Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Departing Taiwan

We were up bright and early this morning after spending 40 Skype minutes on the phone with an Expedia rep last night. Even though the EVA Air agents at LAX couldn't find us on the itinerary TPE-HKG that we had purchased, and even though she couldn't find it herself, she told us she had talked to "Mark" at Hong Kong Airlines and that we were definitely on the plane.

It turned out the Sheraton Lounge didn't open until 7:00 a.m., so we caught the 80-minute bus ride to the airport ($90 or about USD $3 each) at that early hour instead, wanting to leave ourselves a lot of time to sort out our 12:40 p.m. flight or, if necessary, to buy new tickets to Hong Kong and argue with Expedia later.

Some of our final views of Taipei reinforced our earlier impressions. It's a clean and orderly place with a lot of technology and a lot of motorbikes. People are polite and even kind to each other and to foreigners. It's a place to which we would happily return.

Incidentally, here's a little trivia in passing. We asked one of our guides if these metal water containers visible on top of almost every building were solar water heaters. No, they are simply for storage in case the government has to switch off the water for a period of time.
As we board our bus, it appears as if it will be a quiet ride to the airport. Little did we know...

One final glimpse of Taipei 101 through the early-morning mist.
 Motorbikes everywhere with young riders, old riders, riders carrying children to school or day-care, swerving riders, careful riders, swarming yet mostly orderly...

Our bus bypasses a few hotels with nobody waiting, but suddenly starts to pick regular passengers - this seems to be doing double-duty as a city bus. The bus is full by the third stop but one passengers pleads politely and the driver lets her sit on the step next to him and also adjacent to us.
He also lets her off at an unofficial stop some time later - how's that for service. Most people say Xiexie (Thanks) to the driver as they get on and off and he reciprocates.
A lot of people wear masks - a woman across the bus aisle from us is wearing one too but we didn't feel like snapping her photo - and we think it may even be the law. When we first landed in Taipei we noticed a sign advising residents that if they show any sign of contagious disease that they are required to report to their doctor immediately.

We're still not sure if the mask-wearers are protecting us from their germs or themselves from ours - maybe some of each.

We go through the Electronic Toll Collection, or, as the signs read, ETC ETC ETC
We arrive at the airport in good time, and we say Xiexie to the driver and head for the EVA counters to see if we have tickets.

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