Part 5.... The Lalu to Tainan
I had had to make adjustments from the planned route due to the GPS failure, so instead of the twisting and more scenic route planned, Mrs.L and I hit the main road. In Taiwan two wheeled vehicles are not allowed on the freeway, highway, motorway, autobahn or whatever you want to call it, it ain't allowed. Smaller roads and expressways are ok with my scooter and so sticking to these options we set off.
The sun was beating down and visibility was excellent which brightened my attitude somewhat. I was still annoyed by the treatment received from Garmin, and that having invested a non too small amount of money into a system we had to resort to using my phone.
On a brighter note, my SYM MAXsym600i was purring along the smooth, hot and sticky roads without an issue. It took a few hours but soon enough we were reaching the outskirts of Tainan.
For me Tainan is the most interesting city in Taiwan. The old capital boasts a history richly displayed in it's architecture and culture. The atmosphere is more relaxed down here in the south, which makes navigating the traffic a little more hard on the concentration, but try to just go with the flow and you'll be ok.
We went straight to Café IsShoni, the B&B where we would be staying in the older West Central District to drop off our stuff before going and dealing with the Garmin situation. It was cool to find this classic Vespa proudly parked outside the café, obviously a scooter friendly as well as a traveller friendly place.
I wanted to be sure to have enough time to reach the salt farm 45 minutes out of Tainan to catch the sunset. We quickly made our way over to the Garmin store, it was easy to find, having a huge Garmin sign on the shop. To say that we were a little surprised to be told that they were not a Garmin store, just and agent, even though they were listed as one, labelled as one and sold and serviced Garmin products exclusively is an understatement. I was further upset when the lady sitting behind the counter stated she was only talking to us as a favour to the person I had berated in the head office. She refused to help us, doing nothing other than confirming the unit was indeed broken. Sorry for my language but that was F'ing useless and I was appalled at the lack of customer service. I immediately got back on the phone and started to try again to explain the situation and my disgust with their attitude. It was like talking to a brick wall, again and again the same questions; "Whats the Serial number?", "Where did you buy it?", "Where are you now?". After the third or fourth time of taking the unit apart to repeat the serial number I had had enough, I was going to miss the sunset and so I just put the phone down and posted an irate tweet.
We jumped on the scooter and raced for the sun, fortunately we scraped there just in time to get a good spot to photograph this popular view. Sitting watching the sun paint the sky orange and the reflections in the mirror like salt beds calmed me down. We had a snack and relaxed until the sun had sunk below the horizon, then cruised back to Tainan.
It had been a long day, so we meandered out into the night to find something to eat and get a massage. Just wandering around in this part of Tainan brings you onto wonderful discoveries around almost every corner.
Craftsmen work outside their shops in the cooler night air during the laid back evenings.
The latest episode of your favourite soap opera can be enjoyed as you wait for a customer..
And it turns out classic Vespas are rather popular in this town.
Concentrating hard to traditionally make honeycomb sugar in miniature furnace like smelting pots.
Waking up the next morning I discovered an email reply to the tweet that I had sent, it appeared that had had some effect. Finally Garmin realised that extremely poor customer service was a mistake and in fact, good customer service was a much better way to keep client loyalty. After a phone call, in which they were not overly apologetic, but helpful enough, a solution was arranged. We were to continue using the phone to navigate to our next destination in Kenting. A temporary replacement GPS unit was to be delivered there and my broken unit collected. Once I had returned home another exchange was to take place for a permanent replacement. At last, this had taken three days, some considerable stress and disappointment, and finally resolved by contacting Gamin USA. Garmin were good to their word and all of this took place, the unit I have now is still working fine and has been all around the world with me. Getting a faulty unit in the first place was bad luck, a situation that could have been resolved easily. Poor customer service is in my opinion unacceptable, I certainly couldn't get away with that behaviour in my job, not in a million years. The Garmin saga still was not finished but I think I have ranted and bored you all enough with it so I'll end that story now and say no more about it, sorry to have gone on.
Good customer service is what I had received from SYM, I can highly recommend these guys. The MAXSYM was rocking and ridding it was making me smile. A service centre had been lined up for me in Tainan and so after breakfast off we went to get the big scooter a bit of love and attention. 30 minutes in and out, oil changed, brakes and tyre pressures checked, airfilter cleaned and all sorted with smiles all around. Now that is proper service and much more likely in Taiwan, it is such a friendly place here with the majority really willing to help you out.
If you are in Tainan there are a few must see places, the famous Confucius Temple being one of them.
There was a photo shoot going on, not too uncommon to stumble upon. If you have a camera, they will probably let you grab a couple of shots too.
Tainan is also considered a hot bed of culinary delights, so best stick to small portions and you can try many.
Old market streets offer collectables and decorative goods to browse and buy to take home.
Rest your feet from all the walking with a refreshing and fresh Almond Milk.
Tainan is pretty flat so cycling is popular.
By far the most popular form of transport, as in most places in Taiwan are scooters. Get your saddle revamped by these skilled guys. In a few hours it'll be as good as new, if not better.
Like I said life is laid back in the south.
Want to stay cool, don't worry about a wall on your living room, actually it was a theatre stage, but now the show was on TV.
Time for some steamed treats, dumplings and desserts all get steamed and are ofcourse delicious.
Fancy some Eel and noodles?
When out and about I would advise having a look down that little alley way or lane you could easily walk by, you may discover something like this beautiful little temple square.
Even more surprising was bumping into a friend from London, she was on a world wide tour but had decided to stay in Tainan for a few weeks as she liked it so much. I saw here in a little cafe, which was also a joinery workshop, how cool is this. Not only that, a French guy had been taken on as an apprentice as he also wished to stay in Tainan. The gentleman in the picture is the owner, a really welcoming and top fellow, not to mention a super talented craftsman, and his daughter snuck into frame too.
A little further along the road and here we find an electrical repair shop, fixing audio equipment, I wish I had bought some vinyl, but now I have an excuse to go back.
Tainan West Central District has the Wusheng night market, it is extremely popular, a good place to visit and yes you guessed it, grab a bite to eat. You can also shoot at things for prizes among other entertainment should you wish to indulge.
That was our time done in Tainan, the next day we were to leave for Kenting and the southern most point of the island. My journey had picked up some attention, that night we got a visit at the B&B by people following my progress on twitter, that was an amazing feeling and we have since become friends. I would recommend Café IsShoni as a place to stay. It is homely, friendly and the food is freshly prepared, a good way to start the day. The owners really made us feel welcome so thank you to them.
I hope you enjoyed this episode, I love Tainan and always recommend it as the place to go while in Taiwan. It is super easy to hop on the HSR (High Speed Rail) from Taipei and have a couple of nights exploring this fascinating and historic place.
Next time it's south to Kenting...
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