Monday, January 02, 2012

First Travel Day in Taiwan

A month after we departing our home, we finally left the comforting shelters of our family and friends, and are now traveling on our own.

Our first day of travel consisted several segments to take us from Taipei to Changhua. At 9:30 in the morning we left Wayne and Annie's apartment, popped down to the subway, one stop on the orange line, two stops on the blue line, we were at Taipei Train Station. The transfers were short and easy.

The station has several ways of dispensing tickets, two different types of machines and two different types of windows. Since none of the windows were more than five deep, we stepped up to a window for the next train to Hsinchu. We got to use our credit card for the ~$12 transaction, had 30 minutes to wait, the trip will be 1 hour and 9 minutes, and we had assigned seats.

Seeing it's Friday 12/30, a travel day before the New Year weekend, we thought we would use our wait time to investigate onward travel. We went to the machines to investigate schedules from Hsinchu to Changhua. We soon discovered that one of trains in the afternoon had only two seats free, and in different cars. Immediately we decided buy the tickets right away on a later train with two free seats together, and returned to the window for our transaction.

Our Taipei-Hsinchu train was a few minutes late. The cars are showing age, but clean. The passengers were quiet. By comparison riding trains in China is like the circus. Upon arriving at Hsinchu station around 11:45, we found the lockers to be too small for our backpacks, therefore dropped the bags at left luggage for ~$1.20. We were off to hunt down Art Deco buildings in Hsinchu.

After a successful hunt, plus a vegetarian lunch, plus a bubble tea, we returned to the station to get our bags for our 3:30pm train to Changhua. As we suspected the train was full, there were a few people standing in our car, but we did not have to boot anyone off our seats. Our seats were unoccupied. Another good train ride.

Arriving at Changhua station, I was surprised to encounter a few taxi touts, nothing aggressive or anything. We took our time and looked at rooms at four different hotels, ended up at the top pick from both Lonely Planet and Rough Guide, the Rich Royal Hotel, just a block from the train staion. Times like this I wonder why we bother walking around at all :( We had dinner two doors down at the Changhua Vegetarian restaurant, recommended by all the guidebooks, our hotel, and every travelog of Changhua. It was delicious.

A typical car on a TRA (Taiwan Railway Administration) train.
Train - Taiwan Rail

A "fast" train passes by our regular train.
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Hsinchu Station. Built by the Japanese in 1913, not Art Deco but still a beauty.
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First Savings and Loan - beautiful Art Deco building built during the Japanese occupation.
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The Fire Station. Now a museum
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Food stalls outside the City God Temple. The dark green sign with white letters in the middle is for a vegetarian restaurant. We did not eat there, but at a similar stall around the corner. This area also houses the Main Market.
Food stalls outside the City God Temple - Hsinchu, Taiwan

The former Yule Theater, once a cinema, now a museum.
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Waiting at the Hsingchu Station for our train to Chunghua.
Hsinchu Station - Hsinchu, Taiwan

Ended the day with 3 bowls of veggie noodle soup from the Chunghua Vegetarian Restaurant.
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3 comments:

Crash Eddy said...

Were your Taipei-Hsinchu and Hsinchu-Changhua trains relatively fast and on smooth, welded track? Disgusting how we fool around here with using ancient freight tracks to create commuter rail to RTP and never get off the ground.

john said...

Ed, Taiwan has 2 train systems, a regular TRA and a high speed THSR. They run on different tracks and do not share stations for the most part. Our experience was on the regular train, and the ride was smooth. The speed of the journey depends on how many stops the train makes; and for most destinations, there are often several options, with the shortest time (less stops) being more expensive.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you are enjoying Taiwan.
Cold here in Va.- 22 degrees last night