I was always taught that in Taiwan they use traditional Chinese Characters (繁體字). So it was a shock to me to find that while the train tickets had station names in traditional characters on them, the train stations themselves used Simplified Characters (简体字) on their signage. This caused me to rapidly get good at converting from one to the other. Particularly traditional to simplified. I can see that a character is the same character, even though I cannot say it and do not know what it means. Still I never missed my train stop.
This did cause me to be lost in Tainan (臺南) . When I was at the station I went to the information desk and the man asked me where I was going. I gave him a piece of paper with the name of the place I intended to stay in traditional characters. He then wrote some other characters, I did not understand, on another piece of paper and pointed to the exit I needed to use. Foolishly I did not try and stop to work out what he was on about. But I did take the piece of paper he offered.
I left the station, probably over confident in my ability to use Taiwanese public transport. It was my 5th place after all. I found my bus stop and caught the bus. After a few stops another passenger asked me where I was going. I showed her my characters. She said I had caught the bus going the wrong way. The bus did not terminate at the railway station as I had assumed. It went past it. So I got off the bus.
I waited at the bus stop for the bus going the other way. At the stop, written top to bottom, left to right on a piece of metal that was the bus stop sign was a list of bus stops. I tried to find my stop on the list. I could not find it. Still I did not cotton as to why.
A man on a scooter stopped to help. He too could not find my stop on the sign. He put me and my backpack on the back of his scooter and scootered me to the location of my accommodation.
When I was at the place. I found out my destination was at the last stop on the bus route. I looked at the sign, now knowing which stop to look at and realized that what the man had written was in fact the simplified name of the place. It matched the sign perfectly.
I felt foolish for not having joined the dots and worked out that it was the name in simplified characters. I knew enough to know that it was so.
Lesson 1: pay careful attention to the characters scrawled on a piece of paper by an old man.
Lesson 2: Never assume that a bus terminates at the main city train station.
Lesson 3: Listen to fellow female passengers.
Lesson 4: Accept rides from Students on Scooters.