Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Taiwan, first impression
Hong Kong was an insane airport, it's huge, and the taxiway seemed to go on forever. Not to mention that we got off at gate sixty something and had to walk, for what seemed like an eternity to gate 19. We weren't interested in anything except letting people know where we were. The joys of free wifi and Skype!
There was some problem with our passports and we had a Cathay Pacific staff member come looking for us specifically before boarding to fix it. Not sure what it was. The flight to Taipei was uneventful except for the interesting and tasty chickpea pie that was served as our gluten free meal... Renalda usually passes on the humus...
It seemed like we were always at the back of the queue to get on and off planes... And then again in the immigration control queue. Passport control was otherwise uneventful, except that I noticed some Asian women wearing surgical masks, except they had cartoon characters on them. When did surgical masks become fashion items? I was actually expecting some hassles from immigration, but nothing materialised.
We got a little nervous with regards customs, Renalda had packed some beeswax and I had packed some of my favourite nuts, Brazil nuts. We decided to declare them both. This involved Renalda having to unpack her check-in luggage and me having to get my Brazil nuts analysed by the animal and plant control officers. They took one of the nuts, cracked it open and saw that it was dry...and perhaps had no white powder in it... and sent me on my way.
There was a very friendly and efficient driver sent by Hess waiting for us and he drove us to Taipei at breakneck speed. All I can say is the infrastructure is unbelievable here, they make Baccleugh and Gillooly's look like child's play. It was cold, rainy and overcast, so I can't really say much more than that. The impression I got was that the Taipei landscape is similar to Durban, but perhaps I'll get a different impression in the sun. Drivers seem well behaved, and the traffic at 5:30 went quickly.
The hotel is ok, it is clean and doesn't smell like smoke and there is a western toilet. All's good. We had a shower and braved the cold and the traffic, and the possibility of getting lost to look for some food. We ended up eating at a seven-eleven. They have hot buffets of meatballs and vegetables kept warm in broth. I thought it was super tasty, but unfortunately didn't take a camera, so no pics. I think the stuff we ate was mostly primal.
We then went looking for instant coffee...I'll look for the real deal later when we are settled down. Finally we went into a supermarket and got some snacks, some of which are available at South African Chinese markets, so aren't unfamiliar to me. While walking back we got this eerie feeling that we were lost, even though we made the point of sticking to the road passing in front of the hotel. A lot of the shops repeat themselves regularly so it is sometimes difficult to remember where you are. We carried on as planned originally and finally found the hotel. I guess it doesn't help that the road is 6 lanes wide, with a bus lane down the centre, and that we walked up one side of it, and down the other! Anyway all's well that ends well.
We are now exhausted and ready for bed and it's 11 pm local time. 5 pm South African time. Perhaps our little jetlag experiment worked.