Friday, August 18, 2006

Wrapping up some loose ends

I must issue an update on an issue I raised last time. I did, in fact, get Traveller's Diarrhea. It was that night, and it was a fairly mild case. Though I had it the rest of the next day, I made it on a two-and-a-half hour flight back to Taipei just fine. I'm able to eat normally and though my gut feels like there's still something weird going on, I'm probably through the whole thing with very little consequence.

I took a taxi to the airport that cost only PhP 350, which is more along the lines of what the travel guide said to expect. One thing I didn't prepare for was a PhP 550 departure fee that everyone must pay in cash when leaving Manila. I actually did see this on the travel itinerary, but I didn't fully realize I had to pay it separately from the cost of the ticket. Now PhP 550 is like US $10, which is fine, but I was so careful about spending my Philippine Pisos pretty exactly by the end, that I didn't have the amount on me. I went to an ATM, and if you've been following my blog, you know that the Manila Airport ATMs don't take my card. I had to exchange US $20 at an airport exchange place. This is fine, but it throws a wrench in the works in my keeping a certain amount of US dollars on me for my return flight in early January. Well, the Hawaii airport ATMs probably take my card, so I'm not too worried, but as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men...

One thing about Manila Airport: They sure have a lot of security checks. To get into the terminal building you need to show your airline ticket or some evidence you're travelling today. Then you get checked again, and you put your luggage through an X-ray machine while you go through a metal detector. Then you check into your flight in the lobby, when they look at your passport and give you a boarding pass. From there to the gate I think there were three more checks, not including customs, immigration, and the regular put-your-carryon-in-the-X-ray routine. They took my boarding pass to get into the gate, of course checking my passport again. I think somewhere along the line, I got frisked. If quantity is a sign of quality, then Manila Airport must be very safe.

I flew to Taipei on EVA Air, which I'd only vaguely heard of before. Based on the map of their flights in their in-flight magazine, it must be based in Taiwan--almost all of their flights involve Taiwan somehow. I'm not sure if EVA is an acronym (pronounced "ee vee ay") or a word (pronounced "eh-vah" or "ee-vah"). It's possible it's related to the Evergreen bus company I saw a lot of in Taipei.

EVA Air was one of the most comfortable flights I've experienced, and that's without realizing that to recline your seat, you don't push the round metallic button, but lift a small brown lever (I discovered this when we were landing and people had to lift it to put their seatbacks in their upright position). The seats were wide, and the bottom of the seat pushes out like a Lazy-boy. The food was also excellent: a full meal, for once, on an airline. They even had metal utensils!

I may have said this before, but I'm going to hang out with a friend in Taipei. That is, if we can make contact. I have no idea when his flight comes in. Just in case he arrived shortly after me, I stayed around the arrival area. They have comfortable seats, and video screens so that people who are looking for someone coming in can watch everyone who comes out of customs. You can even get wireless internet access, or so I assume; I couldn't figure it out. I did supply my credit card number but instead of giving me a username and password, it kicked me back to the main menu. It didn't help that most of the instructions were in Chinese.

I checked into the Cosmos Hotel again (nothing beats familiarity) and they only had the somewhat more expensive rooms this time. I decided to take it (I can afford it and it beats wandering around Taipei looking for another hotel). It was nicer and bigger, and it's on a corner so I get views in both directions. Now, I'm on the 7th floor in a major metropolitan area, so this means, of course, that I get a view of office buildings. But it is a view.

My priorities on a hotel room are roughly as follows (not counting price), from most to least important:
1. It's a room where I can leave my stuff, sleep, and relax
2. I can take a shower and use the restroom facilities
3. It's got internet access
4. It's comfortable and clean
Not at all a priority: nice views, TV (am I going to spend my vacation watching TV?), fancy lampshades, fake flower arrangements, artistic sintered glass division between the bathroom and the bedroom, a nice couch, etc.

Yet, if I want internet access, it's assumed I want all the rest. Not that I'm complaining. but it does seem a waste. In Manila my room didn't even have internet access and the decor was still well above what I would care to pay for.

Well, it's off to the National Palace Museum, where you can find all the really cool stuff that was taken from Beijing when the Maoists pushed the Nationalists out.

edit: While we're tying up loose ends, I CAN put my VONS club card (instead of my hotel room card key) into the slot to turn on the lights. Thanks, whoever posted that comment.

edit on Aug. 20, 2006: I tried my Malibu Yogurt card, and it works. My business card, and it works. I think anything of the proper shape and opaque will work.


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