Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Taipei, Keelung and Pingxi

From Chiayi I caught a train back to Taipei and had some problems finding a room and when I did find a room it was only available for one night. Rather than spending any more time looking for a room in Taipei I decided I would go to a smaller town the following day and then return to Taipei after the weekend when there was no problem getting a room. The one night I had in Taipei I went to another baseball game and ate the tar like rice that I talked about in the baseball blog entry.

In the morning I went to the train station and stuck my backpack in a locker and caught a train to Keelung. Keelung is a port town and I ended up staying in a hotel that I think would be what they call a love hotel. It was really tacky decorated place and I think they had rates by the hour as well as all night. It was fine with me but felt a little strange being in a love hotel all alone.

I did not do a lot in Keelung other than walk around the city and then go to the night market in the evening. I was not to crazy about the night market it was just to crowded for my taste. I just bought some things to eat and made my way back to the hotel to eat. I did find the night market sort of interesting to see and here is a picture of the market.

The following morning I bought a train ticket to Ruifang from a machine and then went and ask at the information office when the next train left for Ruifang. The lady seemed to understand English really well but did not seem to speak it much but she let me know that I would be better taking a bus and let me know I could get my money back for the train ticket. I copied the Chinese charters for Ruifang on a piece of paper prior to returning my ticket since my book did not have the name in Chinese charters. I used this piece of paper at the bus station ticket counter and they shook their head no and pointed me out the door. I ended up using my little piece of paper about 4 times asking different people until I found a bus schedule with Ruifang on it. I waited in front of the schedule until a bus came with a sign saying Ruifang.

I have screwed up with paying just about every time I have got on a bus in Taiwan. Some of the busses you are suppose to pay for when you get on and some of them you pay for when you get off. I watched the lady in front of me and she did not pay when she got on so I did not pay but the lady set in the first row of the bus and then pulled out her purse and dug out coins and paid. I am surprised the bus driver did not say anything to me about paying but when we were stopped I tried to ask about paying. It took a few minutes but finally we communicated well enough for me to understand I needed to pay $42 and the driver did seem happy when I paid.

After resolving how much and how to pay on the bus I made it to the train station in Ruifang without a problem. I had come to Ruifang to take another ride on a narrow gauge railroad line. This one is called the Pingxi Branch line and runs from Ruifang 12 kilometers to Pingxi. It was a Sunday and not the best time to visit this place. The train cars for the Pingxi line where like subway cars. The cars were set up with the seats having their backs against the windows and the car was crowed with people standing in the middle of the car for the full length of the line. I found this train not very good at all for enjoying the views along the ride. I went ahead and went to the end of the line Pingxi and got out and walked around. Here is a picture of a statue to the coal miners which was the reason the train line was put in place years before.

The tourist info office in Ruifang had given me a list of things they thought I should do around the train line but I only ended up doing one of the things they suggested which was visiting the main waterfall. I decided I would walk a little and walked on a path and road along the side of the tracks down to the Lingiao station and past it to the Lingiao waterfall.

I was going to keep walking down when I reached a place with no path and I decided it was not a good idea to walk on the tracks so went back to the station and caught a train for a few kilometers to the Shihfen station and then walked down to the Shihfen waterfall. This was a large and impressive waterfall and I even think worth the $100 price to get into the viewing area.

I walked to the next station down from the Shihfen waterfall and caught a train back to Ruifang. From Ruifang I caught a train back to Taipei and this was the most crowed train I think I have been on for this entire trip. It was a local train so more of a subway type of car and I’m not sure as many people would have made it on the train without the people at the back of the line pushing the ones in front of them. Even though it was not really a pleasant ride I made it back to the Taipei train station and got my backpack from the lockers with a little bit of help. I’m not sure I would have ever figured out I needed to pay more money for the locker since I left my bag there longer than 24 hours without some help. Taiwanese to my rescue once again.

I did not do a lot in Taipei other than just catch up on stuff like laundry, writing postcards and figuring out where to catch the bus to the airport for my return trip to Bangkok. I was a bit sad to be leaving Taiwan since I have really enjoyed the country but maybe I will get a chance to return some day, I hope so. Strange to feel this way about a place I never would have visited without wanting to get my notebook repaired.

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