Much as I would have wished to spend at least one more day in Taipei, no amount of wishing could change the date and time on my airline ticket – and that time was drawing ever closer. Time to pick up my bags, say my farewells, and head for the airport.
The same bus that brought me into the city centre – Kuo-Kuang service number 1819 – was also the most direct means of transport for my return journey to Taoyuan Airport. The drop-off point coming into the city was on the eastern side of the Taipei Station complex, but this time I had to walk over to the other side and catch a ride from the Kuo-Kuang hub at Taipei West Station Terminal A. (This website has detailed instructions on how to reach the terminal, though bear in mind that there’s a lot of construction work going on in the vicinity of Taipei Station so certain exits, routes, and passageways might not be accessible at any given time.)
About an hour later, the bus dropped us off at Terminal 1 of Taipei’s main international gateway.
The check-in counters for my flight were still closed. To kill both time and hunger, I headed for the basement and sought out some vegetarian cuisine, eventually settling on a meatless bibimbap. (I strongly prefer the regular beef variety, but it was Fish Friday after all – or Veg Friday in my case as I loathe seafood – so the cows gained a momentary reprieve.)
I was particularly grateful for the meal – which was effectively a late lunch despite it being dinnertime – as I hadn’t had anything substantial since breakfast. The cross-city architectural walk took up much of the day and I’d only managed to squeeze in a brief snack stop before now.
Afterwards, I headed back up and admired the results of Terminal 1’s recent renovation programme. Comparing the following scenes with how the building looked previously, I’d rate the project a success.
The check-in counters eventually opened for business and clerks set to work processing passengers for my flight.
I queued up, collected my boarding pass, endured the usual formalities at immigration, and emerged at the other side within the building’s secure area.
Taoyuan is a pretty good airport overall, but there was a lot of renovation work going on whilst I was there and large sections were temporarily walled off. As a result, some direct paths were inaccessible and passengers like me had to take long, circuitous routes between various parts of the terminal.
There were also some odd little quirks, like an escalator so short that it almost seemed like a joke.
Not the shortest in the world – apparently that (rather dubious) honour goes to a specimen in Japan – but it came pretty close, and what really sealed the deal was the fact that once at the top…
… the floor actually sloped down a little, which probably cancelled out a third or so of the increase in elevation gained from the escalator.
Oh, I’m sure there was a very good reason behind this madness, but whatever it was seemed lost in the clouds of hilarity that were filling my head at the time. (Access for people with walking difficulties didn’t seem to cut it as an excuse, considering that there was a wide and very gently sloped ramp-like stretch of floor just beside this lilliputian wonder.)
My ride back home was on Cebu Pacific flight 5J 313, scheduled to depart at 21:15. The plane was supposed to dock at gate A1, A2, or A3 (can’t remember which one exactly) at the northernmost tip of Terminal 1, quite a long walk from most of the airside shops and restaurants.
This part of the terminal was clean and well maintained, but perhaps a little dated in appearance – almost as if the place hadn’t been touched since Taoyuan Airport was built. There was some evidence of construction work so one might hope that in time, these gates will look as slick and modern as the rest of the building.
Our scheduled boarding time was still over half an hour away, so I doubled back and popped into one of the few dining options in this part of the terminal.
On the way back to the boarding gates, I spied an interesting sign over a shop that was already closed for the night.
Then the bad news started pouring in.
First came the announcement of a delay. Okay, fine – this was a budget airline and delays are pretty much part of the package.
This was followed by a gate change. Apparently, we’d been reassigned to B2, all the way on the other side of the terminal. The transfer was no small matter, as the following satellite view of the terminal will help illustrate.
Gates A1-3 were in the rounded appendage near the top of the image. Gate B2, on the other hand, was in its similarly designed counterpart on the other side, towards the right of the visible area. This meant that we had to go back down to where the northern row of boarding gates was connected to the main building, walk all the way across the terminal, move into the southern wing, and then head back up to where our new aerobridge was waiting. The distance alone would have made it an exhausting hike, but the ongoing renovation works made it even more tiring, because instead of moving in a straight – and preferably flat – route, signs directed us on a long detour up and down a series of stairs through a separate floor where the airline lounges were located.
When we finally arrived at gate B2, there was still no plane; just an announcement stating that our departure time had been shifted to 22:30.
In any case, let’s not dwell on that horrible experience. (^_^) Time to leave all this negative baggage behind and head for home.
The plane was a relatively new A320. Nothing remarkable about the equipment – standard economy seats with minimal legroom.
The flight turned out to be quite eventful, thanks – or rather no thanks – to a group of rowdy passengers sitting just in front of my row. Mostly of European extraction, if the accents were anything to go by. They spoke in English (very LOUD English, I might add) but the voices hinted at a tossed salad of countries ranging from the U.K. to France to Spain and others. Despite the efforts of the cabin crew, these people acted like a horde of Huns out on a morning pillage: blocking the aisle, talking animatedly with no regard for the sleeping passengers around them (it’s PAST MIDNIGHT, you barbaric lot!), and exchanging streams of foul curse words that might have made even a pirate blush with shame.
One or more of them might also have had a little too much to drink before the flight, because at some point a member of the horde accidentally bashed his head against a hard surface in the lavatory and came out with a rather serious wound. The cabin attendants administered first aid, but the injury was severe enough to warrant summoning an ambulance, which met our plane as soon as it stopped on the tarmac in Manila early the next morning.
Whilst hoping that their friend eventually made a full recovery, I certainly hope these blokes have learned their lesson!
And with that rather rocky ride, my first holiday in Taipei has officially come to an end. Despite the, er, somewhat interesting finish, everything else was absolutely wonderful – and I have every intention of returning to Taiwan at some point in the future.
Cheers and thanks for accompanying me on this journey. Our next adventure: a November family trip to Japan’s Kansai region in pursuit of food, history, autumn colours … and one can’t forget the big theme park in those parts!