Sunday, 27 May 2007

24th May – Train journey to Taitung or not!!

Got an early start today as we needed to get work out of the way before getting the train. Being as usual not entirely organised we had no idea what time the train would leave for the journey to Taitung on the East coast. We left the hotel around ten and got a taxi to the main Taipei station and for once our timing was spot on as we only had 10 minutes to wait for the train. There was a bit of confusion as everything was written in Chinese (wish you were here mum!) but after asking a few people we got to the right platform and the correct place to stand and wait. Our tickets said No.1 on so we were in the first carriage which when we first got on we had all to ourselves. Large reclining seats and loads of leg room, definitely seemed like first class although we hadn’t asked for that and we had only paid 1500 NT dollars for the four of us which is only about £20. The man who sold me the tickets at the counter spoke hardly any English so we had no idea how long the journey would take or where to change trains as he told us we had to get three or so we thought!
All was great until we got to the coast and the sea was not on our left as it should have been but on our right which meant that we were not travelling south but north! Despite the fact that I had shown the guy at the ticket counter a map of Taiwan and pointed to where we wanted to go he still sold us tickets for Taichung on the West side instead of Taitung on the East. How do you make that mistake?? So we quickly re-planned somewhere to go and decided to get off at Ershui and get a bus to Sun Moon Lake. What we didn’t plan on was the fact that the train wasn’t going to stop at this station at all. So Ershui flew by and out came the guide book again and we decided to go to Tainan which used to be the capital before Taipei and was the oldest part of Taiwan.
Finally we reached Tainan and Nick left us at the station while he went to check out a couple of hotels in the guide book. He found a great place for us if a little bizarre. It was a massive old 14 storey office block now converted into lots of hotels, a different one on every floor. We stayed in the Takatama on the 3rd floor with 2 rooms which is nice after being stuck all in one room for the week in Taipei.
Negotiating this city is a little more difficult as there are less Romanised signs but we decided to go out exploring and look for a restaurant the LP had recommended as serving western food – by now we were definitely off Chinese. We eventually found it down a back alley and up about four flights of a winding staircase with the help and a lot of gestures from a friendly local. It was scruffy to say the least but looked clean and after all our effort we deserved a drink and something to eat. As usual with this type of unassuming place the food was great and there was a whole shelf of English books to browse thorough while we were waiting. We asked if we could buy a couple and the lady said we could just take them they were free. Excellent – our kind of bookshop!!

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