If there was one good thing about the flight back to Canada, it was that I live Tuesday, January 5th twice. So if I screwed up the first time, I had a chance to do it all over again and not make the same mistakes. Or maybe it's just the 50 straight hours without sleep talking...
The highlight of the trip was definitely Taipei. Back in June, I had arrived in the Taipei airport knowing that an 8-hour wait was in order. The place was horrible, the food was terrible, and I was just flat-out bored. One thing I did notice was that a free tour of Taipei was offered at 8 AM and 1 PM. Unfortunatley, my flight had arrived at 2 PM.
This time around, I arrived at 7:00 AM (due to my flight change), but still had a 7-hour wait ahead of me. On the bright side, I had the opportunity to take the tour. Apparently, the good immigration people at the airport will give you a 30-day visa-exempt entry for free...not bad for anyone with an extended layover. So I ventured up to the tourist bureau counter only to find out that the tour was full. "But I can show you how to get to Taipei on your own," she added.
Not wanting to turn down the possibility of getting lost and missing my flight, I noted the required information and headed to a bus. I just wish somebody would've reminded me that the people of Taiwan speak Mandarin and not Hindi. It took a surprising amount of time for me to figure that out and then try to remember the few Mandarin words I knew.
The bus ride took just over an hour to get downtown. Too bad the weather was a blustery, rainy 14 degrees because all I had was a t-shirt and pants. Didn't exactly want to get off the bus, but I reminded myself that it wasn't that cold.
When you reach downtown Taipei, you are greeted by one dominant landmark: Taiwan 101. No, it's not a university class, but rather the giant 101-storey building that adorns the cityscape. This thing is utterly ridiculous in the sense that it dwarfs everything around it. Not that the other buildings are that tall, but they look small nonetheless.
After walking around for a couple of hours, I came to the realization that this would be a city I could live in, or should I say, "eat in." There were restaurants everywhere of both the local and international variety. Couldn't complain about the cleanliness either. I would describe Taipei as Beijing without the police presence.
Made it back to the airport with 2 hours to spare. However, when I reached Terminal 2, I noticed that I didn't recognize the place at all. There were nice restaurants, new shops, new tiles, new waiting rooms, new everything. Basically, in the last 7 months the airport had all of a sudden become nice. "Well done," is all I have to say.
Now I'm back in Vancouver with still more travelling ahead of me to get back to Calgary...ugh.