This morning we awoke super early at 6am to check if our damp laundry was dried. In most cases it was though a couple of Nick’s socks were quite damp still. We packed those into a plastic bag and hoped for the best while we packed up the rest of our mostly-dried-clothes and headed to the airport via the monorail.
The International Airport at Naha was a strange affair. It didn’t open until 7am (we got there at 7:15am) and then the check in counter didn’t open until 8am. Ours was the first flight. After we had checked in, we then had to wait 45 minutes for the security gates to open so we could have our liquids and luggage inspected. It felt very odd to me – a very, very small airport no doubt, but I think I expect all airports to be buzzing 24/7 – especially the international branches.
No matter – the important thing is that we got to the boarding gate with plenty of time to spare. Nick and I had very carefully whittled down our Japanese Yen to the last few cents. In fact, we had just enough to have a coffee each and buy a couple of plane snacks leaving us with about ¥30 which we were pretty chuffed with. Yay us!
We were flying with TigerAir so I was fully expecting that the flight would be cancelled or delayed or something. But it ran like clockwork – we even started takeoff early as we were the first cab off the rank. Colour me shocked! The seats were honestly comfortable though there was less room then on the previous Solaseed flight. I was fine but it looked like Nick had to tuck his legs up a little.
As we were taking off, Nick saw some Japanese F-15 Eagles and a camouflaged CH-47 Chinook.
The plane ride over was completely uneventful and it was incredibly short. Arriving in Taiwan was also a painless experience except for the long line at immigration – it took us about 30 minutes to get processed through. Customs wasn’t even a problem, we literally just walked out and no one wanted to check our stuff or anything.
The only minor hiccough was when it came to getting cash so we could buy a ticket for the bus. There were literally only 2 ATMs in the entire airport. 2!! As you can imagine, there was a heck of a line for each one. Nick and I hedged our bets and both jumped into a line but Nick remembered he had some AUD on him and changed that at an FX booth instead. This was after a solid 45 minutes of waiting in line though. And I was nowhere near the front when Nick came to let me know it was all sorted. Either people didn’t know how to use ATMs or the process here is a lot more involved then in other countries.
Cash in hand, we went to the bus terminal and purchased our tickets. The drive was a fairly short one, only about 20-25 minutes and Nick navigated us to our hotel with no dramas.
Gloria Residence. One word: Opulence. Now, this could just be that after Japan, this place feet MASSIVE by comparison. A separate living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Bliss! But the hotel room itself is gorgeously appointed with a king size bed, very classy glass-faced wardrobes and a lovely little kitchenette which is making me very happy.
The other thing that appeals to my greedy Sri Lankan heart is all the free stuff. Aside from the normal amenities (shampoo, conditioner, soap, blah blah) there seems to be a really generous spread of free food and drink. Oreo biscuits, cheetos, soft drinks – even a couple of cold beers in the fridge. As explained to us, there is only one thing in the room that is chargeable, and that is a bottle of French Bordeaux Merlot (going for about $26AUD) and it is clearly marked as such.
As you can imagine, once we really had assured ourselves that everything was okay, Nick cracked into one of those beers. He then headed out to secure us some lunch. As we are feeling slightly tired still, it was simple cup noodles (you would think we would be sick of noodles by now – we’re not) and I took a nice long shower in the lovely sandstone tiled bathroom. That’s another thing – while I quite enjoyed the showering experience in Japan, they were very small cubicles most of the time (when they weren’t public spaces) so having room to swing my arms and not bang my elbows on a wall was much appreciated.
One thing that is odd for me (not so much for Nick I suppose) is that there is a window in the bathroom to the outside which isn’t in any way frosted. If I were to use the toilet, anyone looking in would see me. If Nick needed to pee, he would be fine, but the first thing I did was close that blind thank you very much.
After a bit of lounging around, we decided to check out the rest of the hotel and facilities. There is a pool here which Nick intends to make use of, and a gym which is in accessible by the hotel next door (bit odd, but they are part of the same chain – the one next door is even nicer than this one). We then decided to take to the streets to explore a bit more.
The first thing we decided to do is secure some Easy Cards to travel the public transport system more easily. These things are super cute and I think I will keep mine as a souvenir. The other thing was, even using a foreign ticket system, they were easier and quicker to top up than a myki. Go figure.
The streets of Taipei City are really interesting. A mix of old and new, lavish and cheap. The roads were bustling but not in an overwhelming way. There is a pace to the city which I quite like. Here are pictures of some of the street-scapes for you so hopefully you can get an idea of what I mean:
After cruising the streets for a while, we decided to get some dinner. We went to Two Peck which is a fried chicken restaurant. Nick, who had researched beforehand filled out the order form (it was completely in Mandarin) and then for laughs, ticked a random item to see what we would get. I like calling this game ‘dinner roulette’.
The items that Nick knew he was ordering were a fried chicken breast and spicy seasoned fried chicken pieces. We also got a couple of salads from 7-eleven. Nothing like a balanced meal. The mystery item was…fried chicken skin on a stick.
The whole meal was pretty good (we didn’t finish the chicken skin though). There are a lot of different seasonings for the chicken (some which sounded really interesting, like plum) and Nick is keen to try more. I am going to miss eating weird and wonderful things like this when we go home.
We did a little reading after dinner to figure out the plan for tomorrow and hopefully I will be able to report some more interesting and exciting things about Taiwan then!
Tomorrow: More Taiwan! Stay tuned!