One of many firsts: Taichung
August 3, 2014
After one full day in Fengyuan I was already leaving. Not leaving for good though! My hotel roommate, Pasqualle, told me she was going to check-out Taichung (the third largest city in Taiwan) and asked if I would want to come along. I agreed because why not. I am very lucky because I am only a 20 minute train ride away from Taichung, so if I am ever bored in Fengyuan I can easily pop-over there.
I went to the train station and bought my ticket no problem, but when my ticket popped out I looked at it realizing it was all in Mandarin. I just kind of hoped for the best and went through the gate, asked the ticket guard which platform I needed to be on, and then got on the train that arrived at 11:28 for Taichung. There I waited for Pasqualle and then we walked outside. I immediately turned to her and asked, “what we are going to do today”, and she said “I don’t know”. Haha! Already off to a great start. We searched our phones for things to do in Taichung. Lonely Planet has a nice list of things to do, so we decided we would go to the tea house. Taiwan is known for being the origin of bubble tea, so I knew that if I was going to be in this country for one thing it would be for that very fact. (I am only partially joking) We jumped in a cab after some broken discussion with the cab driver and he took us to the place. I obviously ordered a milk tea, and also some delicious fried taro cakes, and then just a basic vegetarian noodle.
Once we were done with our meal we decided to go and visit the Taichung Folk Park. I am sure if we had read about it in advance we would have figured out how to get around the park, but from what I understand it is divided into different buildings and each one has a different theme. To get into some of the buildings was expensive so we only went into the free ones. If we had wanted to pay we could have seen a teddy bear exhibit and a robots exhibit. What I love about Taiwan is that some of their exhibits seem to be geared more towards a family setting and children, but it is still enjoyable as an adult.
After a little wandering around the park we decided we needed to do something else, which required us to walk back to the train station to catch a bus. Now I keep talking about how it is hot here in Taiwan, but for some reason it literally felt like we were melting this particular Sunday. Standing at the bus station trying to figure out where to go seemed more like standing in a sauna with no air to breathe. We asked someone if they spoke English and to see if they could help us. The great and the bad thing about Taiwan is we seem to find helpful people wherever, but sometimes they do not always know exactly how to help us. This woman was from Malaysia and was studying abroad in Taiwan, so she could read Chinese, but did not fully understand the bus route. Finally, we figured out we needed to be on a bus going in the opposite direction, and waited for the bus and got on it. Then we realized that we did not know what stop to get off at. (By this time I was wondering what the heck our deal was. We didn’t know ANYTHING) Looking back I still can’t believe how we did not get lost. It seemed like wherever we went we were playing the “who can speak at least a little English game?”. The buses in Taichung are ridiculous. They stop and go so quickly that I felt like I was elbowing someone every 30 seconds. People on the bus told us where to get off, but we decided we needed to cool off and get a tea, and my battery on my phone had been acting up since I had arrived in Taiwan so I had to charge it.
At the drinks shop we asked which way the National Museum of Natural Science was, but discovered that it was going to close at 5:00pm. By this point we were really tired from trying to figure out a new city and three different types of transportation in a day. We decided to walk around a little bit before we took a bus back to the train station.
The awesome thing about walking around Taiwan is you can always find little random events going on. We walked up on an outdoor art festival. There were trees decorated with yarn, and then an outdoor art display of giant milk cartoons that were decorated as well.
Back to the bus we went, and then onto our separate trains. It was nice to see someone from training so soon and just talk about the first few days in our branch cities. Because there are so many HESS branches in Taiwan that also means there are different teachers, staff, kids, etc. to talk about.
I’m really glad that I went to Taichung, but it was also a very frustrating day. Not knowing any Mandarin can be a bit of a problem, but it was also very reassuring to know that at the end of they day I knew how to get home and I am not completely lost in a new country.
On a completely different side note I just wanted to mention all the attempts Taiwanese culture makes to make things cute.
I’m not quite sure who decided to make this sign, but how could you possibly smoke when a cutesy teddy bear on a street corner is telling you not to? It just always cracks me up when I see cutesy stuff like these, but hey, I am in Taiwan so embracing the cutesy stuff begins!