Taipei Layover & Airport Lounge

Getting creative with the routing enroute to your final destination gives a chance for a quick look at a city that you otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to.  We had 7 hours in Taipei to see some of the highlights.  I wanted to allow a generous buffer to get back in time for the onward flight to Beijing.  By the time we left the lounge with our backpacks, we basically had 4 hours to go downtown and back.  I decided the best option was the Evergreen bus and that we would have to just see as much as possible through the window as we wouldn’t have time to get out and actually visit anything.  Still it was better than nothing!

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The friendly tourist information folks directed us to where the buses were.

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We had to buy one-way tickets for the outbound journey and were charged upon return for the return trip since we never left the bus.  It was a comfortable ride with nice large windows.IMG_2513 IMG_2511

We got a peek at Taipei 101 and other interesting buildings.  It was pretty cool to watch people going about their normal early morning business.IMG_2487 IMG_2489 IMG_2490 IMG_2491 IMG_2492 IMG_2493 IMG_2494 IMG_2495 IMG_2496 IMG_2497 IMG_2498 IMG_2499

Right after I snapped this pic of the monk, we were treated to some major drama!  All of a sudden, a young man ran out in front of the bus, then a policeman followed on foot all at high speed!  We watched the youth cross the street and disappear on the other side.  The policeman stopped a random passer-by on a motorcycle, hopped on back behind the driver and take off in pursuit of the suspect.  It all happened so fast it was over before it even occurred to me to try to take a photo.  Probably better that I didn’t as I wouldn’t  have wanted to be involved in a court case just as our African adventure was starting.IMG_2500

The bus continued through downtown Taipei and we saw more interesting buildings and temples.IMG_2501 IMG_2502

I was relieved to see we made good time and that we were in no danger of missing our flight.IMG_2504 IMG_2506 IMG_2509 IMG_2510 IMG_2512

More curiosities back at the airport.IMG_2515

Interesting shops at the airport.IMG_2516

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Our onward flight was on China Airlines and we were invited to the China Airlines lounge, once again a cross-alliance partnership.  So we got to experience two lounges at TPE.

 

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Eva Air Business Class: Brisbane – Taipei & Lounge Access

Since United devalued their program a few months ago, I wanted to take advantage of the generous routing rules before they took that away too.  Devaluations seemed to be a common theme amongst most airlines this year. I also noted that the trend is for airlines to be stingy with business class awards and I really didn’t want to do such a long itinerary in economy!  I also wanted to take advantage of the routing rules for quick layovers in Taipei & Beijing.

QANTAS LOUNGE IN BNE

Much to my surprise, we were invited to the Qantas lounge (OneWorld member) instead of the Air New Zealand Koru Club that Thai usually invites us to.  Apparently this is due to a code-share arrangement between Eva and Qantas. The only other Star Alliance airline – Singapore has their own lounge but they only open award seats in/out of Australia at T-14 so basically useless for advance planners.  It was nice to try out a new lounge and relax before our flight.  It wasn’t crowded and was very comfortable.

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I loved the artwork!IMG_2470 IMG_2463 IMG_2464

View over the airport from the lounge.IMG_2466 IMG_2467 IMG_2468BUSINESS CLASS SEATS

Although they were angled lie-flat, they were still comfortable and we got a good night’s sleep.

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I didn’t really care for the food but my husband liked it.  I just wanted to get some sleep so passed on my evening meal.IMG_2476EVA AIR LOUNGE IN TAIPEI

Upon arrival, we went to the EVA AIR lounge hoping to stash our bags while we did a quick run into the city.  They took my boarding pass as security which was bad as we needed the boarding passes to clear security and immigration after our excursion so we ate a quick breakfast, then headed through immigration, backpacks and all for the trip.

Entrance to lounge

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Breakfast buffetIMG_2484 IMG_2483 IMG_2482

Very cool bottles for sale in duty free, I would have bought one if this had been the return leg into Brisbane.IMG_2477

A Rocky Road To Colombo (CMB) That Ends With A Shopping Spree & Lounge

Sadly our last day in Sri Lanka had arrived and it was time to start heading home.  After a lazy morning of last chance birding from our balcony, we paid the bill and went down the road a few metres to wait for the bus to Kalawana.  Since it was a Sunday, there were fewer buses and we waited almost an hour but a bus finally did show up.  The trip to Kalawana was around an hour with stops and we easily found a bus for the next leg of the journey to Matugama.  The road was in terrible condition with apparent rock slides and bulldozers everywhere so this relatively short leg (40km) actually took over an hour.

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I love how this bin kind of looks like a bird!

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In Matugama we had an easier task because there were a lot more choices to Colombo.  I was actually more interested in a non-stop trip than the AC so we chose this bus hoping for a better experience.

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It was pretty good and the man behind us spoke English so we chatted a while but he got out before we did.  We took the road along the seaside to Colombo.

IMG_3792 IMG_3793 IMG_3794 IMG_3795 IMG_3797 IMG_3798 IMG_3800I wasn’t sure where to jump off the bus and no one else spoke English so we stayed on to the end.  It was around 3pm and we hadn’t had lunch so were pretty hungry.  I remembered the name of a shopping centre – the Dutch Hospital so we grabbed a rickshaw and asked to be dropped there.  He actually dropped us in front of the adjacent TGI Fridays and we were both in need of a clean toilet so we went in and ended up having a late lunch there.

IMG_3809 IMG_3801After stuffing ourselves, we walked next door to the Dutch Hospital (it used to be a hospital but was now a trendy shopping centre) to have a look around.  There were several boutiques and a snall branch of Odel, a local department store.  I ended up buying a green kaftan top.

IMG_3804 IMG_3805 IMG_3806 IMG_3807 IMG_3808There were some newlyweds taking photos outside.  It’s interesting to see the different styles of wedding clothes!

IMG_3802 IMG_3803I wanted to buy some Sri Lankan art, preferably with birds  so I asked some locals and was directed to Laksala, a huge craft shop a few blocks away.

IMG_3810 IMG_3814 IMG_3811 IMG_3812 IMG_3813I bought a few batiks since they were easily packed in our carry-ons, then we went out and got a rickshaw to the airport bus stand.  It was still a bit early but we didn’t have anything else to do, at least not anything we could do while shlepping all our stuff around!  You get a choice of AC or regular bus and we had plenty of rupees left over so went AC as it was still pretty hot and humid.

IMG_3815It took well over an hour to get to the airport………….and this was a Sunday evening!  When we arrived, we discovered that we would have to wait about 3 hours until the Singapore Airlines staff arrived for check in.  Ina sat with the bags while I scouted the shops for something worth blowing our last few rupees on.  It was nice to see all the Christmas decorations!

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Sand paintings were tempting but I was afraid they wouldn’t allow them in Australia.

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T-shirts were too small.

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Ah yes!  Here we go, bird batiks!  I snapped up a couple and liked them so much I not only finished my rupees, I had to top it off with Visa.

IMG_3819The waiting area was poorly placed where you couldn’t see the board where flights open for check in were displayed.  The seats were really uncomfortable and I was desperate to get past the formalities and go to the business class lounge since we had J tickets on SQ.

IMG_3825 IMG_3826 IMG_3827 IMG_3828Not the best lounge in the world but they did have food, drinks and internet!  I was pretty sad to leave Sri Lanka as we had had a great time and seen some amazing birds but with so many options especially with One World, I am sure we will be back some day!

Layover In Seoul Airport (ICN)

One of the benefits of traveling in business class is that you get to use the lounges in airports.  If you are traveling in economy, check to see if your AMEX credit card gives you access to lounges via Priority Pass.  For people traveling long distances and having to make several connections such as we did on our epic itinerary, it was a welcome place to relax, watch movies on my laptop, enjoy the buffet and the massage chairs in the Asiana Club which serves all Star Alliance airlines.   We arrived on Thai and departed on Air Canada.

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ICN offers a train between some gates and the main terminal, I wish BKK would do the same!

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If you tire of the lounge, there are several things to keep you occupied at ICN.  This was our 3rd transit through ICN and we had already done a quick trip into the city and the temple tour and we wanted to rest up for the rest of the journey.  We did do the “cultural activity” which was making paper clothes for a Korean doll, a cute little souvenir!  The other activity was some kind of stencil artwork.

IMG_8850 IMG_8851 IMG_8852 IMG_8853 IMG_8854 IMG_8855If you have a long layover, you may want to consider one of the transit tours.  You need to formally enter Korea (immigration) and book them.  Some are free, some have a fee so be sure to check with the Transit Tour desk.  We did the Temple Tour 2 years ago and really enjoyed it.  We also made an independant excursion into Seoul and saw the sights offered on the Highlights of Seoul City Tour.  If our flight to Vancouver hadn’t been at 16:30, we possibly would have done the Korean Culture Tour A or B.

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