Harry Potter in Ximending
(Clockwise from upper left: Is this a Nargle?; Posing with Dobby the elf at the movie theater; Taipei’s Hogwarts; Luna Lovegood’s radish earrings; Harry standing on a Portkey)

One of the things I regret most about not starting the Harry Potter series when it first became a worldwide phenomena is that being conversant about the books probably would have helped me get over my shyness and meet more people. I first became aware of the series as a freshman or sophomore in college, but did not read them until just a few months ago, when I had to spend a lot of time in physical therapy hooked up to various machines for tendinitis. Yes, I put off reading the Harry Potter books for a third of my life. I know I procrastinate a lot, but damn. I have been making up for lost time ever since. The last film is out, but I can still party like it’s 2007 and I’m lining up at midnight in front of Barnes and Nobles, waiting breathlessly for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Back then I didn’t get what all the fuss was about and laughed at all those people in their silly graduation gowns and wigs. Now I wish I could use a time-turner to go back and punch some sense into myself.

Last month, my friend Justin and I managed to talk each other into dressing up for the last Harry Potter film. We missed the premiere by a week and a half, but that only made the whole thing more fun because there weren’t any competing Harry Potters or Luna Lovegoods around. We wandered through Ximending in character, posing for photos with curious Muggles and using magic to avoid heatstroke.

We rented our costume pieces from several stores along Hanzhong St (漢中街) near Red House Theater. Hanzhong St is the go-to place for Halloween, amateur theatricals, cosplay or if you just feel like sitting around dressed up like a giant ear of corn. Most of the shops carry similar items, but organization and customer service varies widely (often from day to day, depending on each staffer’s temperament and competence), so Justin and I had to do a little legwork. Each place, however, has a wide selection and fees are low (we paid about NT$200 or so for our main outfit pieces).  Just make sure to note any defects on your items so you don’t get blamed for them. The first black robe I picked up had a hole that had been “mended” with a giant, dirty wad of tape (I got a different one instead).

Luna Lovegoods 

Yes, I know this is a terrible photo of me, but I picked it because you can’t really tell I’m Asian, which means I look even more Luna-ish! I also made radish earrings (as seen in the first graphic), a butterbeer cork necklace and wore a tie in Ravenclaw’s colors purchased from Tonghua Night Market (通化夜市). I drew Justin’s thunderbolt scar on with Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Liner in color 15, which is waterproof and has just a bit of glitter and iridescence for that hint of Horcruxiness. After the movie, we went to the bars behind Red House (西門紅樓) and looked for Dumbledore, but we couldn’t find him (because he’s [insert spoiler here] and can’t [spoiler], unless you end up in [spoiler], duh!).

Justin as Harry Potter
Justin and I met in elementary school and during those bleak years we were forced to participate in many Halloween costume parades (my school made all of us dress up and sit around the blacktop as each class marched in a circle around the track). None of them were half as fun as our Ximending adventures. We got to meet tourists from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and England and pose for this photo, which I am sure Justin and I will treasure forever.

Ximending Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood

Anyway, my point is, I highly recommend dressing up like Harry Potter characters and wandering around one of the busiest neighborhoods in Taipei City, even after the movie stops showing. It is seriously the most fun I’ve ever had without alcohol or fireworks involved.