The platform was deserted. Completely deserted. It was early afternoon at a train station in the middle of Taiwan, and both sides of the platform were utterly devoid of people.
What’s going on?
What should I do?
Surely, someone will turn up. I waited 15 minutes. No one arrived.
Maybe a train will turn up. No train arrived.
Where am I?
There’a a sign on the platform, maybe that will help. Platform A to one side, platform B to the other side. The name of the platform written in Chinese. That’s no help, I can’t read Chinese, I can barely speak it.
I needed to know where I was, and I needed to know why I was the only person standing on the platform, looking forlorn with nothing but a backpack and a few words of the local language.
I descended the stairs and searched for a station guard or staff member. I found one, then remembered that I couldn’t speak Chinese. I gesticulated, as linguistically-hampered travellers do, and managed to convey that I was planning to reach Taipei at some point that day.
With the aid of a network map, the guard gleaned from me that I had boarded the train at a certain station, and that I was now at a different station – going in completely the wrong direction. If I wanted to reach Taipei, I should have headed north, but, instead, I had headed south.
Simple mistake, but one that is very easy to make, because Taiwan’s impressive national train network essentially performs a loop of the island. Hop on in Taipei and head either east or west. Hop on at a station in the middle of the country, as I had done, and head either north, towards Taipei, or south, towards Kaohsiung. At the previous station, I’d simply stood on the wrong platform.
Eventually the guard transmitted to me that I needed to head back the way I came and I would eventually reach Taipei. He had a good chuckle to himself and I eventually found a train to return me to the capital.
I still don’t know the name of the platform I had somehow arrived at, but I do know that on that particular day, it certainly wasn’t heaving with excitement.