Welcome to Day 1 of Janet and Randy's Taipei Adventure 2018
Saturday/Sunday, March 31st/April 1st, 2018As we had an early flight on Saturday morning, and since Randy had a free night with Marriott, we stayed Friday night at the Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel. I wrote a review of this hotel that you can find here.
We woke up at 6:00am, got showered and headed down for breakfast. Randy has Platinum status with Marriott, so we had a coupon for a free breakfast. Even though we ordered seemingly simple meals (fruit plate for me, oatmeal and berries for Randy), it took an egregiously (Randy's term - That's a good word... very appropriate, I think) long time for the food to come out. Especially when we were the first people to arrive in the restaurant, and only 2 more arrived after we got there.
When our food finally did arrive, we quickly ate some of it, then dashed over to the terminal. The Nexus line was empty, so we got through quickly and headed straight to the gate. They were already starting to board the flight to Vancouver (long since started to board - but not that big a deal as it wasn't an overly full flight).
We pushed back from the gate on time (7:30am), but sat on the tarmac for a bit, then had to do de-icing, so it was 8:00am by the time we got in the air. But we made up a bit of time, and got to Vancouver at 8:20am local time. You can find more details about our flight from Edmonton to Vancouver here. (Effectively 20 mins late in arriving)
Dennis was flying in from Calgary and his flight was originally supposed to arrive in Vancouver within 5 minutes of our flight. But his flight was delayed even further, and so he didn't touch down until 9:20am. So, he met us in the Maple Leaf Lounge. The lounge was set up for breakfast, but since we had just eaten on the plane, we didn't have anything except a small chocolate croissant. Randy had also gone out into the terminal to get himself a latte from Starbucks as the coffee in the lounge wasn't that great.
At about 10:00am, we left the lounge and headed to the gate as boarding was to start at 10:15am. We had lined up so that the person in the furthest seats (8A and 7A) would go on first so that they aren't blocking anyone when they stop to store their luggage. However, this approach fell apart when they boarded us through the middle door, so we entered the business class cabin from the back. But, fortunately we were the first people to board in business class, so we were able to store our stuff without inconveniencing anyone else. We settled into our seats (6A, 7A, and 8A) and had some mimosas while the rest of the passengers boarded. We were joined (while still on the ground and before the door closed), by one of the YVR concierge (Sherri), she came to say hi to us and wished us safe travels. Always a treat to see her.
The following map shows some details about our flight from Vancouver to Taipei.
Once in the air, we were served some mixed nuts and drinks. About 45 minutes later, we were served our appetizer (smoked salmon). The main course was served about 20 minutes after that. Randy and I had the Portuguese chicken (which was okay, but a little flavourless), and Dennis had the beef tenderloin (which he said was quite good). There was a cheese course and a dessert course, then they dimmed the lights for people to get some sleep.
About half an hour after the meal service, they bring out some snack baskets and place them at the front of the cabin. Dennis was on the alert for when they put these baskets out - as you want to get to them while they have the good snacks (on my previous flight to Tokyo, I didn't notice the baskets until too late - and there was only granola bars left). As soon as the snack baskets came out, Dennis alerted me and Randy, and we went up to grab some KitKats and Miss Vickies chips.
After a couple of cranberry and vodka drinks, I was sleepy, so I selected a PBS show called "Finding Your Roots". It was the perfect show to fall asleep to. I fell asleep for about 2 hours, then watched the Matt Damon movie "Downsizing". It was a fine movie to watch on a plane (wouldn't want to pay to see it in a movie theatre, though - my thoughts on that one too).
After that, I spent some time copying photos and updating the travel journal and my blog reviews.
About 2 hours out from Taipei, they served the light meal. I had ordered the beef stir fry noodles. However, the dish was rather tasteless, and I ended up just having the Miss Vickies chips that I had snagged earlier.
During the meal, I watched a short documentary on the 30th anniversary of the 1987 Edmonton tornado. The documentary had stories from some of the responders and identified how the tornado changed (for the better) how emergency response in Edmonton was to be handled going forward.
We arrived in Taipei shortly after 2:00pm local time. We were one of the first off the plane and headed straight to immigration. There was absolutely no line-up, so we were through in no time. We then exited customs and hit up a nearby ATM to get some Taiwan dollars. Again, there was no queue, so it only took a few moments. Then we walked over to the nearby phone data SIM providers. No line-up, and the gal spoke English. She had us up and running in literally 5 minutes. Unlimited Data ! Woohoo !
We then headed over to a taxi booth to arrange a taxi to our hotel. We prepaid a flat rate, and then a guy walked us outside to wait with us for our particular taxi. The taxi showed up about 5 minutes later, and was a nice sedan car. So, within 20 minutes, we got off the plane, got through immigration and customs, picked up some cash, got some phone SIM cards, and were in a taxi heading to the airport. A New Record !
Most of the drive from the airport was on a freeway, and the traffic was light, so things were moving along well. I knew generally where we needed to go, and Dennis was also following our progress on Google maps. Our hotel was near an entertainment complex/shopping mall that had a Ferris wheel. So, from the freeway, I could see the Ferris wheel and knew that we were close. However, the taxi driver continued past the area where our hotel was. I thought maybe he had to take an exit further down and circle back. And boy, he sure did some circling. We got off the freeway, and I assumed that he had to take some specific bridge to get across the river to the hotel. I am not sure where this guy was going, but we ended up doing 2 complete circles before heading back in the direction of our hotel. Dennis later informed me that there was an exit he should've take from the freeway that would have taken us right to the hotel area.
So, we finally were at least heading back in the general direction of our hotel. We actually drove right past the hotel, but we assumed that maybe we had to go in some back way or something. So, we started to circle the area of our hotel, slowly tightening the circle until we finally came across the hotel entrance. It was sure a good thing that we had paid a flat rate. It probably took us an additional 20 minutes to get to the hotel than it should have. But, we made it.
As soon as we alighted from the taxi, the hotel staff was there to welcome us in. We checked in and went to our respective rooms. Both us and Dennis had been upgraded to a suite. We were on the 11th floor in the northwest corner, and Dennis was on the 9th floor in the same corner. So, we had the exact same room and view - but just 2 floors apart. For the suite, you entered into a living area. There was a hallway that went past some closets and a bathroom into a huge bedroom. From our bedroom we had a view of the Ferris Wheel. There was also a welcome tray of sweets for us in the living room. The bathroom had a Japanese-style toilet (which I always love). The toilet seat even lifted up automatically when you got near to it! It was a nice big place to be spending the next week.
Randy and I unpacked our stuff, then hit the shower as we felt grungy after the long day of travel. We then planned to meet up with Dennis. Due to jetlag, I mistakenly messaged Dennis to meet us in the lobby, but Randy had wanted to just meet him in the hotel's club lounge. So, we went all the way down to the lobby, met Dennis, and then went back up to the 19th floor where the club lounge was.
At some Marriotts, you just access the lounge using your hotel key. So, as long as your card provides you access to the lounge, you can come and go as you please. For this lounge, there was actually a reception desk, and you had to provide your room number and name to get in. We arrived just after 5:00pm, and were told that Happy Hour was going to start at 5:30pm. Happy Hour consisted of a large selection of appetizers and a wine/alcohol selection (someone say free booze ??). Until they set out the food/booze, we just grabbed some Perrier from the fridge and relaxed. I will go into more detail when I do the hotel review, but the food selection included salad, hot appetizers such as pork belly and calamari, meats and cheeses, fruit, and some cookies/small pastries for dessert. As we were still quite full from all the food on the plane, we just had a few appetizers to have as our supper. We chose not to have any alcoholic drinks at this time as we were starting to feel a little tired. So, instead, we decided to walk over to the entertainment/shopping complex to help keep us awake until a more reasonable bedtime.
When we had first arrived, the temperature was around 30 degrees. However, it was starting to cool down to around a pleasant 20 degrees as evening was setting in. We walked the 2 short blocks to the mall. We took the escalators 5 floors up to where the Ferris wheel was. Back in 2010, the 3 of us had gone to Osaka, and had ridden the Ferris wheel there (called HEP 5). So, we figured that we might as well ride the Ferris wheel here as well.
We bought our tickets (about $8 each), and went to board the Ferris wheel. There was an option to get a cabin with a glass floor - but we just got on the first available one. There was only 1 couple ahead of us, but we had to wait for a couple minutes as they operators seemed to be spacing the passengers out between the different cabins. (the Ferris wheel wasn't very full at this time)
As we entered our cabin, we found that they are actually air conditioned, because our cabin was freezing! Which is understandable as it had been 30 degrees earlier in the day. We realized that you could open some of the windows, so we did that to get some warm air in. If we hadn't done that, we would've been hypothermic by the time we got back down (the Ferris wheel moves continuously, but quite slowly - approx 20 min round trip).
Once in the air, we could see our hotel, and past that we could see downtown and the Taipei 101 building. So it was a nice little ride. After the Ferris wheel, we headed back inside the mall. There was a Uniqlo store in the mall, and Dennis wanted to check it out. He ended up buying some shirts and some pants. Which is funny, because when we went on the Ferris wheel in Osaka, Dennis also bought a shirt and pants in the shopping complex there as well.
We wandered around a few other stores, and then went across the street to the Carrefour. On the main level was an area called Food Republic, which was like a big food court. There was lots of good looking and smelling food in there - so I'm sure we will be back for a few meals. The best part of this, is there were a ton of locals in this place - always a good sign!
On the second and third level of the building was the Carrefour store - which is like a Canadian Tire, but with groceries. The second level had appliances, household goods, etc., and the third floor had groceries. We checked out some of the interesting snacks, but didn't buy anything - Like slivered almonds and fish - blech!
We headed back to the hotel and went to the club lounge for a night cap. The Happy Hour ended at 7:30pm, and we arrived at 7:25pm. So, we were able to snag a glass of wine before they packed everything away. We hung out in the lounge drinking our drinks, but we were all almost falling asleep by 8:00pm. So we headed to our rooms. I was asleep by 8:15pm.
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