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Taiwan / Hong Kong / Singapore - March/April 2011 - Page 4

Day 10 - Sunday, 3 April 2011


Another fine day in Kaohsiung, I have been very fortunate with the weather so far.
This morning I headed out to a narrow island just off the coast which is both a major ship building facility and port as well as a fishing village and spot for tourists to visit on the weekends to buy tourist things.
The line for the ferry was absurd, I waited for over an hour in a line, for a ferry ride that took no more than 2 minutes!

Before I headed to the island, I walked past the skytower. Its got a hole in the middle, you have probably seen photos of it before if you are anything like me and look at photos of interesting buildings on the internet all the time.

Check out my boring brunch, its a combined fruit and vegetable salad. Ordering at this place proved especially challenging. Sugar for my coffee was not available, instead a small tub of high fructose corn syrup was provided (just like Japan).

Looking back at the port from the ferry, they are particularly dangers looking ferries, and you can just ride you scooter straight on as well and hang out with the regular passengers inside with your engine running.

Heres a similar ferry going the other way, note the gang plank things, the ferry was pretty overcrowded. They have a tv showing how to put on a life jacket, but I couldnt see any lifejackets.
The video is amusing though, a girl is showing you how to put it on, and then she shows you how to pull tha auto inflation thing, and the look on her face of sheer terror as it inflates on her is great. I watched it 3 times.

Looking back at Kaohsiung, you can see the building with the hole in it in the distance

This is made of plastic.

Modern toilet ice cream seemed very popular.

I was surprised to find an actual beach on the ocean side of the island. Its a black sand beach much like New Zealand. Notice all the ships out to sea, there would have to be at least 100 I could see from the sea shore.

This is the ocean marketplace, pretty much every stall was selling the same thing...

...ground up dried fish (I think?)


Tonights update is a little thing on details and photos. This is mainly because I went shopping and had my hands full. I hate having my hands full with shopping, it makes it difficult to walk the great distances and to pick fights with strangers.

The shopping in Kaohsiung is great, well it is if you are into shopping, theres at least 5 of the big Japanese department stores, more than I think there is in Taipei.
Theres also plenty of alleyways selling the latest fashions and accessories, it might be a generailisation, but this does seem like a much more modern place than Taipei.

I am staying at the Lees hotel, which along with all the other hotels I have used on this trip (Butterfly on Prat in Hong Kong, Hotel Dong Wu in Taipei) has been superb.
A highlight of this hotel is the shower, which has jets coming out of the wall all over the place, its so much fun I have had 3 showers today already.
Tomorrow I am taking the bullet train back to Taipei, but because my flight the next morning to Singapore is quite early, I have chosen a hotel at the airport. Now when I selected this I wasnt aware just how far the airport is (1 hour by bus each way). So I am not sure what I will do tomorrow evening. As you may recall when I arrived at this airport in the evening about a week ago, there seemed to be nothing nearby except heavy industry.
Perhaps I will take a tour of oil refineries.

You often find things down alleyways. This is the biggest temple I have seen, as far as I can tell this is the only entrance to get to it.

This evenings random neon light photo comes at dusk, near the central park area.

My dinner was a huge failure. It looked good in the plastic version, and the guy said 'chicken' when I pointed I think. But im not sure what I got.
First of all it looked raw, and the hotplate its served in wasnt hot enough to cook anything.
Secondly, its 90% bone, and bones too big to be chicken! (I am hoping it was pork) I hardly ate any of it.

Because my dinner was such a let down, I found this pineapple cake in the supermarket. Now most websites will tell you that in Taiwan, pineapple cake is a must do.
I dont think this is the real deal though, its the same as the pudding bread from the zoo but with a mild pineapple flavoured syrup stirred in.

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Day 11 - Monday, 4 April 2011

I ate at mcdonalds

Today is a public holiday, for mothers and children day. According to a poster I saw with broken english, this is a new holiday to try and address the problem with declining birth rates in Taiwan. So a lot of Taiwanese men are probably quite excited today.

My train back to Taipei isnt until early afternoon, and I think my hotel check out time is 12:00, so I set out for a walk in search of breakfast.

I couldnt really find much open for breakfast apart from Mcdonalds and Starbucks, there were a few day markets open but most had only raw fish and meat on offer, or the occasional deep fried thing looking a bit sad as its probably left over from the night before.
Mcdonalds won out in the end, would have to be the first time I have eaten there in years, it wasnt great!

I ate at a Mcdonalds located at the central train station, not the High speed one, the regular one, which was a hive of excitement of people arriving from all over the place.
As I left, I noticed a large white woman and her thin husband left also and followed me. They had on caps and fanny packs.
I went down to the subway, and they are still following me.

Next thing she asks, no hello, no excuse me, nothing 'WHICH WAY TO THE AIRPORT???!'
I looked at the subway sign right in front of me, it clearly has a picture of a plane and the word airport next to a station on the line I am waiting for (theres only 2 lines).
So I told her, this train, second to last station.
I tried to explain that the stations are numbered and the graphic on the train will explain where you are at etc.
Next thing shes taken out 100 taiwan dollars and says 'IF I PAY YOU CAN YOU RIDE WITH US TO THE AIRPORT?, WHERE ARE YOU FROM ANYWAY?'
So I told her I am from Australia, and by the way you have just taken out $3.
I then told her that our dollar is actually worth more than the U.S. dollar and has been for quite some time, enjoy your day.
We got on the train together, but I got off at the next station, I had had enough of that.

This is the civic park with some sort of huge building in the centre, there were lots of people doing Tai Chi but also, Zumba!

Traffic lights are the same as Japan, with a countdown timer and a little animated green man, he starts running when you are running out of time.

In Taiwan, they love Fannys.

This place is just asking to be sued by Starbucks. I would have tried their coffee but they were shut.

This is the dirtiest underpass I have come across. But still, no graffiti, no homeless people. It is a bit surprising there are no beggars or homeless. I wonder if there really arent any or if they are rounded up and moved to some place where foreigners are unlikely to go?
As a contrast, Hong Kong is full of beggars, most of them disfigured in some sort of horrible way.


This BMW is completely covered in Carbon Fibre vinyl, with red badges, blue exhaust pipes etc. I havent really seen any other car culture stuff in all of Taiwan before I saw these 2 parked together.

Its very polluted today, even though this photo seems bright and colorful, the tops of buildings are dissapearing into smog.

Heres my breakfast, the coffee was actually pretty good. The hot cakes were hot cakes, I am not really a fan. The menu is not in English even at Mcdonalds, so I pointed and asked for 'number 4' which was on the board as hot cakes, and a cafe latte. The girl then rattled off a speech in Taiwanese that was quite detailed.
I said, OK. I think what she must have been saying is, if you order the hot cakes and a coffee you are better off getting the meal because its cheaper, because I got a hash brown which I didnt ask for.
It will be a long time before I eat at Mcdonalds again!

The hotel and the airport

Today was an epic travel day.
My goal was to get to the Novotel hotel at the airport, where I am staying tonight....its a good thing I did this and didnt try and get to the airport early tomorrow morning.

Getting to the high speed rail terminal north of Kaohsiung at Zuoying was simple and efficient. Theres a huge mall there and lots of tourists despite it being mainly an industrial area.
The train was full but very comfortable, left and arrived exactly on time, once I got off the bullet train in Taipei, the real fun started.
It was just starting to rain, for the first time in my holiday, I think it was unexpected.
You may recall (if you have read all this and remembered anything), that when I arrived in Taipei it seemed a bit like a third world country, the whole airport, bus, bus terminal, transfer to subway experience.
Well, when I got off the high speed rail at the central Taipei station, it was beautiful and modern, great facilities, everything gleaming, a million shops, waiting areas, etc.
Is this the same station I was at last week? I was confused.
So I follow all the signs to the bus station, its definitely not the same place. Theres an information desk, and English signage, but no airport bus.
I asked the girl, and she in good English told me not to worry, everyone is confused by this, not just foreigners, theres another bus terminal for the airport bus, go outside (in the rain), over the skybridge, and down that road and you will find the airport busses.
So I do this, and yep, heres the shed disguised as a bus terminal.
I still cant work out why they make everyones experience coming into or out of the city via the international airport so strangely difficult.

OK, I have found the terminal, purchased my ticket, and get on the bus. I am the only passenger. We set off and arent really getting anywhere, the brakes on the bus are making a horrible noise, im sure it was calliper on disk or drum or whatever busses have. The driver seems concerned by this too. We drive for 30 minutes and hes talking on the radio or a push to talk phone of some sort, and I can see the terminal where I got on!
I have no idea whats going on at this point.
We eventually get on what I recall is a highway, and are heading towards the airport. Despite the rain I can see out of the bus this time, and its amazing the level of construction for the new high speed rail line that will connect the airport.
Perhaps this is the reason the bus system is such a pain, its about to be replaced.
The driver yells something at me, and I tell him I can only speak English, but we leave the highway and go on a grand tour. Its a really good thing I wasnt catching a flight this afternoon!
Finally get to the airport after 2 hours. Now my hotel is in the airport, actually between the two runways, but due to the construction going on, its impossible to walk to (pay attention, this becomes important later).
So I need to locate the free shuttle bus. This was easier said than done and requires negotiation the construction of the new terminal being built, its pretty impressive actually, theres massive metal pylons and girders that will become the roof I expect.
Eventually I locate my shuttle bus and its about 5 minutes to the hotel, I notice theres a tunnel involved and nowhere to walk.
The hotel is pretty nice, its full of white people, and has millions of meeting rooms and conference halls. I imagine lots of business people come to Taiwan, and all they see is this sad.
After checking in etc. I come downstairs to investigate dinner options, I have a thing against hotel restaurants, its boring and you go insane if you sit in the hotel all night. So I ask the desk girl if theres options outside the hotel.
'None, you can only eat in the hotel'
'We have western buffet, that your only option, airport has no western food at all!'. The no western food part is bullshit, they have burger king even.
I enquired as to how much it is, please at this poinit realise my room is costing $60, and how much I have been paying for stuff generally...
She tells me its the equivalent of $55 plus the public holiday surcharge. I found this to be outrageous.
This hotel is clearly running a scam, knowing that its full of white business people trapped there, they get a cheap room rate then pay through the nose for their western buffet bullshit.
She then told me 'you here on business right? you charge your company, what you care the cost for?'
That sealed the deal for me, I went outside and waited for the free shuttle bus back to the airport.
This confused the driver who had just dropped me off greatly, I am his only passenger, and he yells at me and laughs, again I say, only english sorry! Anyway, we diverted into the cargo area, and he gets out and has a smoke with some workers. This went on for a while, I didnt mind I could watch planes move about.

I then got out at the other terminal, much nicer than the one I arrived at last week and will be leaving at tomorrow which is being rebuilt.
Dinner was fantastic, yes I had beef noodles again, plus extras I didnt expect, I will let the photos tell the rest of the story!

Still in Kaohsiung, you can rent fold up mini bike things. They look quite cool to me. Shame I didnt see them earlier.

Heres the view between shopping malls at the station, right on the edge of town, this is a standard (non high speed) intercity train. They left every couple of minutes or so.

The inside of my train, seats had an amazing amount of room, and once I worked out how to recline, extremely comfortable.

The first of many bus rides, this one had the horrible brakes, I am sure at one point we hit a scooter rider, but the driver never touched the screeching brakes at that point!

I bought these whilst waiting for the bus. Fantastic.

Heres where I waited for the hotel bus at the airport, in the rain.

Note that its impossible to walk, after this there is a tunnel.

Inside the hotel bus, note his collection of furry toys and dvd player.

The lobby of my hotel. Despite their dinner (and breakfast) scam, its a pretty nice hotel. The best feature is from my room window I can watch planes take off and land on both runways.
Also the internet is free and super fast.

The outside of the hotel, next door is the China airlines crew hotel and training centre, it looks very modern with high security, a guard didnt like me wandering around with my camera.

Back at the airport now looking for my dinner, terminal 2 is pretty nice, comparable to say, Narita.

Not sure why, but theres a heap of bulls lined up and painted. I think its where my beef noodle soup comes from.

And for my last meal in Taiwan (excluding breakfast in the Cathay Pacific lounge tomorrow morning), Beef noodle soup was had from here. Its 1/6 the cost of what the hotel wanted to charge, including drinks.

Its the best beef noodle soup I have had as well, huge pieces of beef, more than I would generally serve myself for a roast beef dinner.

Then she bought out some fantastic dumplings to go with it. I didnt realise I had ordered that! They were delicious.

And finally, I am in the waiting room, waiting for my third ride on the free hotel shuttle bus. The driver cracked up laughing when I got on again!

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Day 12 - Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Transiting Hong Kong

So, we are going to be back to photos of airline food, planes, airports, airport lounges and other associated boring things.
My first flight, is a 90 minute flight from Taipei to Hong Kong. There were only 10 people on this plane! A boeing 777 that would hold at least 350 people.
This was again perfectly smooth, even though the pilot suggested there would be turbulence.
The lounge in Taipei was also deserted, once you get through security in the dilapidated terminal 1 (which was fast), its actually quite modern, nice and huge. Jets are leaving every 5 minutes to every last part of China and Japan.

Once I arrived in Hong Kong, I had to go through the transfer point, which is another security screening, theres no frequent flyer wanker line here, so I had to line up with the regular people. This was dramatic as a flight had just arrived from Myanmar and the Phillipines, and both groups of people had an amazing amount of crap in not just their bags but pockets, inside their socks, under their hats, wearing 2 coats each etc etc.
There were quite a few people wearing front and back backpacks, carrying a laptop case, for whatever reason they were all carrying brand new laptops inside that white plastic wrap stuff.

I have a 3 hour wait here in Hong Kong, a nice place to wait indeed. The airport is huge, lots of planes to look at, and I have access to lots of lounges.
So now I will bore you with pictures of that!

This is the view out of my hotel window in Taipei. Its great. You can watch planes take off and land on the runway to the left and right of this photo.

This is the first class lounge in Taipei, there were a few people in the business class lounge but none in first. I found it a bit spooky as there were 3 people looking after me, watching me intently.

Heres my Boeing 777.

And this is how packed the forward economy section was. As far as I could tell there was no one in business class at all.

First lounge stop in Hong Kong, the cabin, I specifically went here because I remembered they had fruit salad, and I thought I should have something healthy before cake.
But then they had chocolate donuts as well, so I had that too.
This isnt a first class lounge, so I best move on and spend some more of Qantas's money (they pay Cathay for each lounge entry).

I walked to the very end of the terminal and took a photo. Why? Because I love airports, and I love to find the end of something. So I was pretty excited.
It was very peaceful down here, a few people were stretched out sleeping, small children were playing with toys on the giant capreted area they had all to themselves.

Seated inside the pier first class lounge. The food in here is superb.

I opted to pick and choose from the buffet selections (they have some set meals available as well). I chose everything with meat in it.

Feeling like a fool in front of a few upper class people who are actually probably more of a snob than myself (Im sure this is hard for some of you to believe), I snuck over to the dessert area and took this photo.

Heres what I had for dessert, I think I was pretty restrained? I could have had 20 chocolates if I wanted, but instead I only had 2!

Singapore is hot

Getting here was easy, once I got on the plane.
Hong Kong airport tried to catch me out again, and it did catch out a lot of people, hence my flight was 30 minutes delayed while they tried to find the passengers.
My plane was due to leave from gate 47, near the end of one of the kilometre long arms.
About 30 minutes before boarding, it changed to gate 3, all the way back to the central hub, then most of the way up another arm.
I am not exaggerating, its a 1.5 km walk.
Now they had plenty of announcements, and an army of Cathay Pacific workers started wandering around with signs etc. But if you only spoke say, French, German, Thai or anything not English or a form of Chinese, you would be caught out.
Also if you were old, wearing stupidly high heels etc, you wouldnt be pleased at this additional walk being forced upon you.

My plane flight was smooth, 3.5 hours, I watched a Harry Potter movie, which was hard to hear and see, so I dont really know what happened, it kind of ended in the middle.

Singapore airport, constantly voted the best in the world, was very efficient. Despite everyones predictions that you will get arrested, beaten with the cane then executed for long hair and whatever else, there was no drama at all.
In fact my bags werent even checked, I have xanax tablets for sleeping pills when I go to England, I only remembered I had them when we landed and they tell you about the death penalty!
Also no one was interested in all the computing devices and the contents of their hard drives, I have heard stories that they take womens fashion magazines off of people because they are deemed to be pornography.

The airport of course links to the subway, and buying an RFID card is simple. The subway is great, but seems slow compared to Taipei, Kaohsiung and Hong Kong. The stations are also outdoors which is odd cause its so damn hot.
Finding my hotel was also easy, its huge, its an Ibis, its exactly like any Ibis, as such its a bit dissapointing after the fancy hotels I had in the other countries for cheaper.

I was pretty tired so just wandered around my local area, there are a lot of tourists, and everyone seems wealthy, so many fancy cars, I saw 3 Lamborghinis in the space of 10 minutes.

Its also unusual to be back in a place where the majority of the population is overweight. This was very apparent especially on the subway, Indian men are all enormous here!

And It soon became apparent that the main hobby in Singapore is eating, everything is a big food court or restaurants.
Great mix of cuisines, more than Hong Kong, as here theres also Indonesian, Malaysian and of course lots of Indian foods.

Not sure what I am doing tomorrow yet, I have 5 full days here, so plenty of time to pace myself in the heat and humidity.

Heres my plane at gate 3, a massive distance from the original gate.

Inside the unmanned shuttle train that goes around Singapore Changi airport.

And might as well just keep photographing the inside of trains, even though they are all pretty much the same.

I was looking for dinner around 9pm, and most of the hawker style food courts were winding down and cleaning, so I gave them a miss for tonight.

This is out the back of my hotel, its a pedestrian area, but strangely dark.

Nearby is an electronics mall, I think this must be for catching tourists, as it was very expensive. Much more expensive than the airport when I arrived for example.

I had dinner in a pretty fancy place, yes more dumplings, but also my favourite long beans in chilli and shrimp paste. These beans were the best I have ever had.

The nightmarkets are a lot more westernized than Taiwan, this ones even air conditioned. They still had food on sticks, but nothing weird.

And fear not, next door to my hotel is a bubble tea joint. I was trying to figure out the currency to pay, and the girl says 'oh, you just get here?' and I said yes, she said 'where you come from?', and being clever I said 'Taiwan'.
She told me the tea is much better in Taiwan, they invented it.
Hers was pretty good though!

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There is now a page 5, use the nav thing to go there now!


Day 1 - Friday, 25 March 2011
  Adelaide to Melbourne
  Melbourne Airport
  Welcome to Hong Kong
Day 2 - Saturday, 26 March 2011
  Walking around before stuff opens
  Lamma Island
  Mong Kok
Day 3 - Sunday, 27 March 2011
  West Kowloon
  Central, briefly
Day 4 - Monday, 28 March 2011
  Taking it easy
Day 5 - Tuesday, 29 March 2011
  My favourite place in the world
  I missed a flight, sort of!
  Taiwan, eventually I got here
Day 6 - Wednesday, 30 March 2011
  Taipei 101
Day 7 - Thursday, 31 March 2011
  The flower fair and Danshui
  Taiwanese people hate fancy shops
Day 8 - Friday, 1 April 2011
  Zoos, Gondolas and Lingerie
  Shilin Night Market
Day 9 - Saturday, 2 April 2011
  Bullet train to Kaohsiung
  Out and about in Kaohsiung
  Yep, more night markets
Day 10 - Sunday, 3 April 2011
Day 11 - Monday, 4 April 2011
  I ate at mcdonalds
  The hotel and the airport
Day 12 - Tuesday, 5 April 2011
  Transiting Hong Kong
  Singapore is hot
Day 13 - Wednesday, 6 April 2011
  Mostly closed until late afternoon
  Little India
Day 13 - Thursday, 7 April 2011
  The zoo is mostly, closed
  Went out to dinner
Day 15 - Friday, 8 April 2011
  Din tai fung
Day 16 - Saturday, 9 April 2011
  The big storm
Day 17 - Sunday, 10 April 2011
  The longest day
Day 18 - Monday, 11 April 2011
  Home again, briefly