• 14 . 10 . 06
  • Rambling from a hotel room at an ungodly hour in Taipei, en route to England.

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Taipei Ramblings

Sometimes the world feels surreal and you wonder how you got here. Not metaphorically, I mean, literally. Typically it’s when you’ve just woken up in a strange place. It’s 5:30am, local time in Taipei and I’ve just gotten a wakeup call for a flight that’s leaving at 9:00am to take me home for the first time in over two and a half years. I’m still half asleep and it’s very misty outside, – almost ethereal and totally quiet. I’ve just noticed a network connection in my hotel room.

The layover I’m currently on is at the Taoyuan Holiday Hotel, the decor for which seems to riff on themes of pastel floral prints combined with 70’s brown and beige. It’s comfortable and clean though, this room is huge and it’s far better than I expected for a free extra. The airline I took to get here, EVA Air, is Taiwan’s national carrier, and quite a few people questioned its safety and comfort, and my sanity for choosing it. Happily, they were wrong, as yesterday’s flight was excellent, with personal movie choice, courteous staff and the same reassuring bland food as everywhere else. It helped that the seat next to me was empty – I’m hoping for similar luck today as well.

I met a Canadian girl, Jen, who was on the same flight and who happened to also be laying over on her way to Vancouver. After getting sorted at the hotel, we bravely forged out to try and find something to eat only to realise that neither of us had any money. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I didn’t really consider the fact that I was actually spending time here. The first few ATMs we went to wouldn’t let us take any money out, despite the fact they claimed to offer international withdrawals. Worryingly, one of them crashed while I was using it, throwing up a Windows error in Chinese. When finally I was able to get money out, I got 1000… yuan, is it? I still don’t know what the currency, which is pretty lame. More worryingly, I don’t know what the exchange rate is, and I might have taken out $400. Though it’s occurred to me I can find out now… 1000 yuan = – Ok, so Taiwan uses New Dollars, right. And I took out… £16 GBP. Wow, so everything here is really cheap. They were selling Jack Daniels for around £2 GBP a bottle.

I’m not sure exactly where I am in Taipei, but it’s about 25 minutes from the airport by bus, and it has an… interesting smell. Sort of like fried chicken, but with wet dog and open sewer. There’s very little written English, which might sound obvious, but wasn’t the case in Japan, where you could usually muddle through. I get the impression that living here would be pretty difficult for the first few months. I was happy to be able to pick out some kanji from the mass of text, but generally couldn’t understand anything. It was kind of the same feeling as when I first got to Japan, but somehow… darker.

Anyway, I should probably go back to sleep and get some more rest. Tomorrow’s flight is 17 hours, which will probably be tough, no matter how good the airline is. On the plus side… I’m coming home.

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