Sunday, February 5, 2012
We Arrive in Chia-yi
On with the story of our arriving at Chia-yi:
We had been told that the Beverly Motel provided a free breakfast at 7:00am. We took advantage of that. To be honest, we had no choice. We had no idea where we were and no means to go anywhere else. The breakfast was served in a little cubbyhole of a spot on the motel property. It was a typical Chinese breakfast with white rice soup, vegetables, tofu, etc. (I say “etc.” because I didn’t actually know what the other items were). Luckily, they did have bread and a toaster and scrambled eggs. The eggs were covered with a sauce that looked like tabasco. The breakfast was served buffet style with plates, bowls, Chinese spoons (like little ladles) and chopsticks. When the cook saw us, she went in the back and came out with forks for us. Nice. I had the rice soup, toast, eggs and coffee. Don went Chinese, including using the chopsticks. We felt very satisfied after we had eaten.
Next, we needed to get a taxi to go to the High Speed Rail station. Don communicated to the guard in the outdoor shack that we needed a taxi, and she called one for us. She could speak a little English. The taxi came exactly at the time we were told. However, the driver could not speak a word of English. He backed up his taxi when he realized we were Americans and asked the guard to tell him where we needed to go. Needless to say, the ride to the train station was very quiet. Surprisingly, we recognized the route from last night and knew the driver was taking us to where we wanted to go. He dropped us off at the HSR station. Another cheap $10 taxi ride, and we were on track to getting to Chia-yi.
Note: The drop-off curb at the HSR station is labeled the "Stop, Kiss and Ride" zone. Basically, stop, kiss and move along.
With the commotion of last night, we hadn’t thought much about Jerry or the others at Singform (SF) not knowing where we were. Without the phone operating in any way, we weren’t able to communicate that we were fine and on our way. We now were not only concerned that they were concerned about us, we were wondering how we were going to get to SF once we arrived at the train station in Chia-yi. Oh well, one step at a time.
The train station was big, modern, clean and not crowded. The signs had English for the absolutely essential information so we were able to get to the ticket counter, but English was scarce otherwise in every way. The ticket lady recognized that we wanted tickets to Chia-yi, but all other questions and instructions were not understood on both ends of the conversation. We did know the train left at 8:17 on platform 1 and that we were in seats 16 and 17 in car 4. That information was mostly deduced from reading numbers only, but it worked. Platform 1 was in the 2nd basement of the station. Again, very clean, bright…it could have been the subway in LA or DC. The train was also clean, new, not crowded, and modern, of course, considering it was a Bullet Train. It rode super smooth and very fast… top speed of 180 mph! It wasn’t disconcerting, though. It felt as if it was flying along at some normal speed expect when we’d pass by a stationary object, like a pole. Then it was a flash! Or when we passed another train on the rail running parallel to us. Then we were buffeted by its wind and there was a loud sound that made me jump every time. Otherwise, it was a pleasant ride and a great way to see the country. It was low land with a lot of farms, very few trees, many factories in the distance. I had expected to see a string of cities along the way but that was not the case. We did stop twice at city stations, but that is not many considering we went about 150 miles (in 60 minutes).
At the Chia-yi station, same thing as before: big, modern, clean, bright and not crowded. Signs directed us clearly to where we wanted to go. The problem now was upon us: how to communicate to SF that we had arrived and where we were. We saw a Starbucks right there in the train station. We thought, “Yeah! They’ll be a hot spot and our phones will work!” But no. We got coffee to stimulate our brains. Suddenly we realized…hey, there are pay phones on the wall!! How silly! I can’t believe how fast we had attached ourselves to the ease of the iPhone, blocking out every other mode of communication. Of course, we just call them! That worked. Jerry and another worker, Kelly, arrived in 10 minutes! The “long march” was over, and we were now on to settling into our temporary “home” in Chia-yi.
Photos: Breakfast restaurant, High Speed Rail platform 1in Taoyuan station, and Starbuck's at Chia-yi HRS station