Steven and I went to Kaohsiung this weekend to visit his family. I have taken the bus many times (which is similar to Greyhound except the seats are made for smaller people) but I have had too many uncomfortable trips where I am just too unhappy, so we took the train this time.
The train system in Taiwan is OK. They are relatively on time and the 5 times I have taken it it has never broken down, but they are not very good on the business/service end. Now train service is very simple to me, I want to buy a ticket and get a seat to sit down in and stay there, but this is not simple here.
Let me give you an example. A train travels to 5 stops. The problem is they SOMETIMES only sell seats if you originate at stop 1. This means if I want to travel from stop 2 to stop 5 I will not have a seat assigned to me. Furthermore, if a passenger is traveling from stop 1 to stop 2, the seat will be booked from stop 1 to stop 5. That means they only assign a seat once, even if the person gets off. The Taiwan train company will then oversell tickets without seat assignments because it has no idea how many people with seat assignments are on a train at any given time.
We were sure to book a seat two weeks in advance to avoid any problems for us, but it seemed as if no-one else did that. The train had at least 10 people for every 5 seats resulting in the entire train isle being filled with people making the trip a bit like the subway. This is very uncomfortable for me because people would always stare at me hoping that I would get off the train so they can take my seat like a dog would salivate staring at a steak in a butcher-shop window.
This was especially troublesome today because of a train “incident” we had between the cities of Chungli and Taoyuan. I just woke up from a small nap and I was looking out the window and then I felt a big bump. We definitely ran over something, but the train kept moving for some time.
Eventually the train stopped and someone announced over the loudspeaker “We are stopping for just a moment, please do not worry.” in Chinese. We stopped for a good 15 minutes and then the train started running again. The issue was at the next stop in Taoyuan they announced over the speaker that we would all have to leave the train and board another train (that already had seated passengers). The reason we had to switch trains was the thing we hit was a large pig, and they needed to clean off the train. They wouldn’t give many details but we imagined that the pig damaged the train.
This was when things got really uncomfortable. People were basically running over each other rushing to be the first person onto the next train to grab a seat if one was available. When we got off the train we just waited and let a bunch of people get in front of us, we weren’t in a hurry. While we waited a nice guy from Canada came up to us and asked us what was going on and we explained that we hit a pig. We ended up having dinner together and talking about our experiences in Taiwan.
The one thing I was thinking on the way home is what type of pig did we hit? What if it was a “God Pig” that rolled away from its farm that day? I guess we will never know about the pig that we hit on the way home.