Sunday, September 5, 2010

2010 Asia Trip, Taipei Day #2 Evening

I like Taipei... the only drawback is the frigging weather. I walked around outside a bit today and each time I ended up sweating profusely. People must take a lot of showers here.

The "work" portion of my trip was completed in Shenzhen. The only PMI related task was to bring some sample materials from Chengdu and give it to our manufacturing partner here in Taiwan. Other than that, all I've done is hang out and eat/drink stuff with friends/family. I'm staying with a friend who is on an expat assignment here in Taipei though he just left about 5 minutes ago to go back to the US for a week.

The flight from Shenzhen was pretty quick though turbulent at times. International flights, including my flight to Taiwan (ha!), departed from a small terminal next to terminal A. It was a bit confusing. Similar to Chengdu, we had to take a shuttle bus to our plane even though there were plenty of open gates with jetways at the terminal.

Helicopter landing at Shenzhen Airport

Terminal A of Shenzhen Airport

China Southern served lunch even for a 90 minute flight. It was the worst airplane food I've ever tasted.

Girl next to me on the plane. She had these weird bumps/scars on her arm... not sure if it was some kind of body modification. She ate all of her lunch... maybe I'm just too picky.


After arriving at CKS Airport (not sure if it's still called that... DPP/KMT keep changing the name), I got my luggage and took a bus (NTD30) to the Taoyuan HSR (high speed rail) station. From there it was only NTD155 and 20 minutes to Taipei main station, and another NTD20 to take the MRT to my friend's apartment. It's much faster than bus or even a car if there's traffic.

Taoyuan HSR station. I think they're building an additional line to the airport so you don't have to take a shuttle bus to reach the train anymore.

Northbound platform. It looks like a regular MRT station in Taipei but much longer.

HSR train. It certainly looks fast though they never displayed the speed inside the train so I didn't know how fast we were traveling.

Train diagram on the seatback tray. Each train has 12 cars with one for business class and three with general seating. Since it was Saturday, the general seating cars were pretty empty. Leon said the train fills up during weekdays.

End of the line at Taipei station. It was only two stops away from Taoyuan and all underground from Banciao station into Taipei.

I remember looking at a map of Taipei train station and it had 8 levels or something. After getting off the HSR train, I had to go down another level to get to the MRT lines. Taipei station is a transfer point between the blue and red MRT lines so there were a lot of people.

Instead of paper tickets for single trip purchases, they now issue these blue plastic tokens. You hold it next to a sensor pad on the turnstiles, similar to the electronic fare cards, and deposit it into a slot when you exit at the destination station.

My friend lives right next to one of the MRT stations. Next to the exit where I was waiting for him, there was a lady selling food. There are lots of street vendors everywhere but I didn't see any chengguan beating people up like in China.

After meeting my friend and unpacking (he let me stay in a spare bedroom in his apartment), I contacted PMI's sales rep and arranged for him to pick up the material sample. Since there was road construction on the main street, he stopped in mid-traffic and I ran over to hand him the sample. It felt like a drug deal. :)

Since the friend I was staying with had previous dinner plans (he asked me to join them but since they were having spicy hot pot, I passed), I contacted a co-worker who recently transferred to Taipei, and we went to Shilin night market to get something to eat.

At the front of the building with all the food vendors, there was a huge line with >100 people. It was the line for a "chicken steak" vendor where you get a deep fried piece of chicken for NTD50. I had it last time when I was here in 2005... it was so-so. Not sure why the line was so long while other "chicken steak" vendors didn't have any lines.

We got some drinks (mango slush... they use real fruit here) first since it was so hot. Next we got some small dishes (tapas?!): oyster omelet (蚵仔煎), fried tempura (甜不辣, not the same as Japanese tempura), and stinky tofu (臭豆腐).

We walked around and had a few other things, ending up with some shaved ice. One of the more unique stalls was serving Mexican food and the guy running it was a foreigner. He didn't seem to get much business though. We stopped by and chatted for a bit (in English). He has only been there for a month.

After stuffing ourselves, we walked around a couple of side streets with mainly non-food vendors. There were portable stalls set up in the middle of the pedestrian walkway and occasionally they would pack up and take off with the merchandise. These were "illegal" stalls and a system of lookouts would warn them whenever the police showed up. It didn't seem like the enforcement wasn't too serious though.

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