Ask people in Taiwan who have lived abroad but decided that Taipei was still the city for them their reasons for returning, they will invariably reply, “Taipei’s convenience – you just can’t beat it.” Kaoshiung is getting there, with the relatively new metro and slowly but surely expanding city center, and with the High Speed Rail linking the southern capital with the northern capital with a 1.5 hour train ride, an American wonders what’s taking the Los Angeles to Las Vegas High Speed Rail so long to become a reality.
So this is why convenience is for me, redefined every year for me in Taiwan. I book the High Speed Rail tickets online. And then I go, “Oh crap, I have to go and pick them up at the train station? What if I get lost? What if I’m running late?” The website tells me, “You don’t even have to pay online. Find your local 7 Eleven, then pay and print your tickets there.” I say, “Wow,” and leave to get my tickets.
A few days later, I walk to the metro station which takes me to Taipei Main Train Station, where I take the stairs a few flights directly above the metro line and breeze through another set of turnstiles. The train is there, a silent, giant beige bullet (with an orange and black stripe -tiger colors – for the illusion of even more speed), waiting to whisk me and a few hundred more people to major cities down the length of Taiwan (and inexplicably, one city rather close to Taipei).
|The train’s bright and clean interior.|
Despite its convenience, the HSR is still very expensive compared to the buses: it costs 1,450NT or roughly 50USD for a one-way trip all the way south while the most expensive buses are still less than 400NT (12USD). But it’s a 1.5 hr. trip vs. a four or five hour bus ride. I’m lucky I don’t have to take the bus.
|The train floor was a confetti party and my shoes, Superga Party Editions.|
I spent an minute or so staring at the floor and then at the young man with a crazy haircut on my right. He was texting with his girlfriend and was mesmerized by her excessive usage of emoticons. And right when I decided, “Enough! I ought to read!” and reached for my book, the train slowed to a stop. Voila. High speed. I was there.