Tuesday, 25 August 2009

All Present and Correct in Taiwan

"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Taiwan. We have just landed at Taoyuan International Airport."

The door-to-door journey took 26 or 27 hours, but here we are at last - in the regular two pieces and with all luggage present and correct. We are duly grateful to the medium suitcase, which has conquered its excessive wanderlust and has not gone to Pakistan without us this time!! We've also heard that the shipping boxes have arrived in the country and should be collectable soon. Just waiting to get instructions on how to go about it and where to get them from, hopefully today. Looks like the customs people are trying to get us to pay duty on our own stuff, so might be some hassle here, but hey, what else does one expect in Taiwan?? Might be OK yet though...

The first event of the journey was finding out that the UK is now very tight on overweight baggage and they wanted to charge us £43 per kilo extra. As we were over 11kg too heavy with our stuff, (what do they expect when going for ages and why don't we get a decent allowance anymore anyway??), they wanted the best part of £500! Well, we paid the £80 to get it to London and decided to think out our next move on the first plane. We thought we might post it to ourselves as there is a PO in Heathrow, then remembered that it would be nearly 7pm by the time we got there and probably too late. So, we elected to push our deviousness to the absolute limit and put on a few extra clothes - esp the heavy stuff (even I was wearing one of Martin's heavy suit jackets!), fill up the pockets as much as poss and take advantage of the fact that they weren't going to weigh our laptop bags (or the other hand luggage as it happened) or the liquids bags. When we got to the EVA Air check-in in Heathrow, we'd got it down to only 3kg over the usual 20kg. We wouldn't have minded paying for that, but it turned out that EVA actually allow 25kg per case, so we asked the check-in man to wait whilst we took a few things off. Martin was on the verge of passing out! "I'm feeling a bit warm. But then, I am wearing 5 t-shirts" Plus 2 jumpers and a jacket in the middle of August! His poor face was almost purple!! I'd got on 2 t-shirts, 3 jumpers (although I'd only tied 2 'round my waist and shoulders), Martin's suit jacket and hid the lot under my raincoat! We were both somewhat relieved to get rid of about a dozen layers between us. We laugh, but the folk at Manchester could have cost us about £400 in un-necessary extra baggage weight had we just gone for it then and there and checked the cases right through!

Lessons from this experience:
1) Always go pack as light as you can (although we did - books we banned from cases etc and everything else kept to minimum) and don't get big cases which you'll only fill.
2) If someone tries to charge you a mint for your extra baggage, only pay the first sector and re-check in where possible, you may get a pleasant surprise.
3) Fly to Taiwan from London. Get the bus there instead and forget starting at Manchester! Cheaper all around – the bus can be as little as £1!
4) Check thoroughly how much the airline will really allow. Although, having said that, EVA's website said 20kg...
5) Be prepared to take mad emergency measures to avoid throwing away your stuff and wear stuff with BIG pockets!!!!

Here's a shot of the fields around Manchester Airport, which I realised later on I shouldn't have taken as you're not supposed to use your camera during take-off and landing, but, as these are often some of the best airborne views, I've put it in here anyway!!

However, here are the airborne shots I've been waiting to get for the last 11½ years since I last saw the scenes. Something we were never meant to see - sunrise above the cloud layer. These were taken about 10-15 minutes apart flying into the sunrise.

Aren't they just marvellous? Even the stuff no human was meant to see is still beautiful. It really helps see how much Jehovah values beauty, no? No wonder we do too.=) I'm hoping to be able to use these as some sort of design inspiration. My paints etc will get to me soon.....

This was my breakfast!!! I'd ordered oriental vegetarian rather than western as I thought that would be without dairy stuff (as it indeed was), but it also meant having spicy noodles and salad for brekker!! Martin found scrambled egg and a slice of bacon in his hot tray - under a sweet waffle!! Space saving gets a bit extreme, methinks!

The flight was fairly smooth all in with a few patches of light roller-coaster stuff. You really notice it on the small planes you go from city to city on in Europe, but on the enormous jet-liner there, it was mostly just 'Keep still will you, I'm trying to sleep!' As Martin put it, '"He's not doing well avoiding speed bumps, is he?" !!! I loved the English version of the announcement to sit down again and fasten your seatbelts as, as they say in Europe, 'we are experiencing some turbulence'. EVA's version was, "We are going through some bumpy air."

We nearly ended up losing some of the contents of the liquids bags in Bangkok (where the above pagoda is in the airport!) as we had to take all our cabin baggage off and re-scan it all there, where they're stricter about the one bag per person bit. Ours were packed into 3 small bags following the removal of anything remotely heavy from the cases. Anyway, one of the more enterprising of the airport staff (a woman, of course! She knew I didn't want to lose all my potions!!) went and fished out two larger bags for us and that sorted that mafan (that's 'nuisance' for non-Chinese speakers). Add another lesson to the above:

6) Don't be over-clever with the liquids allowance!!

Saturday was spent getting our bearings and buying a few needed things, such as a bowl and spoon each (following in the footsteps of Brother Fleissig – who knows where this comes from? Race to see who can comment with the right answer first!), a folding knife to cut up fruit and a few other things such as some coat-hangers etc.

On Sunday we joined the 'whole country' convention in Linkou where we able to catch up with some old friends. Here's me with Wenfei who I spent a lot of time with when here 11 years ago. I gave the poor girl quite a shock by calling her from the bus to the assembly to tell her we were coming and then later saying that we'd moved house – to Taiwan!! Sadly, she's now left Taipei and is living on the east coast in Hualien, but all the more excuse to go exploring.=) We also caught up with Rosie, who was delighted to hear a British accent again, (said I was only the 3rd Brit she'd met here!) and who seems to be developing a slight American twang herself!!! The Henrys from Birmingham also made it for the afternoon session and got almost mobbed by people wanting to talk to them and have photos with them! Our black bros from England – real superstars!

Here's the sign language section:

And this is the final song when the bros from the Amis language and English programme came in to join with the Mandarin. This was quite something as, if it were in the UK, I kinda feel that the other language groups would have been ushered discreetly in and the song just gone on with, but not here, oh no! Whilst we were already standing for the song, an announcement was made that they were to join us, the doors flung open and the main congregation - all 10500+ of us, stood and applauded for the several minutes it took the nearly 700 brothers to file in and stand in the centre of the arena to sing with us! I had my English songbook with me, so added my voice to my native language crowd. I rather wanted to go and join them, especially as I was curious to meet some more of the foreigners here. Still, we can do that at the next English assembly later in the year.

Next time I'll show you where we are temporarily living etc.

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