KLM flight to Taipei, Taiwan arrives at 14:40 (that is 2:40 PM for those who still do AM and PM) – right on time! I make it through immigrations with no delays despite my initial worries and head out to fresh Taipei air.
Taipei Taoyuan International Airport is huge, modern and very clean. I did not know what I was expecting but this was far above that. I guess the stories my parents told me from their – sorry our – time in Taiwan left me to believe I would be entering a country less developed. Was I mistaken! I left Taiwan via the old international airport, Taipei Songshan Airport 5 decades ago. Back then you walked across the tarmac to a flight of stairs to board your plane. Maybe I thought things had not changed.
Outside the arrival terminal I decided I would splurge and take a taxi to the hotel. Better than getting lost in a country whose main language I do not speak. This was the first time I travelled to a country where I would have to rely on finding someone who spoke English.
The taxi driver spoke no English but thankfully the print out of my hotel reservation was also written in Chinese. Surly he would drop me off at the right address. At the corner of the main street the taxi driver stopped and urged me out. Surely this can’t be right. The hotel was no where to be seen. But the taxi drivers hand gestures left m no choice but to get out. All the signs were in Chinese (there was a small sign with “Forever Inn” in English, but I only saw that after walking up and down this street a couple of times.
The hotel is not bad at all – initial shock at the tiny space, but it was cheap, clean, had free wifi and was very close to the MRT which would be my main mode of transportation.
One quick shower and change or clothes later I am on the streets of Taipei.
Trying to think back on what my first impressions were the only thing I can remember is admiration. What a modern city, but still full of its Chinese heritage. The only other city in Asia that I have to compare Taipei with is Singapore and Jakarta. Jakarta is thoroughly Indonesian – a melting pot of cultures, languages and religion mixed with old and new. Singpore……. Well Singapore is Singapore. If you have not been it is well wort a visit. Although a tiny island city-state it is a global hub and you can shop till you drop at modern sleek malls or traditional Asian market style stalls. And everyone speaks English!
Enough on Singapore – I am in Taipei now….. (More on Singapore when I go for my next visa run)
I had only been a few hours in Taipei, yet I felt like I belonged. I felt very much at home even if I had forgotten how to speak Chinese! I have traveled to many places for business or pleasure yet had never experienced these emotions I had just being in Taipei. I knew then that I had to come back.
(Am slightly distracted as the US Election results are coming in and I am trying to follow it and how this will affect currency exchange rates – although I am closing my business in Germany I still have to work and operate on the global market)