The Everlasting Saturday

posted Aug 28, 2010, 4:08 AM by Charles Boling

Saturday 2010-08-28

Today's post is going to be broken up in two sections. This is the Guangzhou to Taipei section.

Well, today started out as a normal day. We were up at 7:00 and finished our packing. We grabbed some breakfast at 7-11 (including the famous Chinese moon cakes – very rich!). Then we headed down to the lobby with all of our luggage and Jonathan in the stroller. It's a good thing he's so used to being in it. We were getting a little concerned because our guide was about 15 minutes late. It wasn't Helen because she was busy, but she sent a fellow that turned out to be very nice. We rode in a mini-van to the train station (very near the consulate). Boy the streets are a maze in Guangzhou. And after being in several taxis it's pretty clear that they must go through a lot of transmissions with the way the start and stop so quickly!

The train station reminded us a lot of an airport about the same size as the Fuzhou airport and almost as tight security. They didn't confiscate our water, but we did have to lay everything on the conveyor belt and walk through the metal detector.

Our guide helped us buy tickets (which took awhile because we didn't have enough cash and had to run back downstairs to an ATM). We got to the train terminal (again, set up very much like an airline, except they charge you by pounded to check baggage – luckily they don't make you check it). We stood in line about 20 minutes before boarding the train. It was pretty nice, though our seats were facing backwards :-/. The seats were kind of like “first class” on an airplane (in fact, they were the first class seats on the train for only a little more per ticket). We got Jonathan his own seat – he sure was happy about that! The seats were big enough for Charles and had lots of leg room. Jonathan was a little difficult to manage during the 2 hour train ride – but it could have been worse! The train was REALLY smooth – it was quite relaxing to ride. What came after wasn't relaxing though! We ended up, trying to wait for elevators, at the end of the line of people (hundreds) that were on our train. We didn't think this was a problem until we found that we ALL were going through customs at the same time!!! Ugh. That took a LONG time to get through. Jonathan fell asleep half way through and didn't wake up until about 20 minutes after we were through.

When we finally got through customs it was a bit of a maze trying to figure out how to first exchange our currency for Hong Kong dollars, then find the ticketing machine and then finally find the right train to head us in the direction of the airport. We are SOOOOO thankful we spent a couple of days in Hong Kong before coming – otherwise we never would have been able to figure out the MTR in time to make our flight. Our previous experience with it was invaluable. We changed trains three times after the main train from Guanghzhou. The last was confusing (it's tripped us up every time we've gone through that interchange station – though we finally figured it out this time!).

We got the airport just over an hour before our flight was to leave! We hurried to the counter, but it took us over 40 minutes to check in/check baggage because we were trying to combine this flight we were about to get on, with the trans-pacific flight (so our luggage would go the right direction). Since we had to change just the first leg of the trip it was confusing. Then we ran into delays because Jonathan's ticket was issued in his American name, not his Chinese name, but his passport only had his Chinese name. So they had to go through a lot effort to “fix” that. Then, just having a Chinese passport took extra time too.

We finally got through security (10 minutes) and then immigration (5 minutes) we were dashing! We litterally RAN through the rest of the airport. They were boarding when we got there. Since we had Jonathan and the stroller they had us go through the “special” line where we got ahead of everyone else. They let us use the stroller all the way to the airplane. Then they bagged it.

The air flight itself was uneventful. Jonathan had a few times of screaming with frustration over something (like not getting to keep the tray down during take-off and not getting to have the window closed during landing – not sure why the last one was a rule, but they made us keep it open).

They even served a real rice and chicken meal, even though the flight was only an hour and 20 minutes. Chinese airlines offer much better service when it comes to food on board than American airline companies do.

We ended up with a three hour layover in the Taipei airport. That actually worked well because (even though we had to go through security yet *again*) Jonathan was able to get down and run around. The end of our concourse was deserted and had moving sidewalks. What a great toddler exercise tool! He liked using them the “normal” way of course. But he also got quite a kick out of going backwards down them! He could run just a little faster than they were moving in the opposite direction, so he didn't go very far but expended a lot of energy :-).

That section had also been converted into kind of a visitor information area all about Taiwan. Room after room (the size of the waiting areas for airlines) had theme and had beautiful displays all about different aspects of Taiwan (history, ecology etc...).

They had a great baby changing room too – decorated very prettily (obviously by a woman – it was all pink) where they not only provided a place to change diapers but provided diaper wipes, hot water for bottles etc...

Stay tuned for our next installment of “Will We Make It Home???”