This is the end of my second week in Tainan. Like last Sunday, I ventured out on my own today. I wanted to go to the Confucius temple area again. Unlike the last time (when I took bus #88), I decided to walk. I had the map given by the bicycle shop owner last time. With that, I fairly easily figured out which way to walk from the Tainan Station. It took a bit longer than I expected. In any case I was there in about 25 minutes from our hotel and I ran into my colleagues who were out for a while and were looking for a place to eat. Since I had a late breakfast, I decided to explore more on my own. I went to a small gift shop and thoroughly searched for something for my wife. I finally found a hand-crafted and artfully decorated flower vase for her. I bargained a little and bought the vase. Interestingly, the shopkeeper only spoke broken English, but we managed to close the deal. I now had to ask them to pack it well for my long journey to the US. The shopkeeper and his helper girl were both very nice, understood what I was asking for, and packed my purchase in two layers of bubble wrap.
Next I roamed around a bit and then I was looking for a restaurant to eat lunch. Earlier I had looked up an Indian Restaurant on Google at 54 Guanting street. I walked towards that based on the high-level map the restaurant had on their website (BTW, I didn’t have connectivity while I walked I just had the image on my phone from the time I had seen it at the hotel). I remembered that I had to come back to the Tainan Hospital area and then make a right turn. As I was approaching the circle near the Tainan Hospital, I asked someone who looked like a student. He tried very hard to communicate in English but I couldn’t tell whether he knew where that street was. He was very apologetic that he couldn’t communicate well. I said ‘no problem’ and moved on. When I reached Guanting street I couldn’t find anything like an Indian restaurant there. There was a small fast food place with the only English words I could read saying ‘Curry Soup’. That couldn’t be it, I thought. In any case I went in and I asked a girl if she knew the restaurant I was talking about. She, with difficulty, told me to go back a block and turn left and I would see it near a 7-Eleven. I did that and that turned out to be a busy intersection but no sign of this Indian restaurant. I then looked for Guanting street again and tried to reach 54 Guatnting street. The numbers weren’t in perfect order but I did see 65 on one side and 29 on the other side of the street. After 65 I saw something like 38. In between I saw a parking lot with a lot of scooters. The whole street looked quiet and didn’t look very commercial. I theorized that the restaurant either moved or went out of business and the place was converted to a parking lot. Ok, I didn’t find the restaurant I was looking for but the girl at the fast food shop again tried her best to help me.
It was getting close to 2pm and I decided to walk back to the hotel area. As I started doing that, I saw Jhongyi Road and I recalled seeing that near the Chihkan tower. I also saw a sign that said Chihkan tower in 320 meters. I walked in the opposite direction and based on my partial map I thought I could take a shorter route to the Tainan Train station and walked in that direction. After a long walk, and a few more ‘short cuts’, I still wasn’t hitting Jhongshan Road (that I took while going to the Confucius temple). I now realized I was lost.
I was getting hungry and there isn’t any decent eating place near by. The afternoon heat was also peaking by then. As I was walking I found a fruit shop. The girl in the store didn’t know any English but she greeted me with a smile. I pointed to a banana. She picked up the whole bunch and started weighing it. I pointed to a specific banana and showed ‘one’. She signaled eating and asked ‘today’ or ‘tomorrow’. I said ‘now’. She didn’t understand. I then said ‘today’ because at least she seemed to know that word. She then searched for a ripe banana (just right) for me from some other bunches and got me one. In a pure business sense she didn’t have to think about whether my banana was ready to eat, but her friendly attitude and caring impressed me.
I continued to walk for a few more minutes and concluded that I was definitely lost. I decided to call it quits. I stopped by a 7-Eleven store, showed them my map and asked them where I was on the map. They looked at my map but couldn’t tell me our location. I then asked them to please call a Taxi for me. There were two girls and a guy in the store, all in their 20’s. The guy looked at my map, said something in Chinese, went to what looked like a kiosk and typed something and printed a receipt. BTW, I had a map in Chinese (same picture as the English one) also and I gave it to him. He still couldn’t tell me where we were. In any case, he logged into the kiosk and printed a receipt for me. I offered my cell phone and said ‘please call a taxi for me. I don’t speak Chinese’. He wasn’t taking my phone. As I said earlier, there were two other girls in the store and one of them could speak broken but understandable English. She said the other guy had already called a Taxi for me and I should wait there for 6 minutes. I waited for a few minutes. Actually, used the time to buy some milk and yogurt. My taxi arrived and I got back to the hotel. Again, very helpful 7-Eleven people.
I got back to the hotel and went to the food court in the next door mall. I now had to ask for vegetarian food. All these days our hosts Lisa, Red, Anny and others have always been with us and they have been carefully screening the restaurant menus for vegetarian foods. Today I had to do it on my own without knowing the language. I went to one of the food stalls and asked her if she spoke English. She said she could manage. Interestingly, she really didn’t know any English besides saying ‘yes’ ‘I know’, ‘ok’ etc. However, she is tech savvy. On her mobile she brought up an app that could do the English to Chinese translation. It wasn’t great at translating sentences but things like ‘Rice’, ‘Vegetable’ could be translated. She understood what I wanted.
On the whole, whoever I met on the street have been always been ready to help. I am impressed by the friendliness and the extra mile the Tainan citizens go to to help Tourists.
Thumbs up for friendly Tainan!