Journey Home, part 1

I’m sitting in the Sky Club in Narita International in Tokyo, having just emerged from a SHOWER – yes, you read that correctly! Let me back up…

My day started early. I set the alarm for 0415, having fallen asleep somewhere around 0200. Needless to say, I stumbled out of bed thinking “this is waaaaaay too early to be up”. I had arranged a ride to the airport with a driver I found on Tealit.com: Mike Wang. Since the entrance to the apartment is down a one-way alley, he’d arranged to meet me across the street from Watson’s, and sure enough, at 0524 he texted saying he was waiting. What a pleasant ride that was! (I highly recommend Mike’s limo service; 1000NT each way and  you get to learn a little about Taiwan’s history as you drive.)

At the airport, Mike jumped out and got a cart for my luggage. I waited in a short line at the Delta counter (while I was in line, a friendly staff person took my passport and returned with my boarding passes.) Luckily I’d packed well and the ONE allowable free bag was under the 50 lb. limit. Then I went in search of food/coffee/the Delta Sky Room. Unfortunately my Sky Room membership had expired and in TPE, China Airlines runs the VIP lounge and could not renew it for me. A little over 2 hours later we were landing at Narita where I of course went in search of anything Hello Kitty for my oldest granddaughter. (Mission accomplished!)

Next, I found my gate (Terminal 1, gate 26) and then headed to the Sky Room. The super friendly Japanese staff offered me a one-month membership for a price I could not refuse. Then to make things more interesting, they asked if I wanted a shower. (A shower? Do I look  in need of one?) At any rate, in the spirit of adventurous travel and new experiences, I said “Yes!”. Half an hour later, after consuming rice crackers and tea, I found myself in a lovely LARGE private bathroom area and, despite having showered only hours previously, took another one. Heaven! It must be something in the water because I emerged totally refreshed. (They even had a hair dryer for use.) Ah….

Photos to follow

Non-Citizen

I’ve arrived! Dog-tired but safely ensconsed in the Taipei Fullerton South. As you might imagine, it was difficult to say goodbye to my folks, not knowing if/when I’ll see them again. (I never was good at goodbyes!)

Props to the LA-based SuperShuttle for getting me to the airport on-time (read: hours early)! Being early for my flight turned into a blessing because the line was already forming for China Airlines check-in when I pulled up and I only had to wait 10 minutes before check-in began and was able to get an exit row seat!  I knew my bags were overweight and was prepared to pay the fee at the counter. What I wasn’t prepared for was the weight limit for carry-on! Luckily the limit for carry-ons had only recently changed so the CI counter rep offered to check my carry on at no additional cost! (Try that on any other international carrier.) NOTE: Luckily there are all sorts of SmartCarts along the Bradley International terminal arrivals lane ($5.00USD non-refundable) so I did not have to lug my heavy bags anywhere!

Although I booked my flight through Delta, the carrier (CI) check-in (at LAX) is located several terminals away from the Delta Sky Room. It was another beautiful day in southern California so I walked….and enjoyed the sunshine.

Our flight was delayed but we were eventually ushered onto the 747-400 carrying us across the ocean. I found my “window” seat (38A) did not have a window but by leaning forward, I was able to watch the buildings of Los Angeles get smaller and smaller…

I have nothing but compliments for the CI crew – their attention to detail (the flight attendants actually cleaned the lavatories every hour, themselves!) and willingness to accomodate (and remember) requests was amazing. I hadn’t requested a vegetarian meal in time but they still managed to find an extra dinner and breakfast for me. (I have no idea what I ate but it was delicious and apparently not meat!)

The flight was uneventful. My seatmates all spoke Chinese so I was able to practice a bit with them. (Today’s word is hen hao which means “very good”.)

Arriving in Taipei, I wondering what the immigration and customs procedures would consist of. Would my luggage actually make it intact? Would I have to declare something? Actually, the process was simple: queue up to show your passport/visa, take the escalator down to the (very well marked) baggage carousel, pick up the (free) baggage cart and wait, wait, wait. Side note: why is the worst part of any flight the endless waiting for one’s luggage?

I found ALL my luggage intact and was able to find the rental car counter, my driver, and eventually (after a lovely 20 minute drive), my hotel. Now, SLEEP!

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…