Sunday, September 14, 2008

Off to Taipei Taiwan

So on 9/4/08 I left Hong Kong and flew into Taipei Taiwan. I did run into a little trouble while traveling. I was flying Cathay Pacific to Taipei and they would not let me get on the plane without showing some type of return ticket since I did not have a visa for Taiwan. Citizens of the United States are allowed 30 days in Taiwan without a Visa, but need proof they will leave the country. Why Cathay Pacific felt the need to enforce this instead of Taiwan's Immigration division is beyond me.

I originally planned to take a ferry from Taiwan to Japan but of course I had to buy the ticket in Taiwan and that wasn't good enough for Cathay Pacific. I had to buy a ticket leaving Taiwan so I bought a ticket back to Hong Kong with the understanding that I could return it minus a 250 HK Dollar fee (a little over $30 USD). Without having any other choice I did so.

Upon touching down in Taipei immigration didn't seem to care about my proof of leaving whatsoever. I then set out to return my ticket, which I did. However I was told the return may not happen for 3 months. What?????? 3 months? That is ridiculous. I called my American Express card representative as soon as I could but I got terrible service. Normally I get fantastic service from American Express (Amex) which is why I loved them (until now - now looking around for a better travel card). However the lady I talked to was cranky and not helpful with my situation at all. She just continued to say that I need to open a dispute when the charge shows up and I'd have to pay for the entire ticket when it shows up on my statement. This is ridiculous in my opinion.

Anyway, after all of that I managed to get on the right bus to Taipei's MRT station (their subway). The MRT in Taipei is really great. It's fast, on time, clean, and easy to use if you only speak English. There are translations using English letters for every stop. Also, especially for you lady travelers, if you cannot stand the squat toilets in Taiwan drop by a MRT station. The restrooms are very clean, use western style sitting toilets, and are cleaned every 30 minutes. You can also go to McDonald's. Just like Hong Kong's Octopus Card Taipei has an EasyCard which is essentially the same thing. You can use it for the MRT and buses and not worry about having exact change. It's really fantastic. Also, so far the people in Taipei are the only people I have seen that will line up and wait for people to exit the subway car before getting in... of course this is only comparing them to Beijing and Hong Kong.

From the MRT I got off at my stop and headed off to my hostel in Taipei: Chocolate Box. Chocolate Box was clean and the people that managed it were very friendly and helpful. They wrote in Chinese for the me the places I wanted to visit. This is very convenient because you can just point to the Chinese Characters when asking for directions.
Chocolate Box Hostel

The dining table at Chocolate Box - I did all my computing here.

The living room at Chocolate Box.

My bunk at Chocolate Box

People here a super friendly, polite, and helpful. So far much nicer than the mean people I ran into in Hong Kong. However, I will get laughed at behind my back by old ladies working at the night market because they expect me to speak Chinese. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. =)

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