Thursday, 18 September 2008

Taipei: surviving Typhoon Sinlaku

My excitement in coming to Korea was increased by the prospect of popping across to other parts of Asia while my geographical position was favourable. Luckily other people shared this peripateticism and on Saturday morning four of us jetted out to Taiwan. Lovely, subtropical Taiwan, I thought prior to leaving, with its palm tree-lined streets and average September temperature of 31C. Upon boarding the plane we were informed that we may experience some turbulence on landing owing to the massive typhoon that was battering north-eastern Taiwan. Great.

After a surprisingly smooth landing (our pilot was called Peter Parker, that would be why) we disembarked and saw the Taiwanese palm trees, only they were blown horizontal in force twelve winds as raindrops twice the size of ordinary precipitation battered the windows. Nothing was open on the Saturday afternoon we arrived. The first hotel we arrived at had slightly over the top storm defences covering their glass entrance, and it took a while to find somewhere to eat, at last deciding on something familiar from Korea: Shabu Shabu. I got through three umbrellas in three days, wetter than I've ever been in clothes, and at times, thoroughly pissed off. Got a bit of a cold too, though it could've been worse. Google "Typhoon Sinlaku video". Yeah not far away from the capital, bridges were collapsing, a hotel was floating away and there were quite a few fatalities. Like I say, I'll take the cold.

Tuesday saw the sun come out and it was quite nice, though we were on the bus to the airport just after lunch. Conclusion? I'm not going back. The thing I was most looking forward to was visiting the world's tallest completed building, the Taipei 101. Guess how many floors it has. The observation floor (also the highest anywhere) was on the 89th floor, but the poor visibility made it a let down. The view was not good when we arrived and only deteriorated until it felt like we were in some sort of milk aquarium. A trip in the world's fastest lift was fun though. Eighty-nine floors in 37 seconds. It takes about the same length of time to ascend seven floors in our school building. To end on a positive note, the Taiwanese people are very nice, and interestingly speak better English than the majority of Koreans in the service industry. It was a novelty for me to have a conversation with the waitress or the bar staff!

Something struck me when I returned to my apartment too: it was nice to be home. Yeah, home. This is very much my home now - for the next nine and a half months or so anyway. I feel very comfortable, very at ease in my surroundings. It's good.

Our next holiday will be the very carefully nomenclatured Japan-demonium on Christmas eve. The countdown begins.


Chi-Hé said...

tips for cheap plane travel from korea? :D

Michael said...

ha, sorry, nobody ever comments on my blog and I'd not noticed you had. I have no tips, none at all. I booked a flight on the same plane as the people who booked their flight before me. It made sense...
For Japan, though, we're going to investigate all the options, so I'll let you know what I find out. Where d'you want to go?