring Scream
- 2000s Many events by various promoters including notorious free beach parties
- 2010s Unregulated Beach parties banned
- 2013 First Spring Break event held at Chateau
In recent decades, the government has clustered the holiday around a long weekend to allow people to make trips or take mini-vacations.
Down in Kenting — way back in late 199os — a couple of hippy expat musicians thought it would be cool to have a mini-music festival … and so “Spring Scream” or “春吶” was born. It was then that the arguably lazy Taiwanese press began their tradition of referring to all Spring Break related activities with this catchall term, instead of actually bothering to report on what happens at individual events or venues, and what acts are performing where…
As the scope of the partying grew more and more, promoters decided to bring events of various types to the sleepy beach town, with 20…30..or even 50,000 people partying HARD.
Of course, drugs and other naughtiness came along for the ride … and arrests, deaths and other unfortunate things were, and are still sometimes, a part of the Kenting Spring Music Festivals (or whatever you want to call what has evolved since).
The press had already latched on to the term “Spring Scream” or “春吶,” and so anything that happened, no matter how big or small, good or bad, was attributed to the small live music festival that started it all.
sad or bad things that too much party time has caused over the years — note: stay away from drugs, drowning and car crashes:
2002: “A foreign man was found drowned on a Kenting beach early last Saturday morning in the midst of a long weekend of partying.”
The event is named in the article as the now defunct “Moonlight Party.” But the press continues its tradition of using the term, “Spring Scream” or “春吶” in their reporting.
2010: “Three people were killed in a car accident on their way returning from Kenting Spring Scream Music Festival at 10 p.m. on Saturday”
Did they actually go to the live music festival? Well they were on the road… So that’s good enough for the China Post.
SHORT LIVED ALCOHOL BAN
“Starting this year, sales of alcohol will stop two hours before the end of the concerts. Violators will see NT$50,000 taken from their guarantee fee and this will also affect their application for next year …”
This ban was short lived. But there are restrictions on how late permitted events can go.
DRUG BUSTS GALORE
2005: “A total of 37 were arrested for drugs as Kenting police intensified their operations. On Sunday they arrested two people — a 20-year-old man from Kazakhstan for using marijuana and a Taiwanese man for smoking cigarettes that contained ketamine — on Saturday night. Most of the arrests were made on the beach or in local homes.”
During the course of this anti-drug fever no arrests at any of the permitted legal festivals occurred. Promoters who were putting on fun, safe music events were stigmatized each year by the actions of 20 or so weirdos snorting ketamine in their hotel rooms, when the total number of actual festival attendees soared to tens of thousands of people.
2009: “Police say drug abuse has been on a decline the past two years as law enforcement brought in new drug-detecting equipment. This year police will add hidden cameras and infrared scanners that will aid officers monitor movement in complete darkness up to three kilometers away.
Overkill? Yes. Probably.
2007: “Police bust revelers on party boat … the drugs seized by police at the festival included Ketamine, ecstasy pills, Erinim pills and marijuana, police said.”
What are Erinim pills? What is this boat festival? Sounds like random people on a boat doing drugs.
Picture of people not at a festival getting arrested
2015: “16 people were arrested for drug use at hotels in Kenting during the first day of this year’s music festival, Focus Taiwan reported. The people involved in the first drug bust allegedly had ketamine. At least 10 of those arrested tested positive for drugs in urine tests.”
Drugs in water noted by international press:
Bwahahaha! What?! Do you even science, bro? According to this article, “researchers in Spain found higher levels of illicit drugs in the water during weekends.” This may be true, but whether or not 2 parts per 100,000,000,000 as opposed to 1 part per 100,000,000,000 makes a difference to wildlife or anything else is another question. It’s quite possibly the most ridiculous piece of reporting outside of a US Presidential election. Our personal theory is that some rogue scientist went to a love motel, dipped a coffee pot in the toilet and filled up a couple of test tubes to send off to the lab.
TRASH TRASH EVERYWHERE
One downside of the free unregulated beach parties of the 2000’s was the enormous amount of trash unscrupulous promoters didn’t bother to clean up. The trash and drowning deaths brought an end to the madness, and now the government only hands out permits to venues who comply with strict EPA standards. This has left the original event and Spring Break on the Beach at Chateau as the only events sanctioned by the government. There are usually some other parties that don’t bother to comply. But buy tickets at your own risk. The smaller unregulated events are sometimes shut down by the police with no warning and may not have adequate security to prevent fighting and other nastiness…
The Taiwan press is absolutely obsessed with nakedness. The Apple Daily spent several years trying to take as many pictures of scantily clad or partially naked westerners as their dedicated team of reporters could possibly manage.
It got so ridiculous that the Spring Break promoter made videos trolling the press by pretending to send naked models to film a promo video. This created a media firestorm of epic proportions.
Click on the above thumbs to watch the vids. May not be safe for work 😉
TO SUM UP
Spring Break in Taiwan is pretty fun. Spring Scream started it all and still throw a smallish, but pretty cool event that features a bunch of bands and a bunch of stages. They have received criticism in the past for not paying acts and for being too commercial, but this is largely undeserved. It’s true that they don’t pay acts for the most part. But it’s probably the least commercial of the permitted events.
Read more on their site: https://www.springscream.com
Spring Break on the Beach at Chateau is the largest event and is often criticized for shameless promotional tactics that include trolling the local press with naked people and various other arguably tasteless shenanigans like running a bikini contest that features both male and female contestants vying for a NT$10,000 cash prize.
Read more about the 2017 event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1798482887071546/
Both of these events do a good job running a clean safe show. Fighting and other ugliness largely disappeared with the unregulated beach parties of the early 2000s. If you like watching a band in a grass field overlooking the ocean, Spring Scream is worth checking out. And if several thousand scantily clad 20 somethings shaking their stuff to big sound sandwiched between a collection of swimming pools and the ocean seems like the right thing to do, head over to Chateau beach resort for Spring Break on the Beach.
There’s much more to the Spring Break tradition in Taiwan. We didn’t even try to cover everything. Drop a bit of history in the comments, or share a story from the wild old days of debauchery, death and mountains of trash.