Taiwan Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
17.01.2006 - 31.01.2006
Hong Kong to Taipei
The airport shuttle bus which picks up travelers along the Nathane avenue -- the longest avenue in Hong Kong -- was on time and spacious. I got to the airport around 9. Taiwan is my last destination. I had planned to shop for a ticket from Taipei to Korea while I was in Taiwan. At the boarding pass counter I was told that I cannot enter Taiwan without a return ticket. My visa is going to be valid for only 30 days and they needed a proof that I'm not planning to stay longer, so I was directed to the Cathay Pacific ticket center at the airport. At the ticket center they offered me an open ticket since I wasn't exactly sure when I'll be leaving Taiwan, before or after Chinese New Year. My common sense told me that an open ticket would not be accepted at the immigration since my visa is only valid for one month. But the ticket agent assured me that an open ticket is fine. The price was too high since a) it was an open ticket, b) the ticket center at the airport does not offer any promotions or discounts. I made sure I can refund the ticket in Taiwan, and went back to the boarding pass counter. I had only 10 minutes to board. At the boarding pass counter I, again, asked if an open ticket would be ok to enter Taiwan, the answer was "absolutely". I got on the plane and an hour and thirty minutes later landed in Taipei. At the immigration, I handed my passport and the arrival/departure card, but being stupid me, I couldn't keep my mouth shut and had an urge to share with the immigration officer that my ticket is open! What is wrong with me? He probably wouldn't even check my ticket as long as I had one.
It turned out that open tickets are not acceptable and as a result I was held up at the immigration. I was interrogated and asked to specify a return date for my flight to Korea. I was furious and not quite a lady. I had asked two agents at the Hong Kong airport if an open ticket would be ok they assured me it would. Now I've been denied entrance. I just couldn't understand why someone with a Canadian passport would be denied entrance for not having a certain return date. Why would I want to stay in Taiwan anyway? What do they think Taiwan has to offer me?
The Cathay Pacific center at the Taipei airport changed my ticket to the 26th. The camp ends on the 25th. I did not want to stay any longer than I had to, I wasn't feeling welcomed. "Thank you," I thought, "I'll spend my cash elsewhere!"
45 minutes later, 2 other teachers and I were picked up by the camp driver and taken to a hotel. That afternoon all of us met for an orientation and I met my boss, a nice, modest man who tried to make us feel at home. The first 3-day camp was going to start the next day.
Shilin night market in Taipei is huge and nice. The prices are higher than those in mainland China but stylewise there's more diversity. It took me two nights, 3 hours each to explore it. The food alley across from the subway station is absolutely fantastic. Taiwanese food is delicious.
My favorite site in Taipei was Hulai aboriginal village. The waterfall, mountains, river, bridges and apartment buildings were stunning. There are also trains and cable cars to take you to the top but they were unfortunately closed for Chinese New Year. I couldn't find a real hot spring; the advertised hot springs in the local spas were only pools and Jacuzzis inside luxurious bedrooms, something you'd rather do with a partner!
Taipei 101 is nicely designed; especially the first 5 floors are like art-deco, loaded with upscale boutiques and designer shops. I heard that the other floors are still empty and not yet rented out. Too bad, what a waste of view and space!
On my last day in Taiwan, I joined a tour to Yehliu, the hill with seawater-eroded rocks. The most famous rock is the queen's head, took us some time to get a clear shot with no tourists in the frame! The rocks were amazingly eroded in strange shapes, the sea was clear blue, and the clouds were dazzling.
Taiwan is so not Chinese! And Taiwanese people don't like to be called Chinese. There is a strong sense of unique identity and desire for independence among them and they sure deserve it. The culture's totally different and the social structure felt to me very different.