"Foreigners" Can't Buy Train Tickets On-line in Taiwan Anymore

Hualien (花蓮) Train Station

"Foreigners" won't be able to buy train tickets on-line anymore with a "foreign-issued" credit card. To buy tickets on-line now, they must use a credit card issued in Taiwan - which is basically impossible as "foreigners" are barred from applying for them at Taiwan's various banks.

This is a new thing; last month, on January 7th, I bought tickets on-line for Hualien with my "foreign issued" credit card, and it was not a problem. This one really makes me shake my head. I go to Hualien all the time. I'd say about 10% of the people in the Hualien Train Station are "foreigners". And it's almost impossible to get tickets for the fancy Toroko Tze-chiang (自強) Express, Taipei to Hualien in an hour and fifty-seven minutes, because of all the "foreigners" on it.

The media in Taiwan has recently reported that the government drained US$32 million to promote tourism, with a goal of attracting four million visitors in 2008. This is what the Premier said: "We will strengthen Taiwan's international promotion activities and create a high-quality environment to achieve the goal, which is expected to generate revenues of NT$192.1 billion (US$ 6 billion) for Taiwan" He goes on: "[32 million bucks] will also boost Taiwan's international image and increase foreigners' familiarity with the country."

If the "foreigners" can't even book a train ticket, how on earth are they going to get familiar with [the] country?

Year of the Rat

I'm putting up a Lunar New Year post finally. The reason I haven't been blogging very much recently is, well, there hasn't been much to blog about in the Year of the Rat. I did manage to step on one in an alley. People here say it's an auspicious sign.

The weather has been cold and wet, so we’ve been staying in. Actually, I can't remember Taiwan ever having such a long streak of cold weather. It's been going on for about a month. Another reason is that my daughter has been sick twice (a fever once and an echovirus, with a fever and a 35 to 39.3 degree Celsius range the other time). I’ve really had my hands full.

I did manage to get out last night, to Bushman’s blogger meet-up at an authentic Thai restaurant called the Blue Sky in Hsin Chuang (新莊). There were some people I hadn't met, so it was quite interesting. Unfortunately, the music later got so loud I couldn't hear anything. Then, a drunk homo-erotic Thai attached himself to me. It started out with him buying Chang beers, and finished with the manager peeling him off my back and, after a few stern words in Thai, depositing his crumpling body in a barstool. Enough said. I've put some pictures from the New Year holiday below.

My sister-in-law goes for a dish on Lunar New Year's Eve while my wife's grandma enjoys the plum wine. The wine was pretty tasty, though I don't know if I agree that it was worth the NT$3,000 (US$90) my father-in-law paid for it. For that money, I could get six really good bottles of wine or 90 cans of Taiwan beer.

During the Lunar New Year holiday, a lot of fireworks got fired off from this park near my house in Wenshan. Even though there was a garbage can twenty feet away, these boxes and casings were left on the picnic table in front of a playground (see pic).
I saw these posters on a wall in a bank. But I think the "customer is always right" concept some people talk about in the West and Japan doesn't really get a lot of play in Taiwanese culture. It sounds good though and is decorative.