Saturday, September 20, 2008

My brother Jamie comes to Taiwan; Tainan part 1

Aways back in the first months of the year, my brother and I came up with the idea that he might come to Taiwan to visit us next time he travelled overseas for a holiday. The idea stuck and became a plan with commitments as Jamie organised a flight and booked his weeks off many months in advance. Eventually the day of his arrival approached and the timeline-landmarks that I had seen from a time afar arrived: the school graduation show, the final week of the school semester, and my birthday. Remarkably, my birthday fell on the day after the last day of the semester, and it was on my birthday that Andrea and I took the bus up to Taipei so that we could have a couple of days there before Jamie arrived.

And then the big day arrived. We caught a shuttle bus from central Taipei out to Taoyuan where the airport is. Jamie arrived at 11:50 in the morning at Chiang Kai Shek airport (now known as Taiwan Taiyuan International Airport). After the usual gruelling wait in the chilly airport (AC set a bit too high) Jamie arrived to our relief. Our first stop was the bar/restaurant at the end of the airport where we were able to introduce Jamie to Taiwanese beer, the first of many he would sup at leisure of this isle of free and easy alcohol.

The three of us are about to board the much-vaunted high-speed-rail train that connects the major cities of the west-coast of Taiwan. It is based on the Shinkansen high-speed rail system of Japan and has led to the discontinuation of half of the domestic flights between Taipei and other west-coast cities since it began operation in January last year. A regular unreserved seat from Tainan to Taipei costs about $AU35. It was a good ride and gave us all a chance to start on all the catching up we had to do.

Jamie and Andrea enjoy the delightful shuttle-bus voyage from the fancy, new high-speed rail station to downtown Tainan.

On a random street on a quest to find a second-hand shop, Jamie enjoys a Japanese Asahi beer, not yet having been seduced by the wiles and virtues of local iced tea.

The An-ping Old Canal (or Old Anping Canal) depending on your sense of proper word order. This green and shady laneway not far from our apartment is a rare thing in Taiwan. It runs along the path of, not surprisingly, the old An-ping canal. I love interpretive signage and this piece explains that the old canal system was formed naturally after the Taijiang Lagoon became silted by mud and rock slides following a storm in 1823. The canal was connected with the five major waterways upstream which are today called the Old Five Channels. In 1858 a dragon named Feng-Qi came and boiled all the water away with his fiery dragon breath after being angered by a local fisherman who sang very badly at a KTV stall by the riverside. Okay, I made the last bit up, the bit about the dragon. But the rest is apparently true.

I like the colour of this photo. Our local petrol station is illuminated and glows surreally in the midst of the surrounding dusk darkness.

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