The 12 hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan from Seattle-Tacoma at 2am was an easier trip than most 3 hours flights I’ve experienced. I’m thinking that my nose bleed was definitely a good luck sign, since the only other person in my row decided to move up with a friend, so I had 3 seats all to myself. And you best believe I laid down and slept better on that plane than I have in weeks.
After sleeping for about 9 hours, I woke up in time to get breakfast. This “breakfast” was questionable. I heard the stewardess say “apple” or “chinese” something or another, so I said apple. “Apple” actually was an omelette, covered in something I won’t necessarily call cheese because it looked more like gooey playdoh. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most enjoyable breakfast I’ve ever had. I slept for an hour more, and we landed in Taipei Taiwan, which was so rainy and overcast it looked like the Pacific Northwest’s sister.
The Taiwan airport is very grandiose and shiny. Sleek curvy couches and modern style décor are everywhere. Single Malt Whiskey is for sale every couple of steps you take. My gate was hiding in the Hello Kitty waiting area, complete with a Hello Kitty store and brightly backlit 6ft murals of the cartoon. Everything was pink, including the waiting chairs with Hello Kitty’s face on them. I noticed a group of Americans who looked just as lost as I did, and went up to ask if they were headed to Bangkok. They were all on my flight, and all CIEE-ers! We exchanged names and decided to explore the airport and find some coffee. Following the pink Hello Kitty room was a triad of Prayer rooms, more single malt whisky stores, a “relaxing nature” room (with fake plants and green murals), and FINALLY a coffee shop. And by coffee I mean they only sold Americanos and Lattes. But the Americano came from a giant pot that I’m 99% sure was brewed coffee. Regardless, I felt infinitely better with a slight caffeine buzz.
We all waited for our flight and met a lovely old man called Paiboon who is from Bangkok. He sat next to some of the girls I met on their flight to Taiwan. His broken English was sometimes hard to follow, and he had a huge smile on the whole time. He kept laughing and giving a thumbs up when we told him we are staying in Bangkok. When I asked him what he thought of Chiang Rai (where I will be staying) he said loudly, “Oh nooo, too far, too far!” followed by more laughing. He then made sure to remind me that Chiang Rai was “very cool” (temperature wise) compared to Bangkok. I smiled at this, worried that I will turn into a puddle of sweat before I am able to teach my students. But I wonder how much cooler it really is, since I am so used to the chilly Pacific Northwest, and like to complain how hot it is when it rises above 80 degrees.
The plane to Bangkok was a Hello Kitty themed plane. No joke. Characters from the cartoon were painted on the outside of the plane, and my safety card in the seat back pocket was pink and adorned with bows. Even the lovely stewardesses wore pink Hello Kitty aprons. I am thoroughly impressed with the marketing success of this cartoon.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to a fellow CIEE teacher on the flight, and we chatted about our hometowns in the Northwest (she lives in Vancouver, WA and I’m in Tacoma, WA). Once we landed we found our bigger group and all found our baggage without a hitch. I was slightly worried since I had to check all of my bags and couldn’t take anything with me. We found Ellen, a middle aged Thai lady, holding an OEG sign for us to get picked up and taken to our hotel. We waited about an hour, meandered around and were successful ordering some smoothies to quench our thirst. Once the busses arrived we walked outside and were enveloped in a warm sticky blanket of Bangkok air. As if I didn’t feel like I needed a shower already. The drive to our hotel was nothing short of terrifying, the lines we use in America to distinguish lanes are mere guidelines in Thailand from what I understand. Honks and sudden stops kept us on our toes, but I had full trust in our driver. At the hotel the sky fills with rumbling thunder. The noise lingers in the air, and a downpour is inevitable. As I’m getting my packet for orientation and getting my SIM card for my phone, a hallacious storm rolls through. Thankfully someone opens a door and we get a nice breeze from the down pour, because I am already sweating profusely.
View from the hotel
The group of us who met in Taiwan decide to go out and explore, and it only takes us right across the street to a beautiful lush and green outdoor bar/restaurant with a neon sign saying “Food Beer Here.” Some more friends are sitting and we join them. There I was, sweating like crazy and drinking beer with a bunch of people I met less than 24 hours ago and we are all having a glorious time under these twinkling star lamps and rustling trees sharing stories about traveling and whatever comes to mind. It was pretty picturesque.
The bar across the street from the hotel.
Time for beer.
After some more beer that my new friend Emily gracious bought me for my “missed” birthday, we trek down the street to find some food. A simple sit down restaurant peaks our interest and we order unknowingly from the menu. The food was delicious and quickly sent me into a tired that can only be felt after your body finally realizes you just traveled around the world in 20ish hours. I was exhausted.
Where we had dinner, there was no English anything to be found.
I’d wrap it all up as a successful first day. I have been thrown out of my comfort zone more than I have ever experienced in my entire life, and it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.