Taiwan from North to South
The Taiwan High Speed Rail line (HSR) runs approximately 350km (215 miles) along the west coast of Taiwan. It links Taipei, the capital in the north, with Kaohsiung, the largest southern city.
The railway is built largely using Japanese shinkansen technology. The trains, which run at 300km, closely resemble their 700-series shinkansen counterparts.
The fastest trains on the line take about 1 hour and 40 minutes to do the whole trip.
On a recent trip to Taiwan we decided to ride on the HSR and visit Kaohsiung. We flew to Taipei on China Airlines from Fukuoka.
We boarded an early afternoon train at Taipei Station.
The external resemblance to the shinkansen is immediately apparent. Although the shape of the nose has been modified slightly and the livery is dramatically different, the car bodies are exactly the same. Inside the similarity is even greater. The trains have exactly the same lighting and seats. The back of the drop-down tables are even decorated with the same kind of train information diagrams as you find in Japan.
The first part of the line, including the first intermediate station after Taipei, is in tunnel. The train doesn’t emerge into the open air until it is in the outer suburbs of the capital.
Just like on the shinkansen the ride is very smooth and there is little vibration or external noise. There seemed to be less tunnels than in Japan and the views on both sides, although mainly of the never-ending urban sprawl, were interesting. We stopped once at Taichung before arriving at the Zuoying terminus on the outskirts of Kaoshiung. We continued our journey into the city proper by bus.
We spent a couple of days looking around Kaosiung. It is an interesting city quite a bit smaller and much more relaxed than Taipei.
We climbed Shoushan mountain after dark and visited the lookout.
We walked around the city including its markets.
We stopped by the Sunfong Palace
We visited the lotus pond with its dragon and tiger towers.
Back in Taipei we stayed at the Grand Hotel. This luxury 5-star hotel is situated on a hill overlooking the city. It is a little bit faded now, but it has a fascinating history. It was the favoured “guest house” for visiting dignitaries during the Chiang Kai-Shek era. There is a little museum inside the hotel that tells the story.
Finally, we spent some time walking around Taipei before departing for Japan.