The title may seem misleading, and make you think that I had a terrible time in Taiwan. That however is not the case. I loved being in Taiwan. It has everything- outdoor recreation, ancient towns, efficient trains, and amazing food everywhere for super cheap. So what went wrong on our trip, or rather, what did I learn from some mishaps along the way?
The first problem happened while waiting for our plane to board. We were delayed because of runway congestion in Shanghai. I honestly don’t know how you can have runway congestion. It just seems that airports are managed so carefully to make sure planes take off at the right time. But that was why it took us about two hours to leave Fukuoka Airport. Then, as we are getting ready to land, I realized we were probably going to miss our connecting flight to Taipei, and sure enough, our plane touched down about twenty minutes too late. Excellent. So what does that mean? Will we be stuck in Shanghai overnight?
At this point, I usually panic and stress out. But strangely I didn’t. Maybe it is because I was completely ok with having to spend the night in Shanghai (I do love the city, and know where to get some good food and cocktails). Luckily you can get a 72-hour transit visa on arrival in Shanghai now, which would have allowed us to go into the city. So here I am, incredibly delayed, but not panicking.
We were dropped off at the terminal and the China Eastern ladies sent us to go through immigration, which leads us to believe that we are in fact going to be staying in Shanghai for longer than a few hours on this layover. I have to run at the last minute to fill out visa slips, and at this point it is apparent that there are a whole lot of people in my same position: delayed flights, going through customs, when in fact almost no one in line wants to stay in China.
After we clear customs and get 24 hours to stay in China, we are then escorted to the next line of crazed people trying to figure out how to get new connecting flights. Its a mad house, the poor people working must really have a high tolerance for stress, because people were angry, pissed, and overall very emotional. So we waited for what seemed like forever. As we waited the staff started handing out free bentos, snacks and soda. In hindsight, we should have grabbed them, but I wasn’t hungry at the time, and it was a mob scene.
Still waiting and waiting. We finally make it to the front of the line. Employee says we can get on a flight at 4pm. Its 2:45 now. Ok, doable, except we now have to go wait in another long line to get our tickets changed over. Time is ticking, no one is moving, I keep looking at the clock thinking we might not make it. Finally someone asks us when our flight is and opens the line so we can go to the front. We get our tickets (not together, but who cares) and we are off. Awesome, we are finally on our way!
Guess what? That flight was delayed too. So the train tickets that I had booked for 6 hours after we landed were going to waste, because we arrived to Taiwan about 30 minutes before our train was leaving Taipei station. No big deal, we can grab another train. Well, we miss the next train by a few minutes, so we wait an hour. But luckily the Taipei main train station has wifi, which allows me to contact the hostel to let them know we will be arriving after midnight. At this point, I am exhausted so all one can do is buy new train tickets, and get a few beers and snacks for the ride.
So, sort of the worst day of my travels in over 2 years. But I can’t complain. I could have a lot more racked up at this point. But I did learn major lessons. One, it’s probably best to get direct flights, although it’s usually so much cheaper with a connection. Or, maybe don’t connect through Shanghai in case of runway congestion. Second, never plan to get off of a 4 or 6 hour plane ride and jump on a train for more than 30 minutes to your next destination. Arriving after midnight to our first destination set the stage of being exhausted all week long.
I think the timing of all this was actually perfect, seeing as how we will be embarking on a very large voyage soon (more to come on that soon). But it really taught me that sometimes you need to slow down, or maybe as I get older I really need to take it easy while traveling.
Have you ever had any terrible travel days that make you rethink how to travel? I would love to hear your experience, and how you dealt with it.