I carry an American passport. But my home is Thailand. I go to USA to work, to make money to come back to Thailand. Spanning the Pacific. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and someday, more. This is life in the country in north central Thailand. Now including Mexico!
the bullet train was just that - a bullet! 286km/hr in places (177 miles per hour!!!!) we got to the south of the island in 2 hours. smooth ride. the countryside that wizzed by was mostly flat and very cultivated. not much rough land laying around. rice and vegetables growing on nearly every bit of land that doesn't have a building on it.
we got out at the end of the line. nice new train station. we walked away from the station to find food and alcohol for my espresso cook stove. english speakers are few and far between here. you have to be clever or just give up. i finally communicated that i wanted alcohol by finding a bottle of mouthwash that had the ingredients in english and chinese - so i could point out the characters for alcohol. had to goto another store, but i had the correct word written on a piece of paper, so i'm all set.
the city we were in just seemed like a big city, so looking at a map we got at a car rental place, we just picked a spot northward up the east coast of the island and bought regular train tickets to there. figuring out what platform and train to be on wasn't too hard. had to ask a few people, and got the shrugs a few times, but got on to another train, switched trains a few stops down the road. we had a 2 hour layover at the second station and considered just looking for a hotel there, but it seem too much big city.
the train went along the coast and up the mountains thru a lot of tunnels. tok was following our track by matching the characters on the map with the chinese characters on the posts in the train stations. of course we didn't know how to say any of these, but you have to go with pattern matching to get anywhere. if you know the pattern to match. our destination appeared after dark, we disembarked onto a platform with very little activity or lights surrounding the station. had no idea where we were. outside the station there were a few buildings with lights off in the distance, and far away one sign said "hotel". we walked down past there, but we were out in the stix, not even a shop to buy water in sight. hmmm. we past a place that tok figured was renting motorbikes and went there. turns out you must have a Taiwanese drivers license to rent a bike, but the guy who convey this to us understood that we were looking to eat dinner and find a hotel. he walked us the hundred meters to the taxi stand and set us up with a taxi. young fellow and his girlfriend drove us into town - which satisfyingly turned out to be nicely lines with commerce and neon signs. took a couple of where-we-goings and a mobile phone call to a friend who spoke english to convey that we wanted an inexpensive hotel. they dropped us off in front of some buildings that had signs, not of which said "hotel" but it did look like a hotel lobby inside. 550 NT$ ($16.92 USD) later we had a room. not fancy, but it will work.
wandered off for dinner of rice, pork and tofu. you have to do a lot of pointing and finger waving. we learned that to indicate the number "3" with your fingers, you make what people in the USA would call an "OKAY" sign - circle of index finger and thumb with other fingers raised. i would say "which platform" and they would sign "okay". tee hee. what fun.
so here we are, in some city on the south east coast of taiwan, hotel'd, fed and found internet. got alcohol for my espresso maker, cigarettes are $1.00 a pack, Tok is happy, and so am i.