I had been looking forward to the high speed rail journey though I had some concerns about navigating through the train station since most of the signs were in Chinese and Waiway (the graduate student who had come to pick me up from the airport) could not come with me beyond the ticket-check. However I need not have worried. There are signs everywhere, and if something didn’t make sense, people are always willing to help.
The train ride from Taipei to Chaiyi was just awesome! 234 kmph… covered a distance of 200 km in less than an hour. I just listened to my iPod and it is kind of strange listening to Kailesh Kher and this train hurtled thorugh the countryside.
I was received by Han-Chin Liu who is a faculty member at National Chiayi University and the husband of Hsueh-Hua (the person who made this trip to Tiawan possible, and who teaches at National Sun Yat Sen University).
Taiwan surprised me by how warm it was there and also by how much like India if felt like. The houses and buildings, the shops and scooters, it was just like being home except everything was in a different language – and the foods were very different. In fact, I compared Chaiyi, a sleepy little city to Smita’s home town of Nagpur. The same leafy, tree laden housing, with people leisurely moving along on their bicycles or scooters.
Han-Chin was kind enough to find a battery charger for me so I will be back in business, photography wise, but sadly I could not take any pictures from the dinner I had with him and some other faculty members from Chiayi University & National Chung Cheng University. The dinner was at a Japanese restaurant called Nikado, and since I wasn’t sure what to order (since the menu was entirely in Chinese) and more importantly what I would like (or not like) we made a deal. My hosts could order anything they felt we should eat, and I would try everything but was under no obligation to finish what had been ordered. This was followed by a sumptuous meal, 10 or more courses, each different from the other and I ate pretty much everything, except two, one which was too rich (bacon & sausage) and another seafood dish that was just too strong for my taste. The food was, to put it mildly, awesome, both from the point of the taste and its presentation (which makes the lack of a camera doubly sad).
After dinner I went to the guest house of the National Chung Cheng University. The rooms were well take care of and joy of joy, had Internet connectivity. I worked on my presentation because I was told by Han-Chin that my talk would be translated (as I spoke), and I needed to make sure I had the timings right. Luckily Matt had sent me the latest version of his GCCC presentation which had been translated by Zhao. So I just built on that and created a new presentation with “slots” for Hsueh-Hua to step in a translate.
The next day was a whirlwind, two presentations (each for a hour or so followed by Q&A). The first started somewhat inauspiciously when, first we could not get my laptop to connect to the projector, and then when, in order to fix things, I restarted my computer it refused to do so. Ten minutes of sweaty panic later, my laptop did reboot and a new projector was brought it and things went well from there on. The speak-translate-speak structure was a bit unwieldy but overall it worked. We had some good Q&A at the end. From there it was a quick vegetarian lunch at a small restaurant (very tasty) followed by a presentation at Chung Cheng University. No translation required there so it went somewhat smoother.
The day ended with driving to Kuosheng with Hsueh-Hua and Han-Chin. I was put up at the Sea Resort there, which is a part of National Sun Yat Sen University. A simple, but tasty, grilled-fish dinner later I was back in my room.