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The last days in Taiwan

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 8, 2009

September 2-5, 2009

All Pictures

I saw this from the bus back to Zuoying

Do I have to take a taxi?

I spent the time I had left swimming early in the mornings and late in the evenings. The rest of the day I scootered into town or to my guest house and tried to stay cool.

On my last full day in Taiwan Max, the owner of the Ipanema Surf House drove me to the bus station in Hengchun. I got there 10 minutes before the next #88 Kenting Express left for Zuoying. I think they run every 30 minutes, but I’m not completely sure. The last stop, my stop, was the Zuoying High Speed Railway station.

My train to Taoyuan left at 6:36am the next day so when my bus got to Zuoying my first priority was to find lodgings. My Rough Guides guide-book was of absolutely no help in this matter. I walked through the station and found the tourist information desk. I asked the lady there how to get to the nearest hotel. She wrote something in Chinese on a post-it note and handed it to me. “Just show this to a taxi driver.”

“Do I have to take a taxi? Can’t I walk there?”

A busy Taiwanese intersection

I try not to take taxis when traveling alone in new countries. In Seoul I try to never get into a cab. Cabbies in Seoul drive like they are insane. While traveling I feel safer in a bus or just walking. A bus driver is less likely to be able to murder me and dump my body without any witnesses.

Okay, my murder is not actually the reason for my not wanting to get into a taxi by myself. I feel that taxi drivers are more likely to rip off passengers when they think they are helpless and naïve. A bus driver cannot charge extra or take me the long way, but a cab driver can.

Another thing is that a cab driver can drop me off in the middle of nowhere either out of malice or miscommunication. In such a situation it might be hard to find another taxi to get back. If I took the wrong bus, I can just get on the same bus going in the opposite direction to return. I have also found helpful people on buses who have given me directions or advice.

Lotus Lake

The Garden Villa

This time, it seemed, I would have to take a taxi. It would be a 5 minute ride that would cost me 100TWD, but the directions, the lady said, were too complicated and I might get lost. If it weren’t so hot outside I would have put up more of a fight, but the heat melted away all my reservations.

When riding in a taxi by myself in a new country I always pay close attention to where I’m going. I look out for landmarks and try to memorize the directions. I even take photos of things; I am a tourist. We past a really nice hotel and I hoped that I wouldn’t be taken there. It looked too expensive for me.

We pulled up to the hotel. It was the Garden Villa. Before I could protest a door man helped me out of the car and another one carried my bag in for me. Because the Ipanema Surf House was a lot less expensive than what I was planning, I was way under budget for my vacation. I knew exactly how much money I had. I thought, if the rate is less than that amount, minus the cost of 2 meals, I’d stay. Why not?

I walked up to the desk with no plan B. Where was I going to go if the hotel was too expensive? I inquired about the room rate and was told that it was 2300TWD a night. “Ok. I’ll like a room for one night please.”

When I got to the room I noticed a card with all the room rates. The cheapest one was the room I was staying in and it was 4,800TWD. I don’t know how I got a discount.

Lotus Lake

Lotus Lake

The hotel had a view of Lotus Lake. I was so excited by seeing the pretty pagodas that I skipped lunch, forgot about the heat, and walk around the lake. An hour later I was drenched in sweat and had a headache caused by dehydration.

I went up to my room, took a long cooling shower and ordered room service. For such a fancy hotel, the room service menu wasn’t very good.

Kim Chee!

The Taipei Times

I can help you.

The next day I was at the THSR station very early in the morning. I looked at my ticket then at the prompter over head and figured out where I needed to be to catch my train. As I was walking down the platform an older couple came up to me. They spoke in Mandarin and were asking for help. They didn’t know where to go and they knew no English.

I looked at their ticket and then at the prompter. Their train left for Taipei 9 minutes before mine. I told them in English and with a lot of pointing that they needed to be at platform 2, section 5.

I get asked for directions a lot wherever I go. Once I gave a Korean ajumma my subway map and helped her to transfer lines. I do not look Asian, but I must look like I know where I’m going. If they only knew how often I get lost.

I eventually hopped on a plane heading for Incheon. When I got to the airport in Korea I found Mark waiting for me and was glad to be back in the land of the morning calm.

Mark enjoying some goodies from Taiwan

All Pictures


 

Taiwan
The Republic of China
(中華民國)
(Zhōnghuá Mínguó)

How to get there:

Taiwan in an island so you can enter this country by plane or boat.

Americans get a 30-day visa at the port of entry. Check with you local Taiwanese embassy or consulate for exact details on getting a visa.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110
    • Ambulance and Fire 119

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • If you ever visit Taiwan, write some address and phone number on your landing card, even if it’s for a Starbucks. Never leave the section for hotel’s address blank.

Lotus Lake
(蓮池潭)

How to get there:

  • 22°41’00.7″N 120°17’49.0″E

By MRT:

  • Take MRT Red Line and get off at Ecological District Station.
  • From Ecological District Station Exit No. 2,
  • then take the Bus Red 51 to Lotus Lake stop.

By Bus:

  • Take the Bus No. 6, 17, 29, 31, 38, or 219 to Zuoying North Stop.
  • Take the Green 38 to Confucius Temple Stop.
  • Take the Bus No. 301 to Lotus Lake Stop.

Address:

 No. 1435, Cuihua Rd.
Zuoying District, Kaohsiung City

Phone: +886-7-581-6216

Cost: Free

Map:

Posted in Taiwan, Zuoying | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Where are you Staying?

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 7, 2009

August 29, 2009

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the airport limo In Korea

Incheon Airport: If heaven were an airport

I have to say that Incheon Airport is the nicest airport I’ve ever seen! It’s ranked the second highest of all the airports in the world from sleepinginairports.com. The wonders of this ever expanding airport are best seen after the security check.

First off, there are many ways to get to the airport. The most expensive being a taxi. Then there are buses. Korean Air runs an airport bus which goes to and from the airport and expensive hotels. Then there are airport limousines, which are buses that just go to and from the airports and different parts of town. These cost about 8,000KRW or 7,500KRW, if you use your T-money card.

You could take the subway, which will cost you the regular price of your journey and an extra 4,500KRW to ride the special airport line. It goes between Gimpo Airport and Incheon Airport with a few stops in between.

Fun things to do at Incheon Airport

There are many restaurants at Incheon Airport, the options are better after the security screening. The ones on the departure level and above are over priced, but the ones on the arrival level are regularly priced, like the Kraze Burgers.

Once passed the security check there are more restaurant options, free internet, free cultural learning activities (for foreigners only), free showers, a movie theater, a hotel, and more.

Checking in at Incheon with my backpack as a carry-on

Taoyuan Airport: Taiwan

I took my backpack as carry-on luggage to be able to skip everyone, once I got off the plane in Taiwan, as they stood by looking out for their baggage to come around on the carousel of immeasurable waiting. I got in line at passport control and felt good because I was first in line and knew I didn’t need to wait for anyone to unload the plane.

I handed the lady at the desk my passport and landing card with an extra “I’m on vacation”-friendly, “Good evening.” She smiled back with a, “good evening to you too” and took my documents. Her smile disappeared as she asked, “Where do you live in Taiwan?”

Me: “I don’t live in Taiwan. I’m just visiting.”

Lady: “What is your phone number in Taiwan?”

Me: “I don’t have a phone in Taiwan. I don’t live here.”

Lady: “Where will you be staying?”

Me: “…a hotel. I think I wrote ‘hotel’ on my card to indicate that.”

Lady: “Where?”

Me: “Kenting.”*

Lady: “Where?”

Me: “Kenting?”

Lady: “What is that?”

Me: “A town in Taiwan.”

Lady: “Please go to the Immigration office!”

I’ve been to hundreds of countries and I usually write “hotel” as my address. I’ve never had a problem until I got to Taiwan.

I stood off to the side and a higher ranking official came over to me. He walked over with a deputy Fife swagger and a look on his face that said, “All I want is to go home to my wife and kids, but YOU are going to keep me here an extra hour or two, aren’t you? If I don’t like what you say, I’ll throw you in jail.” Yes, his face said all that.

He explained what a HUGE problem I was causing by not having a phone number or address. “How are we going to call you? Don’t you have a friend in Taipei?”

Me: “I’m not going to Taipei. I’m going to Kenting.”

Official: “What is a Kenting?”

I started pulling out all my documents to show this guy that I was a responsible person who just happens not to like to make hotel reservations. “Here, this is my ticket on the high-speed train down south. Look, I even have tickets leaving Taiwan in 7 days. See, I have travel insurance. Would a menace to society bother to take out travel insurance?”

Ipanema Surf House

Then something in my folder caught his eye. It was my travel itinerary. He looked at the items column and saw the word “hotel”. “Oh, you do have a hotel,” he said joyfully. He was relieved. His finger then moved across the line to the name of the hotel and he began to read aloud. “Ipanema Surf House maybe” He dragged out the maaaayyyybe. “You wrote ‘maybe’! You’re not sure?!”

Me: “I couldn’t find an exact address online. I just know it’s somewhere near Kenting.”

Official: “You don’t know where in Taipei you’re going!?”

Me: “I’m not going to Taipei. I’m going to Kenting. KENTING. Down south.”

I pointed to all my other documents, going over each of them and explaining to him why each one vouched for my character. “I have travel insurance, so I can take care of myself if I get sick. I have a ticket for a train leaving Taoyuan tonight. See, I planned ahead. I have a ticket leaving Taiwan in 7 days. I’m not staying long.”

He looked at me suspiciously, “You’re leaving in one week?” He wanted reassurance.

“Yes. I swear! So help me God!”

He stamped my passport, giving me a 30 day visa. Then he handed me a map of Taipei. “Enjoy your stay in Taipei.”

My map of Taipei

* The town’s name is spelled K-E-N-T-I-N-G. I would pronounce it “Ken-ting” rhyming with “renting”. When I heard the Taiwanese people say it, they say something that sounds like “Cunt-ting” with a ring on the “ting”. It was a while into my trip before I realized this minor discrepancy.

Falling asleep in The Kenting Express

The Kenting Express

I usually get a Lonely Planet travel guide, but I heard that the latest edition (2009) for Taiwan wasn’t any good. I couldn’t find an earlier edition so I bought a Rough Guide. I hate this book! Apart from one time when I used it to keep some napkins from blowing away, it was entirely useless.

It’s not to say that the Lonely Planet is perfect. There are plenty of ways it can be improved. But the information is very well laid out with lots of useful information, maps, occasional side stories, great photos, and travel warnings. All in all, on my trips I’m always glad I brought a Lonely Planet instead of not bringing one.

The Rough Guide gave me no information on how to get from the THSR station in Zuoying to the #88 bus stop. The map it had of the area around the station had no street names and very few labels. Since I couldn’t find any information online either, my plan was to get a hotel and find the bus stop in the morning when it was light out. I generally don’t like wandering the street of a new country at night by myself.

As I left the station, I wanted to check my guide-book one more time for a nearby hotel. The area outside the station was not very well lit so I had to look around for some light. I found a street light over where some buses were parked and walked towards them. I sat down on the bench and looked through my book.

It had no information about hotels in the neighborhood. I was getting annoyed. I looked up to yell at the travel-guide-book gods when I saw the number 88 bus park right in front of me. If the bus stop was right outside the train station, why the hell didn’t the “guide-book” mention it!?

I asked the driver the cost of a ticket to Kenting. He whipped out his cell phone and we talked to each other through a guy somewhere in Taiwan who could speak both Chinese and English. He then asked me the question of the day, “Where are you staying?”

AGH card

A Gong Resort

I told his translator that I didn’t have a hotel, but that he could drop me off at any nice, inexpensive hotel in Kenting. I took my seat and watched parts of Taiwan go by. I fell asleep without even realizing I had fallen asleep. When another a passenger shook me awake I was startled; it felt like I was on the bus for a few minutes. “The bus driver says this is a good hotel. You should get off now.”

I de-boarded the bus and sleepily staggered into A Gong Resort Hotel.

All Pictures


 

Taiwan
The Republic of China
(中華民國)
(Zhōnghuá Mínguó)

How to get there:

Taiwan is an island so you can enter this country by plane or boat.

I got my ticket paid for by S.M.O.E. Most ESL jobs will pay for your ticket home if you finish your contract. Some, like SMOE will pay for both your ticket there and your ticket back.

Phone:

  • Emergency Numbers:
    • Police 110
    • Ambulance and Fire 119

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • It is a known fact that cheaper flights are to be found on websites that are written in the local language. You might be better off getting a Korean co-worker or friend to help than searching sites in English.
  • If you ever visit Taiwan, write some address and phone number on your landing card, even if it’s for a Starbucks. Never leave the section for hotel’s address blank.

Taiwan High Speed Railway Taoyuan Station
(高鐵桃園站)

How to get there:

  • 25°00’47.0″N 121°12’54.8″E

From Taoyuan Airport:

The Taoyuan Airport is in Taoyuan county not in Taipei. Airports are noisy, so most airports are not located in the city for which they service.

From the Airport take the uBus (number 705) to the THSR in Taoyuan. The place to buy tickets is on your left once you exit the passport check.

Cost:

uBus to the railway station – 30 TWD

Hours:

  • 20 minute ride
  • THSR to the Airport       7:00 – 23:24 every 10 minutes
  • The Airport to THSR      6:30 – 22:30 every 10 minutes

Notes:

The last stop for the uBus is the high speed train station.


Taiwan High Speed Railway Zuoying Station
(高鐵左營車站)

How to get there:

  • 22°41’15.0″N 120°18’24.9″E

From the THSR in Taoyuan, take a train to Zuoying.

You can buy tickets there on the day you travel, but I recommend buying them online before hand.

Website

Cost:

It depends on when you buy tickets and for what time. Buying a ticket scheduled to run during the off peak hours will save you 35% on the fare, if you buy it in advanced. If you pay for your ticket online and pick them up at the station you will save an additional 15%. You can only buy tickets a maximum of 14 days in advanced though.

I managed to get the 35% and 15% discount so I only paid 50% of what I would have if I bought my ticket on that day. I paid 815TWD.

There are non-reserved seats, but they are only available Mondays through Thursdays and only in certain cars. I don’t know how much they cost.

Hours:

  • 1h30m~1h40m ride     Check the web-site for the times.

Notes:

Don’t lose your ticket. You need it to go through the exit at your destination.


Kenting National Park
(垦丁国家公园)

How to get there:

  • 21°56’54.1″N 120°46’47.3″E
  • There are three exits out of the THSR station at Zuoying that do not lead to a parking lot or taxi stand. Take any one of them.
  • Go down the escalator and make a u-turn like you’re looking for the up-escalators. At the bottom of the up-escalator you should see the area where the buses stop. That’s where you’ll find #88, the Kenting Express.

The #88 bus also stops at the other train station in Zuoying. Remember this on your return trip.

Cost:

From Zuoying THSR station – 368TWD

Hours:

  • ride = 2h30m ~ 3h
  • This bus runs 24 hours a day.
  • I think it comes by once every half hour, but I’m not completely sure.

Notes:

  • If your hotel is along his route the bus driver will drop you off in front of it. If you don’t have one, you can ask him to drop you off at a nice hotel. If he doesn’t speak English he will call a translator on his cell phone so you  can communicate with him.
    • This might depend on how busy he is at the moment.
  • Keep your ticket. If you lose it you will have to buy another to get off the bus.

Map:


Posted in Baisha (near Kenting), Kaohsiung, Kenting, Taiwan, Taoyuan, Zuoying | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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