Sunday, November 22, 2009
The Train Lady in Taipei
Business trips are
usually hectic, with every minute of the day, and often the night, scheduled. So I was happy when I found myself with a free
afternoon in Taipei. I usually sightsee alone, but this time was different. Linda, my gracious host, a young Taiwanese woman
who was educated in Texas, volunteered to be my tour guide for the afternoon.
10:19 am est
She suggested a train
ride from the heart of the city to a little seaside town in the north. Since I love traveling by train, I thought this was
an excellent idea – a great way to see more of the country than I could see on my own. And the destination was special,
too. Danshui is a popular place where local Taiwanese go to see the sun set where the Danshui River flows into the Taiwan
Strait. (For those linguists among you, Danshui River means “fresh water").
From my train window, I saw firsthand the crowded conditions in which the people of Taipei live. The buildings
were of medium height, but the alleys and streets were narrow. But they were alive with activity. About halfway into our journey,
Linda pointed out the apartment building where she lived with her parents.
Danshui lived up to its reputation. The
sunset was spectacular. As it was now dark, we walked through the night market before eating in a seaside café. We
then boarded the train for “home”.
Linda was going to travel all the way back to the city with me, and
then take the train back to her apartment. Being the savvy traveler that I am, I insisted I could make my way back on my own.
After much discussion and specific instructions, she agreed. After she alit, a young lady sitting perpendicular to me, who
obviously overheard our conversation, told me, in halting English, that she would take me to my train station. She was about
25, and had just learned English. She was exciting to practice her language skills with an American, and our time together
passed too quickly. I assured her that I could find my way to the hotel, and she continued on her journey as I disembarked.
did not get lost. Although I got off at the right stop – after all, anyone can recognize a stop that says Hilton
Hotel – I exited by the wrong stairway. No big deal, right. I’d just look at the skyline, and walk in the direction
of the red Hilton sign. Wrong – I was surrounded by big buildings and couldn’t read any identifiable signs. (This
is a recurring theme in my travels – I wasn’t lost in Vienna and Barcelona and Budapest this way, either. Paris
was easier – you really can’t miss the Eiffel Tower from any direction! But those are stories for another time.)
Back to Taiwan -
so I walked through a mall but I didn’t find the hotel. And I walked around the block with head pointed to the sky,
and I didn’t find the hotel. I wasn’t quite panicking yet when I decided to walk in the other direction, and I
did find my hotel. Perhaps I should have taken the kind lady up on her offer!
Check out http://wikitravel.org/en/Danshui to learn more about Danshui.