2011 Taiwan Trip: Taiwan by High Speed Rail - Taichung (台中) and Kaohsiung (高雄)

On March 31, 2013 and April 1, 2013, on our week long Taiwan trip, we went to Taichung (台中) and Kaohsiung (高雄) respectively.

One of the major reasons was to try out Taiwan's high speed rail line which opened in 2007 and to see how it compared to Japan's Shinkansen. Unfortunately, at the time, Taiwan High Speed Rail did not offer a rail pass for tourists like Japan and other European countries, but luckily the ticket prices were not so expensive, compared to say, that of Japan's.

Also we wanted to see how other cities in Taiwan looked like outside of its capital of Taipei. Since our hotel booked for the week was in Taipei, we had to pick some destinations which would work for a day trip. From the guidebooks it seemed like Taichung and Kaohsiung would be interesting places to visit...

The high speed trains of Taiwan with the distinctive orange stripe. What is interesting is that the only other places that uses Japanese Shinkansen trains for high speed rail are Taiwan and China, with Taiwan using the newer model while China uses the slightly older one. The trains that Taiwan uses are actually a derivative of the trains that run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line in Japan.


2011 Taiwan Trip: Taipei - National Palace Museum, Official Residences and Markets

On our second day in Taipei on March 30, 2011, visiting museum and museum-like attractions took up the bulk of our day.

The main museum that we visited on that day, the National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) from the outside, designed as a fusion of 1960s architecture combined with traditional Chinese architecture.


2011 Taiwan Trip: Taipei - Presidents and Towers

March 29, 2011 was the second full day of our week long trip to Taiwan. It was my first trip to Taiwan and my mom's first trip to Taiwan in 20 years. On this day we mostly spent the time exploring Taipei.

My mom had heard that Taipei had been "completely rebuilt" after the devastating 1999 earthquake and wanted to see how "modern" Taipei had become since the last time she had visited ages ago.

The symbol of Taipei, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.


2011 Taiwan Trip: Flight from Tokyo Haneda to Taipei

On March 28, 2011, as a continuation of the almost one month long trip that I took with my mom when she visited me in Japan while I was studying there, we flew to Taiwan for a 1 week trip.

I booked the hotel and flight package from Rakuten Travel and it was surprisingly cheap. The 7 nights, 8 days package including the airfare cost 140,000 yen (US$1400) for 2 people. That is like 70,000 yen (US$700) per person for 7 nights in a hotel and the airfare!

The airline in the package was All Nippon Airways and the flight was from Tokyo Haneda airport to Taipei Songshan instead of the much farther Tokyo Narita airport. Because international flights from Tokyo Haneda airport are usually targeted to business travellers, the flight tickets are usually much more expensive, thereby making this hotel and flight package even more of a deal!

Historically, Tokyo Haneda airport was designated for domestic flights while Tokyo Narita airport was designated for international flights. At the time, they changed the laws to allow for short distance international flights to Asia at Tokyo Haneda airport so an international terminal was newly built.

The brand new international terminal at Tokyo Haneda airport.


The JR East Railway Museum in Omiya in March 2011

During the week at the end of March when me and my mom were visiting the Tokyo and Yokohama area, on March 25, 2011, we took a day trip to the northern suburbs of Tokyo, to Omiya in Saitama Prefecture to visit the JR East Railway Museum.

Now normally visiting a railway museum would seem like a dull experience for people who are not railway fans but this museum seemed designed to cater to everyone of every demographic.

One of the reasons is that railways are to Japan how cars are to America. Railways are embedded in the ordinary life in Japan and also in the cultural psyche. If one lives in a large city in Japan, he would most likely take the train to go to work or to go shopping and if he was to do any domestic traveling, he would probably also take the train to get there.

In fact, one of the high speed Shinkansen rail lines in Kyushu was opened on March 12, 2011, one day after the 3/11 earthquake/tsunami disaster, and as a result, all the opening ceremonies were closed and an excellent heartwarming commercial produced to advertise for the Kyushu Shinkansen was not aired on TV. (Its popularity exploded on the Internet and it ended up winning international awards for advertising)

The entrance of the railway museum, because of the ongoing power shortage caused when all nuclear reactors were ordered to be taken offline following the nuclear disaster, the opening hours were cut short to 10 am to 4 pm.