Sunday, September 29, 2013

Taiwan: Riding The HSR (High-Speed Rail)

Mr. Wu says goodby to us in the HSR station, nervous and polite to the end. We can't help but think he's happy to get rid of us. We suspect he may not even be an official guide, but perhaps an educated person who "speaks English" and was willing to help out a guide-friend who wasn't available. He was told to escort us right to our train car and seems very happy when we tell him that isn't necessary.

The HSR station is as modern and glistening as any airport. There are plenty of English translations available, and we make our way downstairs to wait to board our train. The Taiwanese are proud of the HSR with good reason, although it no doubt cost the taxpayers a lot to build.

Our train is already in the station and attendants are changing the direction of the seats and attending to some cleaning chores. Before long we board and find it spacious and modern.

Once we start, it's clear that it's not only a very fast train (the fastest speed recorded on the moving sign was 298 kph or about 185 mph) but a very smooth train. Our train leaves punctually at 1:30 p.m. and travels the 345 km (214 mi) between Kaohsiung and Taipei with ease, arriving on time at 3:06 p.m. with two intermediate stops.

Another representative of the tour company, "Brian," is there to greet us. He is a sales representative, not a tour guide, but his English is the best of any of the employees we have encountered. The drive from the station to the Sheraton Grande is only about five minutes and we have arrived.

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