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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Japan and Taiwan: Days 11-13 and 15.

After ten days traveling in Japan, I flew from Haneda Airport 羽田空港 in Tōkyō 東京 to Taipei's 台北 Songshan Airport 台北松山機場. Once again, a typhoon threatened to change my plans. Announcements were made prior to boarding that the flight may have to be diverted or even forced to return to Tokyo due to the storm that was on course to batter much of Taiwan. But as things turned out, we arrived at Songshan on time and in just a light rainfall. 

I would stay four days in total, all of them at the Taichung 台中 home of my best friend Steve and his family. With the exception of a day trip to the southern city of Tainan 台南 (the subject of a later blog post), I didn't do any sightseeing. Instead, I spent the time catching with Steve, whom I hadn't seen in over a year. I also had the opportunity to meet up with others, including having lunch with some old students of mine from my teaching days in Fengyuan 豐原, Stacey, Amanda and Eric; sitting down to dinner and drinks with Michael Turton; and spending an enjoyable afternoon with Michael Klein, his wife Hui-chen and their adorable daughter Phoenix. I said hello to my parents-in-law and had a good chat over a meal with my brother-in-law; and I even stopped in at the kindergarten where I used to work in order to pay a courtesy call. There were many others I wish I could've gotten together with, but didn't have enough time on this brief visit; hopefully, the next time I'm in Taiwan, I'll be able to do so.
Coming back to Taiwan after a 16-month absence and after having lived almost four months in Shàng​hǎi 上海 drove home just how different the former is from China, despite the all the ideology and propaganda. My apologies for hurting the feelings of the Chinese people, but that's the reality. Truth be told, Taichung (and even Tainan) looked much grittier and more run-down in comparison to Shanghai, but in terms of friendliness and quality of service, China still has a lot to learn from the Taiwanese. Still, while it was nice to be back on Formosa, I have no regrets about moving on, and have no desire to go back to my old life there. Then again, while I'm enjoying living and working here in Shanghai, I'm glad we're only scheduled to be here for two years. An Old China Hand is one thing I don't want to become.

Bidding a fond farewell to Tokyo and the rest of Japan from the observation deck at Haneda.

Somewhere between Taipei and Taichung on Taiwan's High-speed Rail 台灣高鐵

Steve and his son Eli pose in front of his school, Teacher John English, located in the southern part of Taichung. Steve has worked hard getting his school ready, which hasn't always been easy as he's tried to follow all the regulations (read obstacles) as determined by Taiwan's impressive bureaucracy (it's no wonder so many kindergartens and bǔ​xí​bān 補習班 operate outside the law). The result has been official certification, as shown by the white sign on the wall to the right of the entrance.

Eli and I on the grounds of the large library across the street from Steve's school. It was rainy off-and-on while I was in Taichung, but the feared typhoon never reached us.

The view from the third floor of the house where Steve, his wife March, daughter Zoey and son Eli reside.

I'm not sure why Zoey found this so amusing. It was the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節, after all.

Steve, Zoey and Eli...and a lot of ducks

A typical Taichung street scene

Waiting for a train at Daqing Station 大慶車站 . Taichung is in the midst of two massive transportation projects - one the construction of the city's first subway system and the other, which you can get a glimpse of here, is the elevation of parts of the railroad tracks that run through it. 

On the local train heading north out of Taichung. This shot was taken somewhere between Houli 后里車站 and Tai-an 泰安車站 stations.

The scene out in front of Xinfeng Station 新豐站, in Hsinchu County 新竹縣. It was here that I was met by the Bushman himself, who took me to his home, introduced me to his 11-month-old cutie of a daughter, treated me to lunch at a neighborhood restaurant and then went to the trouble of driving me out to Taoyuan Airport 台灣桃園國際機場. Michael is one of the nicest people I've had to pleasure to meet in Taiwan, and I look forward to meeting up with him again (and of being able to return some favors) when the chance comes.

After years of criticizing the beer situation in Taiwan (I had a bottle of Taiwan Beer 台灣啤酒 the other night here in Shanghai, and it was just as awful as ever), I was pleasantly surprised to find this. Ignore the Taiwan Beer glass - King Wujhou isn't produced by the government-run Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation 台灣菸酒公司. Unfortunately, I can't find anything about in English online. It was good, though.

Michael with his wife Hui-chen and daughter Phoenix

One last milk tea 奶茶 at Taoyuan Airport while waiting for my flight to Shanghai

After touching down at Shanghai's Pǔ​dōng Airport 浦东机场, I treated myself to a ride on the Shanghai Maglev Train 上海磁浮示范运营线. It only took six minutes from the airport to the terminus at the Lóng​yáng Road Metro station龙阳路站 , but the 301-kmh (187-mph) journey did cut some time off the trip back to our home in the Hóng​qiáo 虹桥  area...

...and it was a fun ride.

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