lovers in japan: tokyo and mt fuji

Japan is a special place.  Its culture is unique and traditions well preserved.  Tokyo is probably the most interesting city in the world, as it is a city of contradictions.  There’s an avant garde, boldness to it, but yet there’s also a timid sensibility, too.  It’s both modern and ancient, debaucherous and pious.  The food, the facilities, everything is deliberated over and planned out, but there’s spontaneity around every corner.  It’s edgy, real and fearless.  Yet, for a city of its size, it’s unimaginably safe and tidy.

Japanese citizens have a sense of responsibility in keeping their homeland organized and neat, and proudly show off their incredible technology and forward thinking nature.  I love everything about it.  There’s so much to see and do in Japan, and often times not enough money.

turning japanese

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know before you go: Taipei (TPE)

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The Taipei Taoyuan Airport (TPE) is one of the most popular layover spots to and from the US to any destination in Asia (serves as a hub for China and Eva Air).  It is so popular, they’re planning on adding a whole new terminal in the next few years to increase the population traveling through by about 45 million/year (that’s like 80 million total)!

I have been through this airport several times to and from Asia, and it never disappoints (even when you’ve missed your flight due to delays and have an unexpected extra night here before being re-routed through another unplanned destination before going home, oh and by the way, they’ve lost your luggage–luckily, there are loungers that are pretty comfortable to sleep in).  There’s a gym where you can shower for free, arcade games, playground areas, a library, and massage areas to pass your time.  And everything is super clean here.

However, it can be confusing to navigate for not having technically that many gates (~ 40).   First of all, it is located about 30 minutes from Taipei, so plan accordingly, as traffic can be a bear.  Once you get there, it’s pretty big for only having two terminals.  Terminal 1 has concourse A (north) and B (south).  Terminal 2 is split into concourse C (south) and D (north).  It’s a little counterintuitive.  Terminals are connected by a SkyTrain (although not the easiest to get to); concourses are connected by the main halls (immigration, passport check, etc). Lounges are on the 4th floor, the departures happen from the 3rd floor, while the arrivals are herded to the 2nd floor from the same gates.  There’s a lot of up down, down up happening in this airport. Fortunately, there are a lot of signs in both Mandarin and English, which helps a lot.

Terminal 1: Emirates, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cathay, etc (flights to most Asian countries)

Terminal 2: Delta, United, Eva, China, China Southern, China Eastern, Singapore, Japan, KLM (flights to non-Asian countries)

Once in your concourse, it gets easier.  There are a lot of restroom facilities, breast feeding rooms, cultural displays, and restaurants–mostly fast casual.

The food choices are mostly Taiwanese/Asian inspired except for standard Starbucks, McDonalds and Subway.  I had an above average Taiwanese beef noodle soup in the Terminal 2 food court.  The shopping has a lot of local Taiwanese souvenirs, teas, aboriginal gifts, but not so much in terms of luxury boutiques (for some reason I only remember Van Cleef & Arpels and Bvlgari).

The best thing about this airport are the themed gates.  Namely one…the Hello Kitty gate.  Eva Air features a Hello Kitty flight, so one of their gates is decked out in all her glory.  IMG_0602.jpg

Remember: ✈️ = goodbye, kitty to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = hello, kitty

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ leaving Taipei (the luggage carts are free), but immigration line on arrival was ✈️✈️

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (not bad for Asian food, not the best for variety)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (very clean facilities and a plus for availability of free shower)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️  (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (gym, arcade, cultural exhibits, Hello Kitty, airline lounges, places to sleep, however I expect more variety from duty free shopping)