We checked out and crossed the road to the bus stop. A taxi driver shouted at us but we smiled and pointed to the bus stop. In the hotel behind it, we bought two tickets to go to Kaohsiung train station and the lady explained we needed to wait for 20 minutes and pointed to a sofa. Al waited and I popped to 7/11 for bananas. The taxi driver shouted at me again and I smiled and said we had bus tickets. Half way down breakfast the taxi driver appears in the hotel lobby and chats to the lady who sold us the bus tickets. ‘Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung’ he shouts at us. ‘No money, no money’. I point to the bus timetable and look to the lady for help. She seems to say its fine so we show him the tickets and watch as money crosses the counter between them. Bags in the boot we head off. He shouts at us ‘bus three hour, taxi two’ and we smile. We pass another hotel and he stops in the road and shouts. It occurs to us that he’s going to fill the cab. 10 mins later and with five of us in the car we leave Kenting.
As all taxi drivers do the world over, when the meter isn’t on, he drives at full speed. Tap, tap, tap on the accelerator as we constantly lurch forward, heads bobbing back and forth, stomachs reeling as if we have been punched. He undertakes trucks using the cycle lane, switches lanes in heavy traffic at high speed, answers calls on his two phones (shouting, obviously) and constantly fiddles with his dashboard.
I find him fascinating. He constantly touches the back of his head, smoothing his hair. He has a good luck charm hanging from his rear view mirror which has a bell on it. Sometimes as we speed round a bend he grabs it so it doesn’t ring, sometimes he will ring it himself. He sits upright in the drivers seat but with the back lowered. His seatbelt is across his lap but the diagonal chest strap is behind him against his chair. His default communication method is shouting. He checks his mobile every few minutes. He seems frantic.
Later, after a fellow passenger has got out and paid we stop at a big junction. The driver pulls out a massive bundle of banknotes and with a level of OCD that I can only aspire to, carefully irons out all the creases of the banknotes with his long fingernails and meticulously folds each note precisely in half before adding it to the bundle alongside notes of the same value, facing the same direction. The car is rolling forward the whole time, slowly inching across the white line, encroaching into the junction. I’m relieved when the light changes and he floors it.
We arrive exactly two hours after we left but have aged more than two hours. I’d rather have taken the bus.
We buy train tickets to Tainan and a random sushi selection and board the old but spacious carriage. I love the old Taiwan trains as you have so much room between seats.
In the afternoon we complete a twelve temple walking tour with a cake stop. The temples here are located within residential areas and busy, giving them a vibrant feel. They are also old, with dark wood interiors, faded murals and aged statues. Tainan was founded by the Dutch and used to be the capital of Taiwan and the temples give a real feel of history to the city. We have already seen a few temples on this trip and are sad to say that recently we are uninterested in sights that would have fascinated us three months ago but we really enjoy visiting the temples this afternoon.
Tainan is also renowned amongst Taiwanese for its food. For tea we go to a recommended restaurant which serves many of the local delicacies. We try oyster omelette, milk fish stomach, tao zi noodles, sweet potato leaves, steamed rice cake, meat dumplings and shrimp rolls washed down with white gourd tea. It is not spicy or herby but sweet and delicate food with great fresh ingredients.