We choose to take the train and it’s about an hour to get there. It’s a short walk to the station from Er Jiu’s house; we buy tickets, and our bags are x-rayed as we enter the station (I’m not sure what they’re looking for by x-raying the bags but they don’t stop us for anything). The ride is a long one with maybe 20+ stops along the way, and we switch trains twice. We arrive at the airport a little after Edwin and Yulin and Da Jiu do, but we spent maybe one-tenth their (taxi) fare. Success.
The Shanghai check-in hall is mammoth. We walk down to row E to check in then spend about an hour with the siblings talking among themselves. There’s no rush to pass through security and go to the gate – there’s nothing down the concourse, the point of the visit is to socialize with the brothers, and we expect security will be easy to pass through. We eventually do head that way, say our goodbyes to the brothers, return our departure cards to passport control, and are at the gate. The flight is a short 90 minutes yet we still get a meal, a welcome surprise as I’m a little hungry.
Landing in Taipei we’re greeted by the same rainy weather and warm temperatures Melinda and I experienced, briefly, in our layover a few days ago. Okay, so here’s the plan: I want to get some New Taiwanese Dollars (NTD) from an ATM, I want to get a data SIM card for my phone, and Yulin wants to find a bus company that’ll take us to the train station (trains are awesome but sort of broken when you need to take a bus to and from any station…). We hit two of these things – the SIM card will have to wait (we didn’t see a vendor handily and we wanted to get going on our travel). I’m much more comfortable when I have some local currency in my pocket, so I’m pretty happy that I found an ATM and that my card worked.
We take a shuttle bus to the train station, a train to Tainan (90 – 120 minutes, IIRC), and another shuttle into the city. We’re finally met by someone we know – Manly, the son of Mr. Lin who was one of Yulin’s teachers and who knew her father as the principal. We’ll be staying at Mr. Lin’s guesthouse for the next three days (more about the guesthouse in a few days). Mr. Lin asks us over to his house for dinner, which we only slowly accept (frankly, I’m hungry but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to accept his offer so I defer to Yulin’s reply). Mr. Lin has a housekeeper and he asks her to cook us some eggs. He also brings out bread, butter, and a salmon cheese spread. Mr. Lin is very well off, so I’ve been told, and it’s sort of clear, too. The butter is from New Zealand, the salmon spread from Europe, and the grapes from Argentina. His house has a very western interior design, almost European 19th century, even. He is proud of his collection of continental porcelain and his Georg Jensen silverware. Mr. Lin speaks English reasonably well and I enjoy talking with him, especially about his business (he imports metals from around the world for use in Taiwan industry).
We turn in for the night somewhat late, but the room is comfortable so we can settle in quickly and sleep soundly. We have one more reception to go but already a big hurdle is behind us: the rest of the trip will be on Taiwan, and with only one more air travel leg to go.