Stop over’s and transit time in Airports can often be one of the major pitfalls of International travel.
Picture this: You have just been on an 11 hour flight and you now have to wait 6 hours in a sterile, cold, unfriendly and busy International Airport Terminal. You are then faced with another 12 hours or so of flying time before you touch down wearily at your destination. Transit is not all that terrible when you are on your way to a country and your fun filled holiday, but it’s a whole other story on the way back. You are dreaming of your own bed but the wait continues to drag on, will you ever see your beloved pillow again?
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is combating this problem with the Transit Tourist program. The Taiwan Tourism Bureau offers FREE half day tours from the Airport on either the cultural route or the City route. This allows travellers to get out for 4-5 hours and enjoy the sites of Taiwan. This is especially good in an airport such as Taiwan Toayuan as it really is a big, sterile, quiet and lonely airport.
I was lucky enough to arrive at 6.30am on February 12th 2007, so with what felt like a hangover and 12 hours until my flight left, I was not looking forward to the day. Luckily I bumped into some other weary travellers and we all headed to the tourism desk which we had been notified about on the plane. There were 6 of us there and we quickly formed a bond and chose to do a cultural tour of the city in the morning, this meant that we could get back to the Airport by lunchtime and then travel all together by shuttle to the central Taipei. This way we got the best of both tours.
I was so thankful to have something to do for the day and to have met such a unique and interesting bunch of people to spend the time with. A Greek/ Aussie guy named Zoran, A Canadian girl living in Oz named Sarah (Nugs), A Japanese/ Australian whose name evades me and Tony and Nick from Newcastle. We clicked right away and spent the journey to the temple and ancient city chatting about our trips to date.
The cultural tour was definitely worth braving the wet and foggy morning for. The ancient city was fascinating with intricately designed buildings containing little businesses that had been running for many years. We really got a great peek into the Taiwanese culture. The guide was brilliant as well. He was knowledgeable, animated and very open to questions. We had 3 hours to stroll around the old city, temple, morning market and small art museum. I was so fascinated by the culture and really was disappointed now that I only had a short day here. Taiwan is onto something with there little taste tester tourist trips. Marketing 101 – free samples!
After shopping, seeing the sights and being stunned by some of the Taiwanese customs- including having a live fish on hooks at your stall to show just how fresh your produce is, we boarded the bus and headed back to the airport. Our now tight knit group then jumped on the city shuttle to head to the famous Taipei 101! How lucky are we to have such a fun filled day with only 10 hours to spare!
We arrived at the incredible Taipei 101 and decided lunch was probably the best option first and as the tallest tower in the world also doubles as a shopping centre, we were able to find a rather large food court to satisfy our appetites. Choosing lunch was interesting….. and finding almost an entire chicken in Sarahs soup was an experience, but overall the food was delicious and the choice unfathomable. Great Asian flavours and at wonderfully low prices.
We decided to walk through the many levels of shops that we could never afford to purchase things from and amused ourselves with the many gadgets and products on offer. It was then time for the tallest tower in the world, Taipei 101! Once you reach the top you are greeted with both indoor and outdoor viewing decks which offer amazing views over what appears to be the entire island that is the tiny Taiwan. There was also a museum inside containing strange and unusual coloured lights – we didn’t know the purpose of it but it was fun to explore. Photos were in abundance and many oohs and ahs were spoken. It’s definitely a sight to be seen and one to cross off the old traveller list.
We got back to the airport around 8pm as we were all rather tired from our Big Day Out. Happy to realise once we had checked in that we had most certainly made the right decision in having a day out as the Airport was so quiet , sterile and un-welcoming.
Of all the airports to have to spend the day in- Taiwan’s International Airport is the best. What a great idea to help tourists on their long journeys and to entice them back to this beautiful and interesting country. If you have the option, choose Taiwan as your international stop-over, all you need is a day to have a fantastic taste of Taiwan!
You can take advantage of the Free Half-Day Tour for Transit Passengers offered by the Tourism Bureau. The Presidential Office Building, the Taipei 101 Mall, and several other places of interest are included in the tour. You may register at the Arrival Lobby Tourist Service Center.
Terminal I: Morning tour: bus leaves at 7:45 a.m. and returns to the airport before 1 p.m.* Afternoon tour: bus leaves at 1:45 p.m. and returns to the airport before 6:30 p.m.*
Terminal II: Morning tour: bus leaves at 7:30 a.m. and returns to the airport before 1 p.m.* Afternoon tour: bus leaves at 1:30 p.m. and returns to the airport before 6:30 p.m.* *Actual return time to terminal may vary according to traffic conditions.
For information at the airport go to: http://www.taoyuanairport.gov.tw/english/about/item_e_e.jsp?itemid=6
For information on Travel in Taiwan visit the Tourism Bureau website: http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0000236