Sunday, September 26, 2010

South Tainan Station

Yong Kang (永康) and Bao An (保安) Stations are the two most famous stations in Tainan and  the reason those two stations obtained fame is weaved in their names. Departing from Yong Kang to Bao An (South bound), you can read the station names printed on the ticket counterclockwise (clockwise for North bound; Bao an to Yong Kang) and it’s read Yong Boa An Kang (永保安康) which means ‘safe and healthy forever’ so the ticket is a popular collectable in Taiwan. Being one of the stations in the Tainan Urban District  Underground Railway Project (details below), the long forgotten South Tainan Station is remembered again.

Located in an alleyway next to the parking lot of the Abab hotel at Datong road and Goumin road intersection, the South Tainan Station was built in 1943 for unloading reserve supplies for the air force base nearby. It’s 2.67km south of the Tainan Station and that’s how it got the name. The station was destroyed during the WWII and the building now standing was rebuilt in 1950. The station was left unused since 1991and was entrusted to the East district office for maintenance in 2006. In 2010, the Station was transformed from a station to a lounge bar under the 5 year BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer ) contract with the government and started doing business this summer.

The wooden roof, windows that used to sell tickets and two mileposts etc were kept in the renovation. Awards, documents, staff uniforms and railway badges are displayed in the building, it feels like walking into a railway museum instead of a lounge bar at the first glance. Sitting at the outdoor area, a cool beer in hand watching trains passing by, punctuality is not required anymore as leisure is the atmosphere of the station. I imagine passengers aboard passing trains would feel the desire to stop and get off as they see the station now. 

Address: 111, lane 635, Datong rd, sec. 2, Tainan City
Phone: 0926176815
Opening hours: Sun-Thu: 19:00-02:00 with minimun expense NT$150/person, Fri-Sat :19:00-03:00 with minumum expense NT$200/person.

Further reading: The Tainan Urban District  Underground Railway Project on MOTC News
In order to balance regional development, help integrate the transportation system, improve the quality of the environment, and solve the problem of increased traffic caused by the city’s socioeconomic development, the Tainan City Government and the former Taiwan Provincial Government conducted research on the feasibility of railway grade separation in 1993. In 1995, an overall plan was formulated for the Tainan Urban District Underground Railway Project (referred to as “Tainan Project”); in 1999, planning was continued by our bureau’s former Taichung and Tainan Office (changed on July 1, 2009 to the “Central Region Engineering Office”). On September 9, 2009, the project was approved by the Executive Yuan with a total budget of $29.36 billion NT (87.5%, or $25.69 billion, paid by the central government, and 12.5%, or $3.67 billion, paid by the Tainan City Government) and construction time of 7 years, 8 months. After over 15 years of effort, the project has finally been approved and is underway.

The project provides the following benefits:
  1. Provides metropolitan areas with fast, convenient transportation.
  2. Balances urban development and removes obstacles to the development of areas along the railway.
  3. Removes nine railroad crossings, four underpasses, and two overpasses along the railway, increasing safety by solving traffic problems caused by crossroads.
  4. Solves public environmental problems such noise and vibrations caused by trains.
  5. Improves the city’s image and urban quality of life.
  6. Increases economic activity, and urban land use value.

Additionally, the Ministry of Transport and Communications will form a working group to steer land development and integration of railway transport infrastructure in order to simultaneously complete railway grade separation works and urban development of the surrounding areas.

The Tainan Urban District Underground Railway Project stretches 8.23 kilometers. It starts in the north at 0.17 kilometers south of Zhonghua Bridge (Yongkang Bridge) on the southern side of Yongkang Station in Tainan County, and runs south to 1.91 kilometers south of Shengcan Road. Major works include:

  1. Planning and design, urban rezoning, and the process of land site acquisition.
  2. Tunnel construction: Cut & cover reinforced concrete box-shaped structure.
  3. Tainan stations: Added two island platforms and additional commuter stations (Linsen Station and South Tainan Station) on four tracks.
  4. Old Tainan station preserved and listed as a historic site.
  5. Surrounding projects: Station’s surrounding facilities, transfer and improvement of freight (military) transport.
  6. Electrical works: Tram line, signal, telecommunication, and station electrical engineering systems.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Six feet under

I started writing this article three years ago, after my Mom passed away, but I couldn't finish it. Every time I tried to go deeper, I ended up lost in overwhelming emotions; feeling suffocated and I couldn't put it down in words, until now. It's ghost month again, it is said every year in July (lunar calendar) all ghosts could pass the gate that separates two worlds and re-enter the world they used to live in and enjoy a feast prepared for them. More than 3 years have passed, I can't stop wondering if reincarnation does exist as it is claimed in Buddhism or Taoism, shouldn't my Mom have already reincarnated? The paradox is why those people keep worshipping a wood tablet for the rest of their life while they believing in reincarnation? Don't they wish the deceased had started a new life? Reincarnated or not.

Filial piety is one of the virtues in Chinese, in fact it is the core idea imprinted in Chinese and we are all chained in this invisible shackle. "You should build an altar in the living room as a home for ancestral tablets where the spirits rest and serve them with joss sticks every morning and evening"; " you should kneel and crawl all the way in to the house as when she passed away you were not by her side"; " you should order wreaths or better, towers made of cans and present them in the most prominent location"; you should...". Tons of "you should" during the funeral process and lots of them made no sense to me. It seemed everyone was an expert in this kind of things and the list of suggestions was not suggestions but orders, failing to comply was considered unfilial or blasphemy. Does it really work this way or it's an inescapable exploitation discovered by undertakers?  "How sad it is that none of the kids in this family got married" was an nice comment from the visitors; "How unfilial could you be, no grandson to carry the family name? She must die in regret!" was the mean one. Despite the fact that we did most of the "suggestions" in the funeral, we still couldn't escape the lynching from others with filial piety held as a weapon.

The funeral should be a final chance that the living can do something for the deceased and through the process the living get to grieve. Somehow, Taiwan developed a unique culture in the funeral ceremony like professional daughters who cry with a microphone in funerals (video) or funeral parade (video). "To make it presentable, at least once in a lifetime they are treated as someone important" says the undertaker, and of course the  filial piety works like a charm. It's for the death or for the living that puzzles me, it seems no one knows that you are dead or dying alone is the greatest fear in Taiwanese and arranging such "entertainment" somehow they manage to have the fear contained.

Years back, we had a discussion about "should we ban burning ghost money" in a class. It was started by a foreigner who posted an article in Tainan Bulletin, urging Taiwanese to stop burning ghost money in order to slow down the global warming. Almost all students in the class were angry; outsiders who came from a country that has the highest CO2 exhaustion, riding second-hand scooters that might not even have their exhaust checked to the protest/petition meeting, how ironic. Nevertheless, finding a substitute for ghost money is an ongoing evolution in Taiwanese's beliefs, with or without a protest from outsiders. The funeral business is adapting to the new thinking. The whole funeral that used to take 49 days is now acceptable to be done in 1 week, and the "funeral entertaining" service has became a sunset business. Even though a custom made furneral service can be arranged, without unleashing it from the shackles of "tradition" how much room can it evolve? I wonder.