Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taiwan HSR (High Speed Rail)

 My connection with this High Speed Train that runs along the western side of the island of Taiwan from Taipei to Zuoying near Kaoshiung, came about through a Taiwanese Soap Opera titled "Love". 

This drama serial runs into a few hundred episodes and has kept me and my spouse occupied watching the taped episodes on lazy weekend afternoons when we just want to relax and laze around the house. 

In this sometimes highly exciting and sometimes long-drawn out drama serial is a character who takes the HSR like one who takes a bus whenever he wants to go to Taipei to have a good time from his hometown in Jiayi. The journey is  usually briefly depicted by this high speed train zooming across the TV screen between the two places mentioned.

After I confirmed my trip to Taiwan, I was really looking forward to taking this train from Taipei to visit my friend in Tainan during our extended stay after the tour ended. For others who would be leaving on the last day of the tour, the tour agent had included a 15-minute train ride from Taoyuan airport to Taipei Main Station just to provide us with the experience of having travelled in a high speed train. 

The Taipei Main Station was massive, clean and spacious.
The boards telling us the departure times and platforms for the trains servicing the station. We had to be on time for if we missed this one, it would be problematic, said the guide. The train whooshed into the station and we were thrilled.
The inside of the carriages was very neat and clean.  The train ride from Taoyuan to Taipei was very short. When the train reached Taipei Main Station, there were cleaners who boarded the train to pick up any litter and to sanitize the carriage, like what is done on an aeroplane.On board the train and enroute to Taipei, we had a glimpse of the bad weather.

People queuing up to buy tickets for the HSR. When we arrived in Taipei station, the guide took us through the MRT station and out above ground to our waiting coach.
On the day that I went to Tainan, I got onto the wrong train and had I taken it, I would have missed Tainan station because that particular train did not stop at Tainan. Luckily I discovered my mistake in time and managed to get onto the correct train. The journey was one hour and fifteen minutes and the train was said to travel up to a top speed of 300km an hour but was slower than that when it stopped at all stations as mine did.  Imagine, if I had taken an ordinary train, it would have taken 4 hours from Taipei to Tainan but in a little more than half that time, I was in Tainan. I was as excited as a first-timer on a plane.

The length of the HSR from Taipei to Zuoying near Kaoshiung is 335.5 kms and the train weaved in and out of several tunnels during the course of its journey. I could only marvel at the speed and efficiency of this High Speed Train as nothing I had taken on land quite equal the experience of travelling in such great comfort. Of course the journey is not cheap. I paid close to $50 for an unreserved seat ticket and coming back from Tainan, I paid for a ticket at a discounted rate because it was past 6pm. Even then the price was around $43.
Tainan station where my friend picked me up from. The next evening, she sent me here again to catch the 9.17pm train back to Taipei and I nearly missed that train as well because a call came from home while I was at the platform waiting for the train. When it came, I was still talking and expecting people to come out of the train. After a while I realised that people were still inside the train and no one except me was on the platform and then the warning tone sounded for the train to take off. I panicked and jumped onto the train in the nick of time. Whew! So much for being young at heart. There is no denying that age does slow down the thinking process somewhat. Luckily as we get older, our intuitive powers are stronger.


alicesg said...

Very interesting journey you have in Taiwan. Thanks for the details about the train schedule, etc. I think your blog really helps those who wanted to go Taiwan on their own. For me Taiwan is one of the places I wanted to revisit again but not this year. I am still thinking of whether to go Ho Chi Minh(read that Mekong River has dry up) and also whether my hubby can take leave. I cant go on long trip until my youngest son finished his national service. Dont want to be away too long worrying about him.

Mable said...

Sometimes, we should just decide and take action right away. If not we will be stranded for a long, long time on our island just thinking about the places we could go to. That was how I did HCM City and Taiwan within half a year. When I came back from my holidays, I appreciated my time at home with my family and with myself even more.