Just some advice for travelers to Taiwan...
Why start off with a Hawaiian greeting you ask? “Aloha” is the name of my new favorite transportation company. There are many ways of getting around in Taiwan. If you want to go from Kaohsiung to Taipei, you can fly for about $70 U.S. (about a 50 minute flight), take the train for $20-$30 (slow or fast train), or you can take a bus for $15-$20 (which takes 4 or 5 hours, depending on traffic). If you are trying to save money, the bus is absolutely the way to go. I have come to the conclusion that the trains are almost completely useless, since even the fast train only gets you to Taipei an hour faster than the bus and it isn't as comfortable. Intercity busses have large chairs that lean way back – almost like sitting in a moving La-Z-Boy.
There are many different bus companies, but my vote is definitely with Aloha. Most bus companies charge $500 NT (New Taiwan Dollars – about $15 U.S.), but for an extra $150 NT ($4.50 U.S.) you can ride with Aloha. Why is Aloha so much better? Well, most busses have TV screens that play movies or TV shows on the long bus trips, but you usually don’t get to choose what you watch. Aloha has LCD screens on the back of every seat, so you have your own personal mini-theater. There is a volume control switch on your arm rest and the speakers are built into the left and right sides of your massive headrest, so you have a surround sound system that's loud enough to hear clearly, but quite enough to not disturb other passengers! You can choose from several channels that play Western movies, Chinese movies, Taiwanese TV, children's programming, a GPS image of where you are on the road, a “road cam” showing the road ahead of the bus, and one channel of fully clothed female models dancing or walking to cheesy music. There are two channels of Western (usually cheesy Hollywood) movies with Chinese subtitles to choose from, so the native English speaker doesn't miss out on anything. Your seat reclines waaaaaay back, so you can get very comfortable. An attendant (a girl in a green Aloha uniform) brings you a blanket, something to drink (coffee, tea, or water), a snack, and some wet wipes. There is a bathroom on the bottom level of the deck and a half high bus, but I imagine it is tricky for female passengers to use, since you are using a traditional “squat” toilet on a moving vehicle, but it's still nice to have. Although the movies they show are pretty standard Hollywood crud, they show them on two channels, so you at least can choose the lesser of two evils.
I'll write about the conference I went to last weekend some other time. I have to go to a farewell party for us exchange students in a few minutes, so I don't have time right now. Sorry, but I'm not one to turn down free pizza!