Taiwan to Japan - Date night

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January 3rd 2019
Published: February 18th 2019
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‘I’ve booked us a room in a love hotel’ said Steve one day, all casual-like, before moving swiftly on. Oh no, hang on a minute ... ‘You’ve done what? You’ve booked us a room in a BROTHEL???’ I shrieked. ’No, no,’ said Steve, ‘it’s a luuuurve hotel. It’s just for one night, it’s near the airport and it’s relatively cheap, which is what we need.’ Well, the deed was done so not much I could do about it and, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be a bit of an, er – experience?

So, we were delivered to Perth Airport in the rain and for once I didn’t mind too much, given that we were leaving it behind. The lovely Christmas tree we had seen in the sunshine outside Arrivals five weeks ago was the same tree we now saw all lit up in the dark because we were leaving from the same place we had arrived at. OK – Arrivals is Departures now, then. This morning we were heading back to Taiwan, because we had ‘dropped out’ of our Round The World ticket there to do a cheaper, independent flight to Australia, and we had to get back there to pick it up where we left off.

We were back on the dreaded Air Asia X airline. I was fully prepared this time, back in the winter clothes, all long sleeves and long trousers. I’d even dug out my scarf and gloves! No freezing on an unheated plane for me this time, oh no. We didn’t get off to a good start as we were due to depart at 6.50 am and didn’t take off until 7.30 am. Here we go ... The flight was rather bumpy and surprisingly warm and I wondered if that had anything to do with the heat, ash and debris that the Krakatoa volcano was currently belching out, as our flight-path took us within spitting distance of it. Our pilot assured us that our ‘slight’ diversion around it was quite enough to be safe. We were tossed around so much I wasn’t convinced. Nevertheless, we landed safely in Kuala Lumpur about 1.15 pm and had another wait in transit for our connecting flight, due to depart at 5.45 pm, in the same holding area as previously. Still, at least this time we knew where everything was and luckily bagsied two of the soft seats to settle down into.

We exchanged some Aussie dollars for KL ringits and managed to fit in a bite to eat and a lot of people-watching, keeping an eye on the board all the while for the departure gate number to be posted. When it was we began to gather ourselves to board our next flight. I casually paid a final visit to the loo (we were back in the Land of the Hole in the Floor, which I had forgotten about so had to wait for a western-style cubicle to become vacant), had a last cigarette and we queued up for another screening check and were casually sauntering down the loooong corridor to our boarding gate when we suddenly heard the last call for our flight! How did we go from having ample time to running the risk of missing the flight? We moved our speed-walking up a notch to a fair jog when the next last call was made and by the time we arrived at the boarding gate at the final last call we were outright running and gasping for breath and were amongst the very last to board. Geez. There’s a lesson to be learned there somewhere ...

The flight was uneventful but was again late taking off which was irritating because we’d nearly burst a gasket to catch it. We landed in Taiwan at 10.30 pm and had to queue FOR AGES to get through Immigration. We had been shuffling backwards and forwards through those serpentine barriers airports like to use for at least 30 minutes when we saw a sign saying at this point in the queue we had another 30 minutes to go. Twenty minutes later we came to a sign saying we had another 20 minutes to go. Hang on, does time travel at a different speed in Taiwan? We eventually cleared Immigration, but only after a team of REALLY tall basketball players held things up by not having completed their entry cards properly, and I was surprised when we exited the airport and it was ‘only’ 11.30 pm. Maybe there’d been a bit of a time warp ...

We had arranged for transport from the luuuurve hotel to collect us at the airport. Please God, don’t let it be a pimpmobile emblazoned with the name of the brothel and/or have explicit livery in lurid colours. In fact, it was a plain black affair, with quite tasteful, discreet, gold lettering. We drove through the night streets of Taipei and there wasn’t much to see which was probably a good job as I suspect the area was less than salubrious. I slid lower and lower in my seat in case we might pass someone who would recognise me (as if, in Taiwan, but y’know ...). Finally, we pulled in to the driveway of the TY Motel, all lit up with crimson lamps (see, I knew we were in the red light district) and an arm appeared out of a shed. We exchanged our passports for a plain brown paper bag (what the ...??), before they were returned to us with a key by the disembodied arm in the hut. Our driver drove us up to an open garage door and unloaded our suitcases. A garage?! OK – this was not what I was expecting and I was almost ready to demand that we be taken to the room we had booked in the brothel when the driver pointed us to a door at the back of the garage - and there was our luuuurve hotel room!

It turns out that the luuuurve hotel wasn’t a brothel and I was a little disappointed at that, after all. It was more a venue for illicit liaisons. Cars could drive in to the garage, close the door and no-one would know they were there. It had mood lighting (yes, even in the garage) and, on entering our room (208) I was pleasantly surprised! It was clean, spacious and, unsurprisingly, had an enormous bed and TV screen, the biggest I had ever seen. Turns out this was so that occupants could view all the porn channels in close-up detail! It had a huge circular bath with a waterfall tap, a separate shower and loo with a strange sliding door feature that allowed privacy of a sort for one or the other, but not both at the same time, and all the amenities we needed for an overnight stay. It was styled in a fashion that would have fit nicely in an Austin Powers film, all faux silk bedding and subdued lighting with not a window to be seen apart from the frosted glass in the door that led into the garden area which was surrounded by an eight foot high fence. If you knew no better you’d think it was just a normal, though quirky, hotel room but the tactful positioning of the condoms and lubricants on the bedside table might just give it away.

I didn’t go through my usual routine of ‘touching’ everything on this occasion – you just never know! I did investigate the plain brown paper bag we had been given though, to discover it contained a pot noodle type meal and some chopsticks. We weren’t sure if this was intended as an evening meal or breakfast, as all our interactions so far had been done without a word of English being spoken but still, it was ... considerate? I also investigated the bathroom accessories box and a dark, wicked-looking spikey thing stood out amongst the toothbrushes, sponges, combs and razors. Maybe this was some sado-masochistic implement of torture? No – it turned out to be a hair spider! I’ll be having that ...

We had a phone call from the office asking what time we wanted to be collected for the airport the following morning. ‘10.30 am, please,’ we said. The language barrier was a bit of a problem and we weren’t absolutely sure we had understood the question or that they had understood our answer. We eventually shouted it, as that seems to work, normally. After unsuccessfully looking for a switch that might make the bed vibrate in a somewhat relaxing fashion and after being on the move for 24 hours without sleep we finally fell in to the enormous, silky, mood-lit bed without taking advantage of the various add-ons offered and promptly fell asleep!

We were collected the next morning at 10.30 am sharp. This place really had its act together. We left without having seen another person apart from our driver, which I suppose was the point of the place! The only clue I had that other people were using the hotel was the slightly open door to the garden of the room next door, when I was out there having a cigarette. I was really taken with it!

We were delivered to Terminal 2 for our onward flight. Today we were heading for Japan. Yes, that’s right, Japan. Not that we were planning on staying there, it was just a means to an end on this somewhat strange route we were taking to our ultimate destination. Terminal 2 was lovely. There was no queue for check-in and only a tiny queue for Immigration where the initially belligerent, officious Man With The Wand hit me on the nose with it and collapsed into giggles before realising that this was perhaps not the appropriate response to committing bodily harm. He was somewhat relieved that I also saw the funny side and promised not to sue him! All the departure gates were themed, covering Animal Protection, Indigenous People, etc, and were lovely spaces to pass an otherwise boring waiting time. We were flying on Japan Airlines and they were super-efficient, which was no surprise. We took off bang on time at 1.20 pm and were waved off by the ground crew on the tarmac, which was a lovely touch. The cabin crew were super, all smiles and helpfulness and we had a lovely meal of rice and pork, served with a dash of oriental spice. We arrived at Narita Airport with night just falling and Mount Fuji clear against the sunset. It was stunning.

Sadly, it all went a bit skew-whiff from there on. We transited across to our next waiting area and found two lovely leather seats looking out across to our next Japan Airlines plane, sitting there on the tarmac. Unfortunately, it was sitting there on the tarmac with one of its engines in bits. We watched as a mechanic climbed the ladders into the engine then left, shrugging his shoulders. The ladders were removed, then returned. Another mechanic came and left. A group of mechanics came and stood there, looking bewildered. We were supposed to depart at 8.30 pm (Japan time – I’d lost track of any time differences now, if there were any) and time ticked by. Somebody turned up with a spare part, then left, taking the spare part with him. OK – I’m getting twitchy now. As a nervous flyer I like to know the planes I’m in have engines that are up to the job. No information whatsoever was forthcoming from the ground staff and I was pleased we hadn’t gone through to the departures holding area, where we would have been stuck. I wandered around the airport and found the amazing smoking area provided by the nicotine-addicted Japanese. There were worse places to spend the time. I also found the toilets which had the wonderful Japanese-style loos, complete with instructions in English so no danger of pressing the wrong button on this occasion!

The engine was eventually put back together and we were able to board on 4.1.19 at 10.30 pm Japan time. The pilot told us it was his decision to ensure that the plane was working properly before take-off (yes, I agree that would be a good idea) and he apologised for the delay (no need, I’m with you on that one). As it turned out, the engine was completely up to the job it had to do. We had another lovely meal (a crab starter, tagliatelle with beef in a sauce and really fresh salad with rice crackers followed by an unidentifiable but very nice dessert) and eventually landed on 4.1.19 (again) at 10.00 am (again). Yes, we really had gone back in time. About 19 hours by my reckoning! I’d no idea what time zone we were in, or what planet we were on by this stage. All I knew was that we were finally in the place we were aiming for. Aloha, Hawaii!

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