Sunday, March 04, 2007

Taiwan High Speed Rail

There are a lot of ways to get around Taiwan: bus, train, plane, taxi. Now there is also the high-speed rail. If you talk to almost anyone in Taiwan, they say they won't take it for the first couple of years it is in operation because there is sure to be something wrong with it (Taiwanese workmanship and corruptions being what they are). The common wisdom is that if something is going to go wrong, it will happen in the first two years.

Below is a video of the fast train arriving at the Tainan station.

You can also follow the link to see it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb7UytuRXk4
Outside the HSR station
Outside the HSR station
Outside the HSR station
I have heard a lot of rumors about how corners were cut and the engineering was poor, so I decided that I would avoid riding the thing for a while. Then my friend from America came to visit, and on his list of things to see and do was taking a trip on the HSR (high speed rail).
Bernie at the Starbucks in the HSR station
It turned out to be a pretty good experience. The stations were clean and not crowded, and they were staffed with helpful people who actually spoke English. The trains themselves were also clean. Of course they were very fast, making travel up and down Taiwan's west coast very convenient.
Inside the Zhu Bei (Xin Zhu) Station
For example, the trip from Taoyuan (where the airport is) to Hsinchu (where I live) takes about 40 minutes to an hour by car depending on traffic. On the HSR it takes ten minutes. The problem is, the train doesn't actually go to the airport (that would be too easy), so you have to take a fifteen minute shuttle bus ride from the HSR station to the airport. Also, the train doesn't stop right at my front door, so I had to take a ten minute cab ride from the HSR station in Zhu Bei (a kind of satellite of Xin Zhu). The train ticket from Taoyuan cost $130NT. The taxi ride cost $200NT.
Inside the Zhu Bei (Xin Zhu) Station
Inside the Zhu Bei (Xin Zhu) Station
Getting help from the HSR people
Something else that is really great about the HSR stations is that the bathrooms are really clean and have some semblance of privacy (unlike most Taiwanese public restrooms). I just hope that they continue to maintain the facilities once the general public gets over its fear of high-speed rail travel.
Using the change machine
The worst thing I can say about the experience is that, as in most places in Taiwan, there were a lot of noisy kids on the train, and their parents did nothing to encourage them to quiet down.

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