Friday, April 04, 2008

Day 1 Sunday :: Arriving in Taiwan > Taichung ::

The plane was delayed by 5 mins. It was a comfortable flight on SIA with no turbulence. We were kept well-fed and well-hydrated by the crew. It wasn't as well organised as the previous crew we travelled with but they were more eager to serve and constantly walked around giving out drinks. The flight was very packed so I guess they were kept on their toes. I have some opinions on the checklist of the mainteinance crew though. Had a defective safety belt inflight in Row 34. If there was servere turbulence or plane fault, I would be in trouble!

Arrived at Taoyuan Airport Terminal 2 @ 5pm. It took more than half an hour to clear immigration and collect our luggage. I hope to just carry-on my luggage next time to save time. After exiting from the Arrival Hall, we turned right and proceeded to park our luggage and mom at the bus ticketing area situated there.

After being assured that she would stay there, we headed to the far left of the Arrival Hall to check if my FarEastTone SIM could still be used. Unfortunately, it had expired. Too lazy to check on other telecom all lined up in that row, we purchased a new SIM card (NT300+350) from the FET counter. It was activated ready for use when it was handed over. If the SIM was purchased outside the Airport, it would have taken a longer time for activation to take place. This process took less than 5mins and we headed back to the express bus ticketing area to catch a bus to Taichung TRA station.

As expected, we missed the 5.45pm buses; or technically, the counters had closed purchases 5 minutes before departure time. As Guoguang and Ubus's next bus to Taichung was 6.45pm, we decided to purchase tickets for the 6pm Freego bus.

Headed for Berth 51/52 in the waiting area outside. There was a bus conductor who pasted a numbered baggage sticker on our luggage after checking our tickets to ensure we were at the right place.

Sidenote: The sticker was new as we didn't see it last May when we used freego services.

The Freego bus was 15 mins late. We had completed contacting all the relevant people and double checked with them to confirm that they had our itinerary right. Boarded the bus which was a slightly older model with sticky seats and dirty armrests.

Along the freeway we spotted many small fireworks lighting up the skies in the distance. I guess they were conducting some post-election celebrations after voting for the new president that will assume duties in May 2008. On a sie note: a Guoguang bus Airport-Taichung bus zoomed past us on the freeway which we suspect to be the 6.45pm bus! Grr!

Note: It seems that all the bus companies have buses leaving at 5.45pm. GuoGuang's next bus was 6.45pm while Freego's was every 15mins. Try to take GuoGuang rather than Freego, they seem to be more punctual.

Traffic was sluggish in Taichung City District. We reached the TRA station at 8.30pm instad of our expected time of arrival of 8.10pm which set us back by 20mins. Although the stop for the bus was technically "Taichung TRA station", the drop-off point was some distance away from the TRA station.

Note: To get to the Taichung TRA Station, simply follow the pavement, with the Jian Guo Road where you alighted at on your left, and you can find the station with no trouble.

We purchased the necessary round trip train tickets NT802pax for: Taipei-Hualien TC 1053 Shulin To Taitung 7:08 Hualien-Taipei TC 1060 Taitung To Shulin 19:00.

(The TC 1080 -- Jhihben To Taipei 19:30 was sold out because it was popular for its short journey time). On ticket purchase, we can now contact/arrange key persons before checking into Zaw-jung Business Hotel which we had booked while waiting for the Taichung Bus. Had a quick dinner at MOS as it was already quite late. Had some trouble finding the Underpass 地下道 to the rear station exit as people we asked kept giving us the wrong info. Good thing we were alert enough to double check or we'd have ended up lugging our luggage to Zhongzheng Rd Underpass.

Here are the Directions for the Underpass:

  1. Navigate yourself past the auto-ticketing machine to where the ticketing booths, stationmaster booth are.
  2. In front of the ticketing offices: on the left and right are 2 underpasses地下道.
  3. The left one goes across the street in front of the station.
  4. The right underpass leads to the rear exit which ends up in a small and quiet alley so don’t be startled.
  5. At the exit you will notice the fenced railway compound on your right.
  6. Turn left and walk down the alley.
  7. At the end of the alley you will see a small parking lot and Fuxing Rd Section 4 復興路四段.

TIP: If you are checking in at night, read the lighted signboards. They really stand out from each other. Simply stand there & scan the lighted signboards across Fuxing Rd Sec 4 on your right, you should be able to spot the Zawjung one easily.

Wheeling our luggage was a hassle as there are many stairs on the pavement. I noticed that both Twinstar Hotel (which looked spiffier across the road on the left) & Zawjung are equidistant from the rear exit.

I wasn’t expecting much of the hotel since it was el cheap (NT1580 for 2 doubles) as long as it is clean. Unfortunately, Zaw-jung Hotel was unlike what was described in the reviews and beyond my worst expectation. Even the el cheaper Futurestar in XMD was tons better than it. My impression of Zawjung stank with cigarette smell even though there were smoking signs. I don’t think staying in a different floor or turning on the air-con helped. The corridors were grimy with exposed black pipes and wires along the way from the elevator. At first glance, the room given to us was spacious and tidy like the pictures taken by other forumers. It was cleaned but it wasn’t clean clean. It passed muster on glance but on close look, there were odd specks on the pillows and the bedspread and the cupboards gave off an odd smell. Only the bathroom & towels made it in my standard. It was a tiring day and it was past 9.30pm so we decided to shower & sleep since it was only one night.

If I intend to stay in Taichung for a longer time in the future, rather than use it as transit point, I’d try the mid-range hotels located in the West District nearer Fengjia Night Market.

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