Posted by: Teacher Peter | June 4, 2011

How to Order Tickets for the High Speed Rail

 

1. Go to the High Speed Rail Station. Tell the Taxi Driver “Gao Tie”. This is the Chinese abbreviation of “High Speed Railroad Train Station.” Gao mean “high or high speed”,  “tie” means “rail” instead of railroad. There are two train stations in Taichung City. One is for High Speed Rail (HSR) only and the other is for Express or Limited Express only. Once you get to the station, buying tickets is easy. The automated ticket machines all have easy to follow English guides.

2. Go to any convenience store (Family Mart or 7-11). They both have automated machines. Can’t read Chinese? (or don’t want to learn?) skip this step.

3. Go to the HSR website. There’s a guide in English.

http://www.thsrc.com.tw/en/

Go to online booking:

https://irs.thsrc.com.tw/IMINT/?wicket:interface=:0::

a) You can purchase with credit card or reserve using your passport #. I usually just reserve tickets. Reservations are good for about 16 hours. When you reserve tickets you can input your passport number and your cell phone number. The system will text you a message.

b) Now, go to the convenience store. (All are 24 hours). The text message will say when you have to pick them up by . I think after 16 hours the reservation expires.

c) Show the person at the counter your text message and they’ll help you with the rest. After you’ve watched them do this for you a few times you can probably figure out the steps:

1. Choose buy tickets (picture of tickets)

2. Choose HSR (there’s a picture of a train)

3. input the last 4 digits of your passport number. ONLY the last 4 digits are needed. This is printed on your ARC so you don’t need to bring your passport.

4. Input the confirmation number from the text message.

5. Inspect the tickets. The picture of tickets shown is ONLY A SAMPLE. Not the date on the sample. It will be for some other date, probably January. But DO read the details at the top of the screen. Most of it is in Chinese but it will display station departure, arrival, train number, time of depart/arrival, number of tickets, etc.

6. If the tickets are correct, hit pay. Bring the receipt to the cashier at the convini and pay. They’ll give you your tickets!

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Posted by: Teacher Peter | March 15, 2011

New York State of Mind

Peter & Kristin’ Top Ten Things to Do in New York City.

Make sure you check the “resources” section down at the bottom. There are links to websites with a more comprehensive listing. Most of the one’s I chose focus on NYC on the cheap.

1. Zabar’s: http://www.zabars.com/the-story/ZABARS_STORY,default,pg.html

2. Go see a Broadway show

TKTS is one way to get discount tickets:

http://www.entertainment-link.com/tkts.asp?gclid=CNW299L6z6cCFQLVbgodY37fDA

3. Go see live music. Ask somebody else about this. We haven’t gone in years. Although there’s often great live music right in the subways stations. Try Grand Central, Penn Station, or Times Square. They’re some of the biggest stations.

4. Spend a day in Greenwhich Village.

http://www.nycgv.com/

http://www.fodors.com/world/north-america/usa/new-york/new-york-city/sights-nam_loc:5500.html

(By which I man SoHo, NoHo or anything on the southern tip of Manhattan.)

5. Visit Southstreet Seaport.

http://www.southstreetseaport.com/about

6. Go to a flea market.

Here’s my favorite. I’ve been going here for over 30 years!

http://www.greenfleamarkets.com/faqsshop.html

But there are others too:

http://www.ny.com/shopping/flea/

7. Coney Island. Hot dogs anyone?

http://www.coneyisland.com/tourism.shtml

Speaking of which, visit Gray’s Papaya. It’s an institution.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/grays-papaya-new-york

Btw, I don’t eat hot dogs anywhere but I LOVE the coconut juice at Gray’s.

Other NYC cheap eats:

http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeats/2006/18479/

8. Wollman Rink and the Apple store at Central Park & 59th street.

http://www.wollmanskatingrink.com/main_wollman.htm

9. Visit a museum. They’re are hundreds. Some of our favorites are:

Museum of Natural History (See: Night at the Museum)

http://www.amnh.org/

Rose Space Center

http://www.amnh.org/rose/?src=e_p

MOMA

Whitney

10. Go shoppping!

More to come….

11. Visit the tourist spots:

Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty. Take a boat or segway tour.

12. A few of our random favorites:

Alice’s Tea Cup: A must for fans of high tea or the Mad Hatter

http://www.alicesteacup.com/

Resources:

Village Voice: a free newspaper that is available on the street in NYC.

http://www.villagevoice.com/

New York Magazine: geared towards true New Yorkers, this magazine is generally for people with more money to spend than I do. However, it’s a great guide for film, theater, dance, and other attractions for those visiting.

http://nymag.com/

http://www.nytix.com/ThingsToDo/thingstodo.html

http://www.nycgo.com/events

http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/North_America/United_States_of_America/New_York_State/New_York_City-841252/Things_To_Do-New_York_City-TG-C-1.html

http://www.enduringwanderlust.com/things-to-do-in-nyc-for-free/

http://www.centralpark.com/guide/tours/walking/self-guided.html

Posted by: Teacher Peter | February 3, 2011

The search for the best dumplings

Ever since our friend, Mr. Akimoto, took us out for Manju (and unfortunately ordered us 8 bowls of dumplings instead of 8 dumplings) we’ve been trying to find them again.

What are “Manju”? Well Akimoto-san only speaks Japanese so I assumed that was just the Japanese word for dumplings or “Xue Jiao” in Mandarin. I just read an article in a magazine today and apparently “soup dumplings” have a different name: Xiao Long Bao. They’re better too. Unlike regular dumplings they’re filled with a juicy broth that squirts into your mouth when you bite into them.

Next stop: Xiao Long bao at Jao Jan Feng!

http://www.taiwan-travel-experience.com/dumplings-and-xiaolongbao-in-taichung-at-jao-jan-feng.html

Posted by: Teacher Peter | February 2, 2011

New Year’s Day Journey to Dakeng

“The name “Dakeng” means the “great depression,” a reference to a 350-meter-wide valley here.”

Getting There:

http://maps.google.com.tw/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=24.189245,120.75111(24.189245,+120.75111)

–From http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0002112&id=R22

“Dakeng has 10 hiking trails

The trails are numbered from 1 to 10 and have different starting points. All the paths are man-made and range from dead flat to near vertical. The steepest parts aren’t too dangerous though, as there are ropes and rails to hang on to.

Trail #1 to #4 are the longest and steepest ones. To get there from Taichung, drive east on Wenxin Rd until it becomes Dongshan Rd. Keep driving all the way to the roundabout with the big tree. Turn right on Hengkeng Lane and follow the hiking or campground sign.

Trail #5 is on the ridge and it connects the four previous ones. This is where you’ll find the lookouts.

Trail #6 to #10 are short, flat walking paths right at the entrance of Dakeng Scenic Area. The tracks take you through thick forests, and stay at lower elevation, so don’t expect any views like the one on the picture at the top of this page. When you’re coming on Dongshan Rd, look for a cemetery on your left, just before the big traffic circle. The trails are right behind.”

–From http://www.taiwanese-secrets.com/dakeng.html

Also, I read that there may be a farm nearby:

http://senoritapequena.blogspot.com/2007/03/dakeng-recreational-farm.html

Posted by: Teacher Peter | February 2, 2011

Stranded

If you could be trapped on a desert island with any ONE person who would it be?

Traveling abroad in a foreign culture is like that, being stranded. And I am so happy to be making this journey with my wife. She would be my choice.

But I’ve also made this journey before. So I’ve done this twice now, each time during the year of the tiger then the rabbit. The first time, 12 years ago, I was in Japan. I was right out of college, had never lived in a foreign college and had yet to start my career. I was also young, single, and thought I knew everything.

Now, 12 years later, I am back in Asia. I am older, wiser, married, and, with each passing day, more sure of how little I know. Soon I will be launching a new blog about being an international teacher.

The name of my new blog will be Stranded.

Why?

This is a blog about what it’s like to be immersed in a foreign language and culture. No matter how much you prepare yourself beforehand the feeling is very much jumping into a pool of water; it may be frightening, or excited, but is definitely a shock to the system and like you’ve entered a whole new world.

Stranded, because there’s no turning back. Whether you’re out of your native culture for a year, 2 years, or more, you’re stuck for the time being. All you have to survive is what you’ve packed in your knapsack of experience. Your knapsack is filled with all the tools, experiences, and knowledge that will aid you in this journey. In this new foreign land, your mission, should you choose to accept it is t

Posted by: Teacher Peter | January 18, 2011

Year of the Rabbit

We have been more social during the past week than in the previous 3 months. We are finally settling in and having fun.

Last weekend, I joined a local Hash House Harriers group and we checked out some local bars with the woman who teaches us Chinese. On Sunday, we met with our language partner, Amelie, who took us to a cute breakfast place called “flat out hungry.” Afterwards we painted traditional decorations for the coming Chinese New Year:

http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/jw!DUxweGyRCREA.VO5xMc-/article?mid=528&prev=536&next=516

Posted by: Teacher Peter | January 12, 2011

Chapter 3: New Year’s Resolutions

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
gang aft a-gley.–Robert Burns (“To a Mouse”)

We’ve been living in Taiwan for 6 months now. We’ve generally been so busy living our lives and keeping up with the rat race of work that we haven’t had time to document our adventures. So, my resolution for 2011 is to write every week. I have several outlets for my writing. I write for our school magazine, I write for this blog, I have another blog for my students called Teach Peter, and I may be starting a new blog about International education.

Anyway, here’s my year in review in no particular order:

1. Got my scooter license

2. Visited Sun Moon Lake

3. Visited Hualien and Taroko Gorge

4. Saw the sunrise at Alishan

5. Enrolled in Chinese Class and started work with a Chinese tutor

6. I can now read Bu Pu Mu Fu, the phoentic alphabet of Mandarin in Taiwan (not used in mainland China).

7.I can now read about 50 characters: mostly food, street signs, other practical code. It’s like hieroglyphics to me. Interesting stuff.

8. I can navigate the city now, often without a map.

9. I bought Kristin a real oven. She may start teaching a cooking class.

10. We both have ipods. They help us in Taiwan with the following functions: 1. skype & facetime to keep in touch with friends and family back home 2. photo and video recording our adventures 3. Easy upload of photos and video. 4. ibooks: when libraries and bookstores in your native language of English are not easily accessible, ibook makes it easy to carry around a whole library of books.

11. We started going to American Chamber of Commerce events in Taichung. So far it has helped us to meet lots of foreigners and Taiwanese who speak English. Best of all, we have made connections and friendships outside of work.

12. Thanksgiving Paintball tournament for charity.

What’s next?

We hope to continue our newcomers guide and start food reviews.

Peace,

Peter

Posted by: Teacher Peter | September 5, 2010

Chapter 2: Life in Taichung

Sorry for the “Radio Silence”, folks. Our first two months in Taiwan have been hectic. I have been at work at school from 8am – 7pm every weekday for all of July and August, while Kristin has worked 8am-5pm. The only thing that kept me sane and focused during those 45 hour weeks was getting to NOW.

Starting in September, and lasting the rest of the year, I will only have 12 hours of contact with students per week, most days being about 2-3 hours. Yes, our school is truly an afterschool program. What will I do the rest of the time? prep for classes, write for Rainbow Time, study Chinese, go out for bubble tea. And everyone at our school takes a 2 hour lunch.

So the MAIN STORY begins here. Today I am adding a LIVING in Taiwan section.

Question: It’s been two months!! What the heck have you been up to???

Answer: I’m not sure. The time has flown by. As I said, I’ve been working 45 hour weeks and, believe it or not, still been bringing work home on the weekends. With that said, in the past two months we have:

  • Received our Alien Registration Cards
  • Opened a Post Office Bank Account
  • learned to drive our scooter
  • been to about five different malls, 6 different book stores, a library, 3 different movie theaters, and the (outside of) local Science Museum.
  • visited Sun Moon Lake
  • played basketball, billiards, chess, poker, and the occasional board games.
  • learned how to watch tv and movies overseas
  • watched tv/movies on cable
  • sampled Taiwanese cuisine
  • visited a few night markets
  • made friends
  • celebrated birthdays
  • and skyped with out family.
Posted by: Teacher Peter | June 30, 2010

The Story So Far, Part 2: Top Ten

Before the triumphant conclusion to the “Chute and Ladders” story, arc, here’s another quick summary of what we’ve learned so far.

1. We are staying in a hotel called “The Enterprise” for our first week. We moved in Saturday, June 26th at about 2 am.

2. We fell asleep around 3 am and awoke the next day, sans luggage to go get our “Health Check.” In order to apply for an “Alien Registration Card” or ARC, one needs to first have a standard physical , with chest x-ray, and get a measles shot or two.

3. Bubble Tea is abundant. (Pretty much 4 per street).

4. Scooters even more so. ( As plentiful as Mosquitos in MN in July).

5. Many Taiwanese, but not all, speak English. I’m not sure how skewed my perspective is by my job. I work at an English language school. But most of the staff at our hotel speaks English, a few of the cab drivers do, and at the mall by our hotel there’s at least one fluent speaker at each business or restaurant.

6. There is a mall by our hotel with nine floors of fun: conveyor belt sushi, Carre Four ( a French chain of big box stores like Super Target), a movie theater, a gym, and much more.

7. It will be about as hot and humid as the sun for the foreseeable future ( until November).

8. You can do all your banking needs, including paying bills, at the 7-11. (You can also buy slushies, rent VCD’s, and get flip flops in your size.)

9. You must take off your shoes when you enter a school/house and switch to indoor slippers….like in Japan.

10. Taiwanese people are very friendly and helpful. They also really like cameras and taking pictures.

Posted by: Teacher Peter | June 28, 2010

The Story So Far….Part 1: Chutes and Ladders

For you viewers just joining us, here’s the story so far:

Wednesday, June 23rd, 10am we board a plane from MSP to Chicago O’hare.

(Note: all times and dates are local time.)

12pm We board a plane from O’hare to Tokyo–but it never takes off! We sit on the runway for 6 hours while the United Flight staff tell us a variety of excuses, all of which could be categorized as “human error” or “stupidity.” After so much time on the runway, a weather system comes through Chicago ( shocker!) and we have to deplane. United assures us that they will hold our checked luggage on the plane to ensure that it gets sent to its proper destination (foreshadowing).

Thursday, June 24th, 11am

Almost 24 hours later, we try to take off from Chicago O’Hare to Tokyo, again. However, now that we are a day late, we don’t know how we’re going to get from Tokyo to Taipei. By “we” , I mean more than Kristin and I. On the first flight we met two other co-workers from our Language School. By the end of our 6 hours of being sequestered in Chicago, there are now 8 of us total who are all flying to work at the same school. One of our co-workers, M, is able to call United and get us a NEW flight from Tokyo to Taipei. They can’t print us boarding passes until we land in Tokyo but they assure us it will be easy and that our luggage will be put on our new flight.

On board the 12 hour flight to Tokyo, we are given a letter of apology and a form to fill out for some mysterious Token of Sorryness from United. United flight staff take these forms from us but we do not know if they’re ever mailed. Nothing short of $1200 U.S. would make me feel better about the experience.

1pm, Friday, June 25th,

We land in Tokyo Narita. I’m looking forward to almost 6 hours of downtime before we join a 6:50pm flight to Taipei. Little do we know, that peace will never come. As we arrive, we see a customer service table for United 881 from Chicago. All 8 of us already have new flight reservations so we all skip it. We all go through security screening for people connecting to International flights. As soon as we’re through security, Japanese airport workers ask for everyone from flight 881 to follow them. They don’t explain why or give us any more info. Kristin, J, and myself follow them. They bring us right back to the customer service table we had decided to skip earlier.

We wait in that line for about an hour. There are 350 people on flight 881 and only 2 customer service reps. Everyone is a day late and in a hurry to get to their destination so it’s not easy to get someone’s attention. When we finally do, they tell us we don’t need to wait in this line, we can go right through security for connecting flights because we already have a reservation. The first time we went through security it took us 5 minutes. There is a huge crowd by the time we line up to go through the second time and it takes about an hour. We are not happy about this. Welcome to “Chutes and Ladders: Airport Edition”. Let the games begin!

Once we are through security, we start looking for Japan Airlines. J has a reservation on All Nippon Air or ANA. We have a reservation on either Air Japan or Japan Air. We go with J to the ANA customer service desk. There are about 6 reps to deal with about 25 people so we think the line will go fast. It does not. I ask an airport worker if there are more than two Japanese Airlines. By looking at the signs it seems that ANA and JAL are the only two. All the airport workers speak very good English so I don’t even have to use my rusty Japanese. I am disappointed but relieved.

We wait in the line with J for about 20 minutes while we get snacks and figure out our next move. A worker from ANA comes up to us in line to help us. I tell her our flight number and she confirms that there is no ANA flight with that number. We are in terminal 1, we must take a bus to terminal 2 to talk to JAL. We were told by United that we may have to manually get our luggage from United and re-check it on our new flight. There is now no time for that.

I think it’s about 3:30pm when we get to the JAL ticketing agent. There are maybe 10 reps for 15 customers so I hope the line will move quickly. It does. Good news: the JAL flight number and departure time matches what I have in my notes from United. Good news: I have two confirmation numbers and one reservation number as well as all our boarding passes and checked bags receipt. Bad News: JAL has no record that United ever made a reservation for us 14 plus hours ago.

By now, Kristin and I are both fatigued, jet-lagged, dehydrated, and very hungry. I am mad that I never had a chance to stop for sushi but I am too tired to care. The JAL workers are so nice that it’s pretty hard to be upset. Also, I get to practice my Japanese a little bit. They ask us to have a seat while they figure things out.

I am very impressed with Japanese flight workers. They are very good at looking busy. They rush around, make phone calls, and generally look like they’re working really hard to solve your problem. Much different than what I tend to see in U.S. airports.

We sit for maybe 30 minutes while we watch a woman with a leg in a cast sit across from us. She is arguing with a JAL representative because apparently she was in a wheelchair ( and clearly needs it) and they took her out of a wheelchair and now they have no wheelchairs for her to use.

The JAL rep is very calm and polite. She gets a wheelchair for the woman and comes to talk to us. She tells us they have booked us on a Delta flight to Taipei. It’s in terminal 1 (where we just came from). The bus leaves in 10 minutes. She tells us to follow her and runs off with our passports and all our paperwork so we have to follow. It’s almost 5pm by now and the flight boards at 6:30pm so we follow her.

When we get back to terminal 1 we DO NOT have to go through security again. (Thank god for small favors.) Apparently, terminal 1 and 2 are connected in such a way that they don’t think people can bring dangerous materials on board. In any case, when we get to the gate at 5:50pm , who do we see but our friend, J, who was sent over to Delta from ANA. I have maybe 20 minutes to grab snacks before boarding so I run off in search of food while Kristin watches the bags.

As I’m searching for food, I find Ke and E, two other co-workers from the Language School who got sent to our Delta flight as well. Our other 3 colleagues have already flown on a different flight. I don’t find anything I want to eat but buy some things anyway. When I get back, J has bought cups of  frothy tasty Japanese beers for all of us! I am very happy when I board our plane to Taipei.

Our flight to Taipei is WONDERFUL!

1. It takes off. 2. It takes off on time. 3. We each have our own personal entertainment systems. Y’know that Twilight Zone where the guy finally has eternity to read all the books he wants and then he breaks his glasses? Well, the only downside was that we had access to about 360 hours of films that I wanted to see and only a 3 hour flight.

Kristin and I have a nice conversation with a high school kid who is part of a group doing missionary work in Taiwan. Apparently, this is pretty common.

We land at 9:30pm, Friday, June 23rd in Taipei. We are looking forward to going right to bed. Little do we know that we will not be able to sleep until 3am.

Next up, Part 2: Lost Luggage

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