The train trip down the East Coast by train is really wonderful. You head north out of Taipei for a while, then curl down and follow the ocean for many miles. It was cool and occasionally sputtering rain, and the sky was an insistent grayish blue. The mountiains emerald. Rather than take an express, I took one of the slower trains that passed through small quiet towns. A very relaxing trip, reading my new history book and watching the passing scenery. There is a lot of aboriginal influence here as well, as you can see from the designs on the factory tower on the right. That is actually a concrete plant. The area around Hua Lien is known for its concrete production. Our train sat at a station for a while next to a long train full of...well, rocks.
One of the things about Taiwan that could use some more thought is the service windows. At banks, train stations and the like, when you want to buy your tickets, you need to bend down to about waist height to jam your face into the little hole through which you communicate your needs. Now, if, like me, you are taller than the average Taiwanese, the effect is exaggerated into some sort of worshipping posture. In addition, some places don"t really seem to have clear audio capabilities, so you have to sort of shout and hope. It was just this situation that led to a misunderstanding. Let me say that my Chinese pronunciation is quite clear for the most part--very standard. So when I say Tai Dong, there is no reasonable way that you should hear Tai Zhong if you are standing next to me. On the other hand, if you are behind a glass window and are doing a job boring enough that you complete space out on some facts, you might sell me a ticket from Tai Zhong to Kaohsiung instead of Tai Dong to Kaohsiung. Of course, if you know that I am going from Taipei to Kaohsiung with a change of trains in Tai Dong, why the hell would you sell me a ticket from Taipei to Tai Dong, and then one from Tai ZHONG to Kaohsiung? Especially if you know that Tai Zhong and Tai Dong are on opposite sides of the country, separated by a mountain range. For whatever reason, the guy behind the glass window in Taipei did just that--sold me a ticket on the next to last train into TaiDong, and a ticket for the last express train leaving 20 minutes later from...Tai Zhong. Leaving me stranded in TaiDong. An additional question. Why didn't I notice this when I checked my ticket in Taipei instead of when I am standing on the platform in TaiDong looking for a train that doesn't exist?
Without much option, I stayed the night in TaiDong. I had always wanted to spend some more time there, so I wasn't at all bothered by the delay.