The Taipei metro is extremely convenient and makes stops at the Taipei zoo and even the Maokong Gondola. In addition, it is cost efficient. If you were to travel less than 5KM or more than 31KM, it is 20 and 65 TWD respectively. This comes out to about 70 cents and two dollars respectively.
The Songshan Airport is not the major international airport in Taiwan. The major airport in Taiwan, Taipei is Taoyuan. Songshan Airport is mostly for domestic flights, but includes flights to parts of China and Japan. This two story airport is relatively small and maybe has about ten airplanes on the runway at once.
From staying in Taiwan for two weeks, I had amassed a bunch of food goodies including crackers and dry noodles. In fact, I came to Taiwan with two piece of luggage, but one of the pieces was empty. Now both pieces were full. My intention was to check in both pieces of luggage, but when I got to the front counter, the airline assistant determined that I was over the limit and had to carry one on. Fine, this wasn't a problem.
My aunt was with me and we were extremely early. Check-in only took about 5 minutes, so she decided to head back and pick up some stomach pills for me. If you aren't use to the food in China, you could get a stomach ache or worse diarrhea. She asked that I wait upstairs. It wasn't until I went upstairs and sat down to wait for my flight did I realize that I had some water filled products in my carry-on. These were cosmetic products that a friend had asked I take back for her. There was no way I was dumping this as I went to two different stores to get these.
10:00AM – Rush down the escalator to attempt to check in my second piece of luggage
By now the line for checking in had become long, but I wasn't worried. I still had about an hour before boarding. I explained to the flight counter attendant that I needed to check in my second bag. He weighed it and said that it would cost about 3,000 TWD, which is about $100 USD. Of course I didn't want to pay $100 to check in the bag. So he advised that I go to the airport postal office and pick up a box and fill it with 7KG worth of items. Then I would bring back the box and check-in the box and carry on my luggage.
Luckily the post office was about 5 minutes away. I asked the post office attendee for a box that would fit some of my clothes. He went behind the counter and pulled out a box and I gave him 45 TWD or roughly $1.50 USD. Now, I don’t have much experience with packaging or sealing boxes, so I struggled to tape the cardboard box for about ten minutes. Finally the post office attendee saw my incompetence and helped me by folding in the smaller flaps in then the larger flaps. Then I used the masking tape to seal the bottom of the box. I then began to pull out my clothes from my luggage and began to dump it in the box. When I felt like I had 7KG, I asked him to weight it on his scale. 6.6KG, great it was good enough. In the meantime, I was thinking, is my aunt going to come back and not find me upstairs? What if she comes back before I’m finished? What time is it? Am I going to miss my flight?
By the time I finished packing my box, it was already 10:45AM. I had fifteen minutes to get back and check in my package. It takes five minutes to get back to the check-in counter. So really, I had ten minutes to check in and go through security upstairs. Fantastic I thought to myself. When I got back to the check-in counter, I discovered that the line grew and now looked like a ten minute wait. I’m done for. I’m going to miss my flight and I have no idea if my aunt came back to look for me or not.
I checked-in and then discovered that my flight had been delayed until 12:15PM. That works better for me. I rushed upstairs, but didn't see my aunt. Well she either hadn't come back yet or she came back and maybe saw that I left. I figured I’d wait about ten minutes and see if she comes up. If not, then I’m going to go through security. Lone behold, my aunt comes up via the escalator. After a heartfelt good-bye, I walked to security. Now I had about an hour to kill, so I figured I’d get some chicken and rice for lunch. Surprisingly the meal was not expensive, it was about 195 TWD, which is less than $10 dollars for airport food.
12:45PM - Boarding flight to Shanghai Pudong Airport
The flight gate changed about three times as I was waiting in the Songshan Airport. You can imagine a group of people walking back and forth between Gate 6 and Gate 2 every thirty minutes. Finally the plane comes and we board at 12:45 PM. I actually wished that the flight be delayed even longer because I know I have about a 5 hour wait when I get to Shanghai. My business partner’s flight doesn't get in until nighttime.
The flight to Shanghai was about an hour and a half. When I arrived I had to go through customs and immigration. Of course they saw the big cardboard box I was carrying and asked that I put it through the x-ray scanner. When I was at immigration, there were two sections. One section of lines was for foreigners and one was for Chinese. The irony of this is that I look Chinese, but I’m actually American. So, I went to the foreigners’ line, which had nobody.
2:00PM – Waiting at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport for my business partner
I found a place to sit at the airport near a restaurant. This would be my campground for at least three hours. My business partner’s flight doesn't get in until 5:00PM or so I had thought. In the time I sat at the airport, I saw a policeman walking around and people sweeping the floors. The policeman looked just as a bored as I was. He walked around and every hour or hour and a half they would switch shifts. They mostly gave directions to people. Two Chinese men sat in the seat next to mine and pulled out a map of the city. Supposedly they picked it up from a car rental company just on the other side of the airport. So, I figured maybe I can get one. When I approached the counter and asked for a map, they said they didn't have any in the rudest tone I've ever heard. What a load of crap.
7:00PM – Still at the Hongqiao Airport
Now I've begun to get worried. My phone didn't have international services and I had no way of getting in contact with my business partner. No idea whether or not he would be able to find me or contact me. It is now two hours after his plane should have landed. What is going on? I got desperate. Hoping to find a phone line that works, I walked over the pay phones. Luckily I had some Chinese loose change. As I was about to put in my coins, an airport sweeper said that those phones don’t work. Great! What do I do now? He asked where I was calling and I told him to a number in Shanghai. Then he offered to let me use his cell phone. I gave him the number I was calling and he dialed it. Turns out my business partner’s flight was delayed and had just landed. For XXX sakes, this is ridiculous. After eight hours, he arrives with his drive and we go to where we will be staying for the majority of our trip. I got settled, showered, had some Subway, and knocked out.
My First Experience in China - People's Republic of China - Day 2