We’ve spent two crazy whirlwind days in transit, even though the calendar says it’s three, but we are finally here in Taichung, Taiwan. It’s been a true journey of planes, trains, and automobiles (and even buses!).
We woke up on Thursday morning around 4 am in Greenville, and Steve’s parents drove us to the airport, and we hugged them goodbye and gave kisses to Stella, who let out one farewell bark when she saw us disappear into the airport. We will miss that dog like crazy! I already do. We had one short but uncomfortable flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, and then a four-hour layover where we walked around the airport. We happened upon the inaugural direct flight for American Airlines from Dallas/Fort Worth to Beijing, which featured a bunch of Chinese dancers (probably from the local Chinese school), several TV crews which were going around and asking passengers about why they were traveling to Beijing, and a buffet table of Chinese delicacies. I overheard a photographer grilling the man behind the table on exactly what soymilk tasted like, which made me smile.
When we boarded our own non-stop flight to Asia, we lucked out in a few ways. First of all, though we had gotten the middle two seats in the middle row of four, the aisle seat on the right was empty. We managed to spread out a bit more, and got more sleep than we would have otherwise. Secondly, I didn’t know the true span of the flight. We realized afterwards that it had been a 17-hour flight, and I think I would have tried to strangle somebody if I really thought about it at the beginning. But because I didn’t know, I was able to more blissfully just watch some movies and assume it was like a 12-13 hour flight like the usual transpacific flights. Finally, neither of us ended up having to take Dramamine or Benadryl to fall asleep – we got off in Hong Kong around 6 pm local time feeling tired, but not cranky and miserable, which was amazing. We wandered around the airport a little bit before having dinner, and then napping at our gate. At 10:50 pm local time, we boarded our last flight of the journey to Taipei, which went by very quickly. There was a group of mainland Chinese tourists behind us who had perhaps not flown before, because they repeatedly jabbed the stewardess button on their seats before we took off, and one of them had to come explain to the tourists that it was a call button that they shouldn’t touch unless they needed assistance!
By the time we landed in Taiwan, it was 12:40 am on Saturday. Steve and I got some cash out of an ATM, jumped in a taxi, and arrived at the hotel I had booked online. Taipei’s larger international airport is in Taoyuan, about an hour southwest of the city, so we simply got a place in Taoyuan for that evening. I prepared for bed while Steve went out to 7-Eleven, and around 2:30 am, we both fell asleep. This morning, we woke up early, as is the tendency with jet lag, and went down to the free breakfast buffet. It was just a gorgeous, dainty, delicious spread of food that was all for free, and we spent a while just marveling at how good it was to be in Taiwan again. Steve has never quite stopped talking about Taiwan, but it’s been a long time since last January, which is when we left the island.
Following breakfast, we checked out and hustled ourselves to the local train station. There we found that the 9:44 am to Taichung did not have any seats available. I stumbled over vocabulary talking with the attendant before I realized that he was telling us we could buy standing tickets. Not for the first time, we boarded a pretty crowded train, and spent one and a half hours standing among semi-air conditioned, semi-hot and sweaty commuters watching the countryside roll by. At 11:30 am, we got into Taichung, and boarded the BRT (bus rapid transit), which has a dedicated lane in traffic, toward the center of town. Right around noon, we found ourselves in Ryan and Sandy’s apartment, where we are tonight. Sandy is natively Taiwanese, and Ryan is from the UK and US. They’re a great couple whom we’re couchsurfing for tonight, and we traded lots of stories about travel and different places. I also am really enjoying hearing the local gossip about Taichung, which is already more than meets the eye. The public transit system here is going through a lot of changes, because a new mayor was elected, and it’s already changed a lot since we came through in the fall of 2013 to watch the Asia Series baseball game and visit Sun Moon Lake. It’s going to be a really interesting time!
The last (and most important?) thing we did today was to call up a few apartments and arrange visits. We had arranged to stay with Sandy and Ryan for two nights while we found a place to stay, but Steve and I ended up going with the very first apartment we saw, which has to be a record: we signed a lease within 14 hours of landing in Taiwan! It’s a great place, AND I knew that great places were in short supply according to the list of rentals I had finalized. Our new place, which we will be moving to tomorrow, is just a few blocks removed from a park corridor through the city. It has a small living room and a large bedroom, as well as a tiny balcony and washing machine. It overlooks a small verdant courtyard with trees and bushes, and is just around the corner from some great looking coffeeshops. It is about 20 minutes walking distance from my internship location, and also 15 minutes from a gorgeous local park. The rent is reasonable, and the landlord got us outfitted with keys. We also stopped at a mobile store and got me a SIM card with a local number.
Tomorrow, we’ll get breakfast with Sandy and Ryan and then figure out how to move our stuff over and begin collecting all the things we need: bed linens, pillows, clotheshangers, toothpaste, and a million other things. A trip to IKEA may be in the works too! Right now, exhaustion looms large in our view. Despite a two hour nap before dinner, Steve and I are already flagging again. It reminds me of those bleary days of our circumnavacation in 2013 when we started things off in Japan and had to be out of the house for the entire time our host Ken was out, so we immediately got used to sleeping like the dead from midnight to 6 am.
I start my internship on Tuesday, so we have a tiny bit of breathing room. I think that with today, we’ve gotten off to a good start, blogging-wise. I’ve joked that since I’ll be working, the blog will either be really sparse, or you will hear a lot more from Steve about programming. But I hope the secret to successful blogging for me when I’m incredibly busy will be remembering to just sit down for 15 minutes every other day and scribbling down a few things. If I strive for grand sweeping reviews of events with a blow-by-blow account, you’ll never hear from us again. So I think we can look forward to some mini posts!
Good night for now,