Wow, what a day. I awoke at 5.45 am, showered and dressed in plenty of time and arrived at the bus stop nice and early. Things were interesting from the off though, as I had to lend a woman a fiver so she could get on the bus. I was repaid a few minutes later when the driver stopped at a cash point. Why he couldn’t have just waited until that point to collect the erstwhile £5 I don’t know. Arriving at Heathrow at 10.00 for a 12.35 flight, I checked in swiftly and waved farewell to my baggage. Loading up on the usuals, Private Eye and whichever newspaper is giving away a free bottle of water, I settled down in the departure lounge and read happily. At the right time, the 100 or so people due to fly to Hong Kong all trooped down to the gate as normal. From then on, things were far from normal. Firstly, rather than a walkway to the plane, we were squeezed into buses and driven all the way across the terminal, through a tunnel to a little backwater and then up the stairs to the plane. Where we sat and waited. And waited. Eventually the in flight entertainment was switched on, but still no word about whether we would be leaving. Assuming a reasonably short delay, I started watching Sherlock Holmes on the basis that it would be reasonably trashy and I could pause halfway through without losing the plot. Two hours later and I’d finished that, and my magazines. At last, an announcement – the engineers were working on the plane, but had ordered the wrong part. More waiting, and eventually the part arrived. But it still didn’t fix the problem and the annoucement came over that we were to be “deplaned”, as soon as they could get some buses over to pick us up. An hour later we were on our way back to the terminal, each clutching a letter entitling us to £15 worth of food in the terminal restaurants. This was at 4pm, and was to be the first thing I had eaten since breakfast at 7.
Wolfing down a positively mediocre lasagne, I heard a garbled announcement on the PA which might have related to us – I shoved my chocolate fudge cake (dry, with a texture best described as “plastique”) into my mouth and trotted over to the boards to find that there was a new gate available for our flight. Not knowing when we were to leave, I charged over and got onto the plane, now miraculously operational apparently. However, rapid take-off was stymied by the fact that there were 100 hungry, angry people milling around in the terminal, some of whom were still queueing to eat dinner, many of whom didn’t speak english, and all of whom unable to understand the terrible PA. We took off at 7.10, six and a half hours late.
I wrote that from Hong Kong airport, twelve boring, uncomfortable and sleep-deprived hours later, about to board my re-arranged connection to Taipei.
Which didn’t happen. After boarding, waiting for a bunch of people who got lost and finally being ready to leave, the doors broke and wouldn’t close. So we “deplaned” again, and have returned to the departure lounge to get a different plane to Taipei. It’s now 27 hours since I awoke, I dozed for about an hour on the plane and it will be a good four hours until I get to my hotel in Taipei, assuming of course that they haven’t given me up as a bad job and cancelled my booking.
2100 Taipei time, 31 hours after my bus departed from Cambridge:
And I’ve finally arrived in my hostel. The second flight to Taipei went without a hitch, and I’ve successfully cleared immigration. I caught a bus to the main city train station, thinking that the airport was out of the city but not too much, only to find that it was a 30km ride in the rain. Good job I didn’t go for the taxi approach, although I guess the fare would have been covered on expenses. Seeing the gridlock around the station I took the metro to the right stop, and am now the proud owner of their version of an oyster. The Taipei Easycard is cheap (40p for a single journey) and can be used to pay for shopping up to £25 and government services. There is one last nail in the coffin for this journey unfortunately, putting my luggage on and off four planes has caused one of the wheels on my holdall to snap, meaning it now kind-of drags behind me rather than rolling. Combining this with the plentiful puddles on the streets tonight and I’ve got some drying to do.