Monday, February 6, 2012

The Misadventures of Taiwan: No Vacancy

Rain unabating, the Harrington's opted to board a train and ride along the eastern coast of Taiwan. Initially, the couple planned to stop in a small sea-side town for a night before continuing a little farther south to the town of Hualien which serves as the primary jumping off point for the infamous Toroko Gorge National Park. However, as the ride continued and the rain persisted, the couple decided to go straight on to Hualien so as to get into the Gorge sooner and/or adjust plans as necessary.

Adjusting their ticket fare and being lead to open seats a few cars down by a caring Taiwanese train employee the Harrington's arrived in Hualien in the early afternoon of Wednesday, January 25. Promptly, the couple entered the visitor's center where they were greeted by a crew of friendly and English-proficient employees who set to work helping the duo find reasonably priced accommodation and offer suggestions as to what to do in town. With what seemed to be a decent room option at 1200 TWD (~$40US) the couple made their way to the Catholic Church/hotel. Unfortunately during the ten minute taxi ride and the Catholic Church's recognition that foreigners were in need of a room the room miraculously went up to 1800 TWD (~$60US). A bit peeved and increasingly aware of the sheer amount of people who would also be attempting to visit Toroko Gorge in the coming days the Harrington's left the Catholic Church in search of any other options available in the city.

A dozen and a half hotels later with one offer of a room for 3500 TWD (~$120US) in an all too shady looking hotel building the couple made the executive decision to grab a bowl of beef noodles before re-boarding a train and returning to Taipei, which was rumored to be 'empty' due to the Chinese New Year.

The train ride provided adequate time to continue on with their reading so the couple set to work reading their Kindles while sitting on the floor. As the train began to pull out however, the couple was encouraged to take some unoccupied seats (their original tickets were standing room only) in a train car filled with Koreans. Back in the city of Taipei the couple expected to find a hotel at a reasonable rate without too much hassle. A dozen hotels later they waited 20 minutes for a hotel room to be properly cleaned and were finally dozing off to sleep in a room with no windows but lovely white sheets and towels, warmth and a roof over their heads, and for that, they were grateful.

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