Traveling by city buses in Tainan

This entry is from Dr. Hari Madduri:

We have been here in Tainan since last Sunday and things have been hectic. Today is the first day I got some free time for myself. My plan was to visit the three important temples representing Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Thanks to the Tainan Tourism Service officer, I already had the maps and knew which bus to take.  I augmented that knowledge with a few more suggestions from the concierge at the hotel. In particular he suggested  that  I buy “an all-day bus pass” since I wanted to get on/off the bus several times. He wrote “all-day pass” in Chinese on a piece of paper for me to present to the bus driver. So far so good.

I walked a little from our hotel to the Tainan Train station and waited at the 88 bus stop. It wasn’t at all hard to find the right bus stop and wait there. I also found that they had LED displays of expected arrival times of different route buses.  It said 6 minutes for my bus number 88. By the way, they had two displays — one in English and the other in Chinese. I thought it was pretty good.  I waited for 6 minutes but the bus didn’t arrive at its scheduled time of 11:25am.  it finally arrived around 11:37am. Not bad, I thought.

I got into the bus and showed my Chinese slip to the driver as my concierge suggested. The driver said something. I presented more money thinking it was not enough 🙂. Then the young man behind me who I had talked to earlier said that the driver doesn’t give those all-day tickets and I had to get it from a counter at the bus stop (i.e., that’s the translation for what the driver said). I was worried that I would miss this bus and the next one was an hour later. The young man said that he would hold the bus for me. I ran to the bus stop’s ticket counter and got the all-day pass in less than a minute and got into the bus.

The bus took a long time to get to the Confucius Temple. I struck a conversation with young couple (probably in their 20′s) sitting behind me, and I asked for some help. They didn’t speak much English, but the girl was more friendly and tried to help. I found out that they were visiting from Taipei and she didn’t really know the area well. She first told me that I already missed my stop but later checked with the other passengers and came back and told me that I was ok. I knew I was ok, but just wanted the local help. I took the opportunity to do my opinion survey on Tainan Buses. I asked her why she preferred to take the bus while many Taiwanese just rent a scooter and drive around.  She told me that it is very hot and she prefers the air-conditioned bus!

I got to the Confucian Temple, took some pictures.  I was impressed that the Tainan rulers recognized the value of education and wise men guiding the State several centuries ago. I noticed that some students were praying and writing yellow slips and hanging them on a big board. When I asked the ticket clerk, she told me with a smile that it was for exams 🙂.   May the God of examinations look kindly at these students 🙂

I then wanted to go to the Tiantan temple which was on the same bus route but 2-3 stops away from the Confucian temple. Since I had a good 35 minutes before the next bus 88 at 1:35pm, I decided to explore the street market opposite to the Confucian temple. It was an interesting narrow street with vendors on both sides. I bought some fruits to eat for lunch. This nice street market had trees on both sides for shade and also had overhead hoses spraying mist to keep the shoppers cool. There were many interesting things but I didn’t buy any.  I then returned to the bus stop around 1:25 and waited for it. I then saw another couple that was also visiting Tainan from somewhere else.  They too had gotten off 88 at this Confucian temple with me and were waiting for the next bus just as I was.  In the conversation with the man, I found out that they came from Taichung by Train and wanted to tour Tainan by bus. When asked why he didn’t prefer to drive here, he said he didn’t know the city well and hence preferred public transportation. The couple looked like they were in their late forties or mid fifties.  While we were talking, the time was 1:40pm and the bus hadn’t arrived. My watch moved to 2pm. No sign of bus 88.  The gentleman I talked to suggested that I ask  in the next store. It was a bike-renting shop.  I asked if he spoke English, he said yes and when asked how far the Tiantan temple was, he said it was within walking distance and he even gave me a map.   I used the map and started walking to the Tiantan temple.

I overshot by a street or two and had to retrace my path. Anyway I finally got to the Tiantan temple. The problem was that the map was in Chinese and street signs pointing to the temple entrance were in Chinese. Needless to say that that caused me to overshoot and ask for help. Anyway, I learned a couple of things about ancient temples in Tainan. Sometimes they are in the middle of a block and hence not visible from any street. You just have to find the right alley that gets you there. Of course, the sign at the alley is in Chinese and if you don’t know the language here is a clue: Look for colorful balloons hung along the alley way. If you follow those balloons, you get to the temple.

While getting lost and searching for Tiantan temple, I found that the Chihkan Tower (and temple) were not too far from there. So, after visiting the Tiantan temple, walking through another alley and discovering the colored balloon paths, I walked towards the Chihkan tower. On the way I saw an interesting Martial God Temple.  This is apparently a temple for a hero and his ancestors. I then went to the Chihkan Tower. Even though we visited this on Friday as part of our program to meet school children, I wanted to visit this again and take some pictures. I did that and started my return journey. Luckily this time, I didn’t have to wait long. I got to the bus stop in front of Chihkan tower and wondered whether I should wait for 40 minutes for the next bus or just call it quits and take a taxi to the hotel.  Luckily the bus #99 arrived in less than 5 minutes. I was very tired because of the heat and walking. I got into the bus, showed my all-day pass and sat down.  I struck a conversation with a gentleman that sat next to me (he looked like a senior citizen). I asked him where he was from and he answered that he came from Taipei and he was visiting Tainan as well. I asked him why he preferred the bus. He said it is free for him (he showed me a card) and is convenient. There, another data point. Senior citizens love to travel by buses!

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