After reading endless posts of friends heading to this country or that, my turn has finally come. Unlike the past few vacations I have taken, this trip to Taiwan has been different in so many ways.
This time round, I am travelling with three sisters, two of whom I am meeting for the first time at the airport, and both of them approximately half my age. Even though this is not the first time I am travelling with strangers, it is the first time I am travelling with strangers this young and I do wonder if I would be able to keep up with their pace. Thankfully, all of us are looking forward to a leisurely vacation and I think that helped set a moderate pace that has been comfortable for all of us.
Another difference that stood out for me was the benefits of an afternoon flight. I am well aware that this essentially means I would not be able to ‘do much’ in Taiwan and the first day would be ‘gone traveling’; but hey, I am going for a break, not to ‘do’ anything. For a change, I did not have to rush home after work to do last-minute packing before the red-eye flight, neither did I have to wake up at some ungodly hour to catch an early morning flight. Taking a 1 pm flight meant I could enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and even have an early lunch at the airport before boarding. In all honesty, I felt great and marvelled at this being a wonderful way to set the right tone for a holiday.
That said, there is a price to pay as well (or perhaps this is merely a coincidence being the holiday season). There were queues everywhere at the airport. We had to stand in line for a good 20 minutes or so to check in, stand in line again for food at the airport F&B outlet and stand in line again for checks at the boarding gate and later to board. Not to mention that our flight was delayed by 20 minutes, which led to a mad rush to settle everyone and take off as quickly as humanly possible.
When we arrive at Taiwan, it was also a good 30 minutes or so wait to complete immigration procedures. By the time we came to collect our luggage, the belt was already circulating the luggage of the next flight. Thankfully all our bags were located and intact. Yet, I must confess to being mildly disoriented as I have honestly never seen Taoyuan Airport to be this busy. Ever. There were hoards of people waiting for buses at every turn, all counters were busy serving people purchasing their tickets and taxi drivers coming up in succession to tout their services. Not very chaotic, truth be told, but still rather unexpected.
We eventually managed to hop onto Bus 705 that took us to Taoyuan HRS Station where we planned to catch the high speed rail that would bring us to Taichung in 40 minutes. Our initial plan was to travel by coach but having been informed of traffic jam that would add at least an hour to the 2-hour journey, and having just come off at 4.5 hours flight, we decided against it. However, horrors of horrors, because we arrived on Friday, there were also HSR tickets! We arrived at the station at 7:40 pm to learn that the earliest available train was 9:20 pm… Unless we took business class. We looked at each other and decided to go for it; none of us were terribly excited by the thought of hanging out at HSR for 45 minutes.
In case anyone is interested, the difference between standard class (TWD$540) and business class (TWD$805) on the HSR is the latter includes refreshments in the form of a hot drink and snack, which ain’t too bad even though I don’t think I would have paid the price difference for these refreshments. Nonetheless, we were simply glad to be able to get to Taichung in 40 minutes as promised and be on our way to our final destination, thankful for friends who came out from their comfortable homes to take us to our hotel. It was 10 pm by the time we checked in and… To our surprise, we received a free upgrade, which offered each of us a double bed, which all of us appreciated and made good use of.
Before we ended our evening, we spent some time exploring our surroundings and brought back supper in the form of 甜不辣 and 炸鸡排, which gave a perfect finish to the first day of our vacation. And this is after we had 葱饼 on the way back.
That’s right, this is a foodie vacation, one where we pledged to use our stomach more than our brain. ~ To be continued…