On the other hand, there was surprising and unusual thing that happened on my flight. Apparently, in the middle of the night, a passenger had a medical emergency (not too sure what happened exactly) and the cabin crew began announcing over the intercom (over and Over and OVER again), "We have a passenger who has a serious medical emergency. If you are a member of the medical health profession, we ask you to please contact your nearest flight representative so that we can obtain your assistance." I never did find out what happened or if everything was resolved, but that definitely is not a message you'd hear on most flights.
Meanwhile, since I arrived so early (around 5 am) at BCIA (Beijing Capital International Airport) Terminal 3, I got to take a few pictures of the sunrise with my phone. They aren't great quality, but I think it gets the point across. I also got myself a green tea frappe from Starbucks (星巴克) and enjoyed it while I waited for my flight to Taiwan. After the sun rose, it actually got so hot that I started sweating just by sitting down and waiting next to the gate. But in the end, once I got onto the plane, everything (at least temperature-wise :P) got better. I took a long nap on this flight and before I knew it, I could see the land mass of Taiwan out the window, accompanied by the "We are now preparing for landing. Please securely fasten your seatbelts..." speech) Haha.
Some photos of the sunrise! I tried to taking pictures from the same location to show the sun slowly lighting up the sky...
Hahaha I saw this when I was logging on to the wifi. I laughed out loud when I saw "loginging" - I'm pretty sure they meant "logging in". Chinese translations are not always the best. But I gotta give them some credit, as I do like the clouds :P Anyways, that's enough about Beijing for now. I'll be back there in a week, so I'll be sure to post more then!
Taiwan time!!! So... I arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport around noon and quickly passed through immigration since I was visa-exempt! (hehe the coolness of having a US passport). Even though the lines were still long, they moved a lot faster than those in China. WAYYY faster.
YAYYY! I'm admitted into Taiwan! xD
After arriving, I did the basics first - exchanging some money to local NTD (New Taiwan Dollar), getting a SIM card for my phone (which I found out I couldn't do, since I was under 20 years old...), obtaining a Youth Travel Card, and purchasing my bus ticket to Taipei. I previously read online that 国光 (Kuo-Kuang) bus had some of the more comfortable buses, so I decided to give it a go. It only cost NT125 ($4.17) to travel around 40 km! Compare that to a taxi I later took to my hotel which cost me NT100 ($3.33) to travel only 1.4 km! Such a big difference! I didn't get to take a picture of the outside of my bus, but here's what it looked like inside - I would say it was pretty comfortable overall :)
Some pictures I took out the window along the way to 台北车站 (Taipei Main Station)...
It's sooo green! Kinda reminds me of when I was flying over North Carolina a few years ago.
It's a school! Those gates really remind me of where my relatives live in Beijing. Haha
Some shops that we passed by in Taipei. I think this picture defines the streets of Taipei quite well (if you add more people, that is) :P
There are sooooo many scooters/motocycles/whateveryouwannacallthem in the streets of Taipei! They look like they're all about to start a race lol. Vrooming down the street between the cars and past the people!
And, at last I arrive at 台北车站!
Before I left on my trip, I initially planned to walk to my hotel, since I knew it wasn't too far from the station. As soon as I stepped outside though, the combination of the hot temperature, and given that I had no idea where I was, led me to reconsider my option of walking. I did take a few laps around the station to try to familiarize myself with the surroundings, but that basically failed. In the end, a taxi ended up stopping in front of me asking if I needed directions (I guess I looked too lost). At that point, I just gave up and asked the driver to take me to my hotel. Fortunately, he was really nice, and told me a lot about Taiwan, from politics to places worth visiting. He dropped me off right in front of my hotel (城美大饭店 - Chair Man Hotel), and even though the cost was not cheap, it was nice to be where I wanted to be without much hassle. I didn't get to take a picture of the outside of the hotel (I'll be sure to sometime before I leave), but here's a picture of my room!
In all honesty, it was really, really small, but surprisingly comfortable, and cozy. I ended up really enjoying my stay.
Upon arriving in my room, I put my stuff down and got to take a break and chat with a friend from Taiwan, before deciding to venture out and explore the streets of Taipei. It was around 4 pm, so I decided to make a trip to Xinyi District, where shops of all the fancy European brands as well as the Taipei 101 are located. When I left my hotel, I turned right and began walking, with not idea where I was heading. I wanted to get to the MRT station, but after walking around 40 minutes in circles, I decided to take a cab. While I was trying to get a cab, I happened to encounter the entrance to the MRT (the subway system in Taipei). Therefore, I got a EasyCard, which can be used for public transport in most Taiwanese cities (kinda similar to a Washington, DC SmarTrip card), and then was off on my way! I got off at 市政府 station and made a mental note to myself where the MRT entrance was located so I would be able to find my way back.
Some pictures I took as I was walking in Xinyi District:
And DIN TAI FUNG!!! :D
By the time I finished dinner, the sun had set! I was surprised that it set so early! I took my leftover food and I handed my money to the server, only to have it returned to me since, apparently in Taiwan, people walk up the the front counter to pay the bill. It wasn't a cheap meal to say, but it was definitely quite an experience. After leaving satisfied and full, I did a little bit more of exploring the area before I went up to the observation deck of the Taipei 101 (it took me a while to find the entrance lol). For those of you going to Taipei, the individual entrance is on the 5th floor, which you have to get to from the 4th floor... because the elevator to the 5th floor doesnt access the observatory entrance. >.<
So I found the entrance at last!
Tickets are not the cheapest for the observatory deck. It is comparable to those for the Empire State Building, at least when I went there. Since I had the Youth Travel Card, it was NT450 ($15). It was only NT50 off the regular adult price, but I guess savings is savings, especially when NT50 can get you a lot of other things here in Taiwan. ;) The elevators that go up to the 89th floor are apparently one of the fastest elevators, so before I even got the chance to take a picture inside the elevator, we arrived at the observatory deck. I spent over an hour on the 89th floor, the first half taking pictures out the windows from each direction; the second half just sitting down and reflecting on life, and watching the brightly lit streets of Taipei.
I later climbed stairs up to the 91st floor (I'm surprised they didn't install escalators like the ones I've found in other tall buildings), to the outside deck. The walls were quite high, but I got to feel the breeze blowing across my face as I stood there in wonder - just staring into the far distance.
In order to get back down, I had to walk down to the 88th floor first, where the great ball was located (muahahahahaha).
Okay, enough of my craziness... By the time I descended the tower, I was getting really tired, so I started on my way back to my hotel. I took a few final pictures as I was walking back to the station (I remembered where it was!).
After I got back to the MRT station from where I started (that is, the one closest to my hotel, I think), I began my journey trying to find where my hotel was. Fortunately for me, it didn't take as long for me to find my hotel, as it took for me to find the MRT station earlier in the afternoon. Upon arriving back in my room, I got to talk to my Taiwanese friend for the first time through VOIP (for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry about it :P), before collapsing onto my bed. By now, jetlag was kicking in, and I felt really tired, even though it was only around 9 pm. I initially wanted to go visit 西门町 (Ximending), but since I was falling asleep, I left that on my list for my next day.
I think that's all for the day. Have a good night everyone! Zzzzzzz...