Day 248: Culture Shock

Thurs. 18th April 2013

Brothers unitedThere are four direct Air Asia flights a week from Kota Kinabalu to Taipei, so the good news is we do not need to go via Malaysia Peninsular (KL). The bad news is that it is the first plane of the day at 6:10am! After a very early alarm we arrive at the airport just after 4am and firstly queue for the check-in desks to open and then queue for the security to open! This agro does mean that we arrive in Taiwan just after 9am and have a full first day with Rob. It is great to see Rob waiting for us as we emerge with our luggage. Cash, phone SIM and coffee done we head off for the bus to the high speed train to Taichung.

High speed trainThe introduction of this fast train has reduced the journey time from about two hours to only 45 minutes and we saw the train reach speeds of 260km per hour (top speed is somewhere around 300km/h). The train was zooming along but it did not seem twice as fast as a normal train it was all very relaxed. We did chat the whole journey as we have a lot of news to catch up on, and we (along with another two westerners) were told to keep our voices down as we were too loud!

How fastTravelling on the train most of the scenery was built up areas with just a few rice fields. On arriving in Taichung we then had to take a taxi to  Changhua about 45 minutes away. In between the two cities it seemed to be a solid sprawl of shops and apartment blocks. We worked out it is thirteen years since we were in Taiwan, for Rob’s wedding and could not recognise any of the streets in Changhua. What struck me most was all the Chinese signs with very few words that I could recognise. It is only a few hours flight from Malaysia and Indonesia but it is quite a different experience.

Rob's apartment blockThe roads here, like Malaysia and Indonesia, are busy with scooters nipping in and out of the cars. Rob’s apartment is different to the one we saw last time but appears similar to us, in that it is a high rise block surrounded by other buildings. Inside the apartment the main living space is a spacious open plan area with three bedrooms leading off it. As soon as we arrived we were quickly introduced to the pet mice and rabbit.

Huge BuddhaIt was luxury to have ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch after our diet of rice and noodles and good to return to some normality with our meals as the food on the plane had been beef stew and pasta for breakfast!

Buddha and fountainsAfter collecting Ceilin from school we headed up Bagua Mountain to visit the big hollow Buddha statue which is 26 metres high. It is possible to climb up inside the huge statue but at present the top level where you can look out of the eyes was shut off. The statue is reached up a walkway lined with figures from Buddhist folklore. Behind the statue is a large temple which is full of both locals and tourists and in front are fountains. We did not spot the fountains when we arrived as they were dry but as we left there was an impressive short show synchronised with music. On our way home we collected Jamie from his homework class and he was very excited to see us, as we last saw him three years ago, which is a long time when you are nine.

What shall I haveAs it is so cheap to eat out here we head off to Sushi Express for dinner, a new experience for us as we are not normally sushi eaters. Quite an odd experience where you take dishes you fancy off a conveyor belt and at the end pay for the number of empty plates on the table. Sadly, Sian could not join us as she was working late, but we did catch up with her back at the apartment before we headed off to bed,tired after our early start.

Confusing just to pay for parkingThis is the first place we have visited that I feel we would struggle to find our way around on our own as we cannot read any of the signs, but then we are completely off the tourist trail here. More so than in Indonesia where we travelled independently, but at least there they spoke some English and we had learnt enough of the language to get by reading a menu.


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