Day 1.

Chris is filling in time in the airport.

Sunday 16th December 2007

Left home at 6.45 a.m. to pick up Chris to go to airport.  Arrived at 7.45 am for our 10.15 am flight.  The airport was really busy and it took 30 min to check in our luggage.  Our allowance was 2 bags each and 35 kg each.  We had about half that so I guess we can bring back as much as we like!  We almost bought some vegemite but were reminded by the sales lady that it’s banned in the US (contains something bad).

We then took about 40 min to go through immigration.  Once on the other side we bought 4 drinks for $17.00 and a few presents.  Our plane ended up being delayed over an hour which was good as we have about 6 hours in Taipei.

Our flight to Taipei was 8 hours but the fantastic in-flight entertainment helped things along.  On our individual touch screens we could see the captain’s view (made take off and landing seem like a simulator flight), a bird’s eye view and flight data and there were dozens of games and a dozen movies and shows in each of about 8 categories.

The airport in Taipei was quite big with nice shops, but the air conditioning was far too cold even when we put all our layers on.  Matthew and I sent some emails for free.

After 5 hours we boarded our second flight at 11.30 p.m. Taipei time, for 12 hours.  The plane again was pretty much full but Michael and I had a spare seat so I was able to lie down (and sleep) which was great as my back was pretty sore after the first flight.  Christopher was asleep before we even took off and Matthew slept a fair amount too.  Fortunately the 12 hours passed quickly and was reduced by a 180 km/hr tail wind.

We arrived at LA (huge and full of lights) at 6.30 p.m.  and thought we had made it, but the worst was yet to come.  First it took 15 min to get off the plane (a full 747 through one door).  Then we sat on a bus for 15 min before it took us to the terminal.  Then we stood in an immigration queue for 30 min.  When it was our turn, the officer was not happy with our forms.  On the plane we were given Chinese forms as they had run out of English, with a different English form to get the questions from.  The forms were not quite the same and we were told not to fill in the back.  We did as much as we could.  The officer could have let us complete the forms we had (5 min) but no, he told us to go back and do them again on the English forms he gave us.  Fortunately we didn’t have to re-queue as the line was twice as long.

We then collected our luggage.  The place was packed.  It was then a 30 minute line up through customs.  The arrivals hall was about the size of Brisbane but with about 10 times the travellers and 10 times the people waiting for them.  We asked at information where to get our shuttle bus to the hotel.  (This was a short walk along the foot path).  After waiting nearly an hour and seeing shuttle buses from other hotels come and go several times, we eventually gave up and got a taxi – $17.50 minimum fare (actually only $8).  When we arrived at the hotel (and saw the shuttle bus sitting out the front) we asked how often they arrive and were told every 30 min but you need to phone them from the courtesy phone at the airport.  Not sure how you are meant to know that when passengers from other hotels didn’t do that.

By this time it was 9.15 p.m. and we were quite hungry.  We walked 15 min to a Burger King – it was very cold.  On the way back we bought some stamps at a post office which was still open at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night and, even worse, had a queue of about 15 people!!

We eventually went to bed, but due to all the sleep I got on the plane I now find myself awake at 2.00 a.m. drinking tea and writing my travel diary in the bathroom so as not to wake anyone!

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