Hui- chen and I took the THSR down to Kaohsiung to visit her family during the holiday. As usual, we shot hundreds of photos and lots of video too. Any first THSR experience just has to be blogged on.
Before I begin the article, I want to say that I am extremely impressed with the entire system. It is very well designed and manufactured (from a technical point of view) and we experienced nothing but perfect service, despite the experience of others. After a single round trip on the THSR, I am completely sold on it.
How about we begin with a few cool shots of the thing? Many people haven’t even seen what it looks like yet.
I’d better save a few shots for the article though!
We began our trip at Hsinchu Station.
Unlike the Taiwan Railway Administration system, when you say “Hsinchu Station” you don’t necessarily mean a station that is actually located in Hsinchu city. For an explanation of the station placement strategy please see Understanding the High Speed Rail Stations written by Michael Turton. This particular station is in Jhubei, and actually very convenient when compared to some of the other stations, such as Tainan (which is closer to Kaohsiung than one would expect). Here are some shots of the station:
Its a beautiful station, and inside is no different. I’ll talk about a few things before I show you the upper levels of the station.
But they also did a few things wrong too. Here you see Hui-chen sitting on folding chairs on the first floor. There is a beautiful lounge on the second floor, but you aren’t allowed to go up there unless you are waiting for the next train. We had a rather long wait and had to sit on the first floor until our train was the next one to arrive at the station. All seats are reserved, so I don’t know what the big deal is, but like many things in Taiwan, the THSR has certain “rules” that don’t necessarily benefit the people who use the system.
This is a ticket. It shows all the relevant detail in both Chinese and English. The tickets are paper and you may keep them after your travel. They are like the Taipei MRT system (pass through) and the commuter tickets on the TRA. The “problem” is, the system is designed to read the ticket bottom up (where the mag strip is) with the strip to the right.
As a result, there are white-jackets assistants everywhere, and they can be quite irritating! I did not get a shot of it, but the ticket input slot has a graphic that clearly shows the ticket going into the slot, strip up and to the right. Since many people apparently don’t pay attention to such details, you now have a secondary problem of assistants trying to grab your ticket from your hand and putting it into the slot for you; no doubt the result of early groups of passengers having difficultly with the tickets. I found the assistants annoying and hindrance rather than a help. There are so many of these assistants around that they look for other things to do besides grabbing your ticket from your hand at the gates. In Kaohsiung I saw some young assistants helping elderly people ride the escalators up to the main level (good). Later, one of those assistants actually walked me over to the entrance of an escalator and beckoned me onto it, with one of those bows and the outstretched hand (stupid). As if I didn’t understand what the escalator is? Just beware that there are lots people who look like nursing students that will assume you are perfectly stupid and will try to help you do things that your mother taught you. When you add the stereotypes that exist in Taiwan, its a recipe for trouble (you must be going to Taipei, right? You’re a foreigner). OK, flame off!
This shot shows an overview of the waiting lounge. One steps off the elevator to the left and either goes to towards the seating area in the background, or up the escalator to the track level (foreground, right).
This walkway leads to the opposite side of the station to the opposing track. This station is a mirror image and is virtually identical in appearance. Be sure to check the signs to make sure you are where you should be. When we came back to this station, Hui-chen and I had to look at the downstairs shops to tell which side was which so we could exit on the correct side!
Before I get to the train itself, I want to mention a few things about the stations. Rather, about the placement of them. While we were waiting for our train, I used my GPS to mark the station as a waypoint. I found that the HSR stations were already available on the basemap, but I hadn’t realized that before. Even more interesting is the fact that the HSR is listed under air transportation, and not ground transportation. I believe that this is because the HSR is nearly as fast as air transportation.
As we were traveling along, I was checking the GPS for our track and speed along the route both to and from Kaohsiung. I found several HSR stations that were listed in the GPS but were never actually completed. For example, there is a Miaoli HRS station, and another one at Yuanlin (hope I spelled that correctly).
Sorry that I didn’t get my Nikon out in time to shoot more shots, but this is the “station” at Yuanlin. There is a paved parking lot and access roads, but no station. This shot shows the area just north of the parking lot. After thinking about it further, I suppose that there is no reason why additional stations couldn’t be added to the existing lines, if there was a need. Maybe someday there will be Miaoli and Yuanlin stations, but who knows? I do know that the distance between Kaohsiung and Tainan is so short that the train didn’t get above 160KPH. Once north of Tainan however, she really opened up.
Now, let’s take a look at what its like to ride the train!
Here is the view from the train at speed:
Finally, we arrive at Kaohsiung Station (Zuoying). It is absolutely gorgeous!
We hope you enjoyed riding the new THSR with us! All I could say over and over was “its never going to be the same.” The future of Taiwan will be shaped by the influence of this new high speed rail system.