Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Taiwan Travelogue: Taoyuan International Airport and a glance at the city

When the word Travel pops up, I am almost instantly excited and all the pictures of vacation and the prospects of wandering to a new place to see the other side of the world just come rushing into my mind. I mean, who doesn't like the idea of traveling, right?
So, when we decided and finalized on a surprise trip (oh, my surprise trip actually, by my hubby) last two months, I was thrilled and overjoyed that I was to pack my bags and get ready for another adventure.
Taiwan, yes, that is the place that I have been talking about for years, and have yet to make a trip and finally, it was realized early this year.
Almost everyone has been to Taiwan, but hey, it is not a race, so we are taking our own time to plan and explore this gem in Asia (though I would not say much about the planning, as it was more of a spur-of-the-moment kind of trip).

The idea of an early flight never bothers me, as I am naturally an early person who wakes up way before the birds do in the morning every day. Besides, when one is to embark on a journey to see the world, who needs that much sleep anyway?
I was busy finalizing my packing from the night before, and needless to say, I need no alarm clock to wake me up that morning as I was just anticipating the trip.

The newly renovated Penang International Airport, with the International Departure Gate beckoning to us while we finalize our documents after checking in.

 It was an approximately 5 hours flight; with a layover at the Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok International Airport, for about an hour before we finally landed at our destination.

Huge Taiwan flag displayed at the airport, greeting visitors at first sight upon landing at the international airport's runway.

Taiwan's Taoyuan International Airport, formerly known as Chiang Kai Shek International Airport (CKS) has seen the years taking its toll on this once glorious and much acclaimed landmark making to the list of one of the most impressively modern architecture for an airport in Asia and today, its lacklustre appearance has dethroned her from the likes of the rise of the other much modernized counterparts in the neighboring countries.
It was rather quiet really, at the time of my arrival, and the airport, while still maintaining the basic architecture is currently undergoing minor modifications to upgrade her already fading glory as proudly worn now by the far more impressive airports in Asia. While it is not too bad, I could not help but agree that the airport did indeed lack the wow factor and did not seem to synonym with the prestigious hat worn by one of the Five Tigers of the East, in which Taiwan was in the list. It may signal time for an upgrade, and I am sure it would be on the many belts of planning in the country.

Spotted, Hsin Tung Yang's outlet located at the airport, one of the big household names in the country for their pastries and baked goods (perhaps something like our very own Bee Cheng Hiang?)

As usual, we always preferred to travel on our own rather than book on tours and therefore, most of the time, it would require a lot of of research and planning to get around independently.
The first and foremost concern in question is the transportation, upon arrival, as in, getting out of the airport and to our hotel.

We found that there are bus services available at the airport, and for an approximate of TWD150 (~MYR16), we could board a bus which would take us to the nearest MRT station to our hotel.
(There is no direct bus to the hotel where we have booked for our stay).

There was a designated area right outside the airport where we could wait for our buses, and the lines are drawn clearly on the grounds for the queues. The Taiwanese do take their queues really seriously, based on my first impression as I noticed how the people would stand religiously and obediently to wait and there is no one who would cross over to overtake another. I would say this is something which should be observed and practised in all the countries.

Now, I have to admit, I am not much of a bus person. In fact, I am not much of a public transportation system either, and maybe you could say I am spoilt in that sense, but in my country, it seems to be easier and more convenient to own a car which gets us everywhere. Okay, now that sounds a little like over pampering, and I guess it is true. Don't get me wrong, I have gotten on buses and trains back in my country before, but not on a regular or daily basis, perhaps also due to my job nature and the frequent traveling, I am more used to cars.

Anyway, I am not that familiar with the bus system, and I was a little skeptical initially, preferring the cabs over the buses, but I was proven wrong when the bus arrived.
I was instantly bowled over by the warm welcome of the bus steward (yes, they have one) who came over to our queue to greet and to confirm on our tickets and destination, and of course, checking on the luggages. He helped us to put the luggages into the designated compartment at the lower part of the bus and then gladly answered our questions as we checked with him on the direction the bus will be traveling and our destination.

The bus was not like those public buses I had pictured, but rather, it felt more like a luxury coach which just made me instantly relaxed as I got on and enjoy my trip.
Oh one thing though, I remembered that the bus had this flapping sound at the roof; where I noticed that there was a huge plastic taped to prevent rain drops so I guess, it is time they look into the maintenance of the bus. After all, Taiwan is prone to rainfall too.

It was an approximately 45 minutes ride to the town; as the airport is located at an estimated 40km (~25 miles) away from the center of the city.

Scenes of Taipei from the bus (be reminded that these are from the outskirts of Taipei, as these are taken while traveling from the airport)

Arriving at the city; and the sudden change in the weather.
We were there in January, and it was during the winter season where sudden changes in temperature and rainfall can occur.
However, the weather was not too cold as in some of the other countries I have traveled to, and it was just nice with an average temperature of 16 degrees Celsius, and on certain days, it could go up to 18, or drop to 10, but in general, the temperature was just a cooler escape from the heat in our country.

Taipei is another metropolitan city that is full of hustle bustle and needs no introduction as our bus enters the roads lined with shophouses, skyscrapers and swerving against the motorcycles or rather, scooters which were so notoriously known and associated with the city that they have almost become one of the most iconic things to look out for in the city.

To be continued....

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