"When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky"
-Guatama Siddharta

Over and under and up and down...sunshine and thunder...a laugh and a frown!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Day 19: No sleep till...Okinawa! Making the most of a Taipei layover!

8/21/15

Well, sleep did not happen! That's really unfortunate for anyone I come into contact with today. Apparently the airport does heavy construction in the middle of the night. Tonight's soundtrack was welding. By 2:30am I felt sick and was freezing (I forgot to pack my socks in my carry on to keep my feet warm) I decided to go see about this shower situation. I expected it to be 1. Nasty and 2. A pay shower. It was neither of those things. It was amazingly clean and free! I love the system. You press a red button on the wall when you walk in (there is a changing room section and then you can step into the shower (the changing room has a lock to keep it private obvi) the red button turns on the water heater. Directions say to let it warm for 5 mins before getting in. You only get a total of 15 mins so I wasn't waiting the full 5! That water temp is hard to figure out. Mine was hot instantly. Then it got really hot and I had to jump away from it because it was burning my skin, after about 2 mins of fine tuning I got it where j needed it. That hot water felt amazing after shivering in the airport for hours. What didn't feel amazing was getting out of the hot water back into the cold air and forgetting my towel (which I had been using as a blanket) out on my lawn chair where I left my rolling suitcase and water bottle (you can do that here in Asia (people won't steal your stuff and you never once hear an announcement about unattended luggage or people asking you to take things places etc)

I have literally every piece of clothing on that I could find in my suitcase. I look homeless. There are so many patterns and colors going on here, I look like a 3 year old who dressed them self! I'd take a pic but I think I'm even too embarrassed for that. Somewhere under all of this is a normal (probably not clean) outfit that I plan to wear on my tour today. 

Ok I got distracted. So what did I do for 8 hours while not sleeping? Researched hoe to be a minimalist packer, how to survive with just a carry on (I'm not near that yet...baby steps), traveling the world with just a backpack, etc. I am so determined to be a better packet, a more efficient traveler! I brought so much stuff with me that I didn't touch, there were things I wished I had. So, starting with my upcoming 9 month trip to Fukuoka I want to try some new packing techniques and to try to reduce what I bring. I've ordered some packing cubes and I have a list going. I'm armed with 8 hours of packing skills and tips to help me get there! The goal of this is to get to the point where next trip (personal not work) I go on, I'm only bringing carry on. I've never done that!

So finding the tourism bureau counter (or even level 1) from international departures (where I was) turned into an utter cluster f. I walked the entire airport in circles and it ended up that I had to reverse through security. Like for real walk against oncoming traffic, through the security metal detector toting my bags, to get back to another section where I then had to clear immigration. The immigration officer gave me a hard time because I didn't have a hotel listed on my immigration card, when I tried to explain that I was leaving today and only going on the free tour (I unfolded my brochure and showed her, the brochure I had picked up inside the airport mind you) she was still unwavering. Apparently she decided to let me through. Then I had to find baggage storage. Another cluster f because baggage storage is also baggage shipping and do you know how many people ship their luggage in Asia?! A lot. But for 100 NTD per bag I happily unloaded my shit and left with just a purse to finally find the tourism bureau desk because I was on level 1, right?!

Easy Directions to the Tourism Bureau and Luggage Storage: If you flew in from International, following the signs for immigration (not transit, even if you are a transit passenger), pass through immigration and customs, when you exit the doors from customs on the back wall slightly to your right but straight ahead is the Tourism Bureau desk. When you exit the door from customs turn left, then at the corner turn left again, baggage shipping and storage will be on your right. Easy. More information on the free tours available as a transit passenger can be found on their website here.

I got myself checked in at the desk, got my super touristy sticker to wear on my shirt, identifying my as a member of the tour (I'm sure at some point I'll have to follow someone holding up a stuffed animal on a stick or holding a bright umbrella high in the air) because nothing says "you're on a tour" quite like that.

The tour was pretty awesome, and something that definitely isn't advertised enough. My tour guide was "David" He was spunky, enthusiastic, and loved his city. The morning tour is out into the countryside, visiting Sanxia & Zushi Temple then going on to Yingge Ceramics Museum/Pottery Village before returning to the airport. I found the whole thing fascinating and well worth the time, it certainly beats sitting in a freezing airport. I will say that there was a minor communication breakdown and we were under the impression that we would be stopping somewhere to get lunch on the tour, but our tour guide had meant that we could get it at any of the stops. Just a communication error, so by the time we got back to the airport we were all quite hungry, and the Taipei airport is super limited in food options, unless you have lounge access, which I did, so I wasn't too concerned about it!







Back at the airport for what seemed like a quick and easy 45 minute flight into Okinawa. After some delays, I was happy to finally arrive. I couldn't wait to see Cheryl (who was picking me up). I raced to immigration and tried to patiently wait my turn, then I rushed down to baggage claim, figuring my bag would be one of the first off (since it had a night bright orange priority tag. Wrong.) When my bag never came off I knew this had taken a quick turn to ohshitsville. The sweet woman working at the baggage counter didn't seem concerned at first, she took my claim tag (which I thankfully still had, usually I lose those things), then she went rushing through some papers and became more agitated and concerned looking. She was apologizing. No, no apologizing, you'll find my bag. You just have to. It's the big one, the only one I checked, the one with all of my souvenirs (and my clothes). My frantic shuffling and apologies, this routine went on for about 5 minutes, when she was in the middle of her next round of this, and as I was becoming really frustrated (remember I had zero sleep the night before) I turned around (to take a deep breathe so I wouldn't lose my cool) and there it was, standing next to the very sign I was just standing next to. I have no idea where it came from, who put it there, or how it got there, but it was literally just one bag standing in an empty room, with no one near it. I figured it would be smooth sailing from here, especially since the customs agents had witnessed the entire fiasco (this is a tiny airport). Well I got to customs, the guy starts flipping through my passport, looking at me, flipping some more, counting my bags, flipping, etc. I started to have a mild panic attack (see my entry about my abnormal fear of being locked up abroad). By this point I could tell that he had looked at the destinations on my passport. He pointed to my roller board/carry on and requested to see inside. Sure fine (hold your breath, but I didn't warn him, I figured he deserved the breath of not so fresh air if he really wanted to investigate the suitcase). He opens it and starts going through things one by one, spending a decent amount of time on each. He picks up my night night (which is a tattered quilt that's inside a pillow case inside a pillowcase (because each layer inside the one before is more and more destroyed requiring a case to keep it safe and contained...yes I'm 35 and still sleep with it. Step off). He gets to the zip liner thing in my hard sided roller board suitcase...he unzips it, starts pressing on it, looking for something. Clearly thinks I'm hiding something. Good grief. I do believe I have been targeted for drug smuggling. Lucky me. Do I have the look? Is it the Thailand pants, because I definitely won't wear them to the airport again if that's the case!  When he found no drugs (obviously...again, see my abnormal fear of being locked up abroad, and I happen to not be in the heroin smuggling industry) he finally let me go...what a day...

I can't emphasize enough how amazing it is to be welcomed home by really good friends who have also become family! 

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