Today involved the first leg of my ~8,000 mile trip from home in DC to Taipei, Taiwan for the 2010 Taiwan Cycling Festival. What is that, exactly? Err, I’ll find out the details when I get there. Taiwan is trying to promote itself as a cycling destination, and is hoping to use this event to showcase what it’s got. And, courtesy of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, I’ll be giving you my take on the reality of that effort. I’ve been lucky enough to get around a bit, so I’m hoping that my well-considered take – which will be posted here over the next couple of weeks – will be useful to those thinking of trying Taiwan for a cycling trip.
That trip, however, comes with a pretty steep initial cost for Americans. Nevermind the actual ticket cost, I’m talking about the 14 hour trip from LAX (can’t be much shorter from SEA or other northern US departure points) to Taipei (TPE). At 6’1″, and recalling my 14 hour LAX-SYD flight last year, I’m dreading it already. I did a 16 hour flight from Newark to Hong Kong some years back, and it was miserable. That said, Hong Kong turned out to be one of the most amazing places I’ve seen on this planet, and was absolutely worth those 16 hours. So while the price can be steep, it’s quite possibly worth it. We’ll see.
Because I had zero interest in tying on the five hour flight from DC to LA into the LAX-TPE flight on the same day (for 19 straight hours of fun!), I decided to skip out to LA a day ahead of time. My favorite local airport, National, doesn’t do much in the way of direct flights to LAX, so I had to head out to the airport I often mock – Dulles (IAD). It turns out that I might have to ease back a bit on knocking it. In fact, it came off as a perfectly nice airport – one that might even eventually live up to the promise of its Saarinen-designed ticketing terminal.
First off, the moon buggies are mostly gone. In its place is a much improved security hall and rail transport to the terminals. And much to my pleasant surprise, Vino Volo, previously accessible only on int’l flights, now has a (much bigger) location at Terminal B. Like ATL’s One Flew South, it’s a great wine bar with good food. Much better than the usual regret-inducing airport fare.
The departure from my airport of choice also involved a departure from my airline of choice (Delta). This flight was on American, and since (in yet another departure from the norm) I’m actually checking a bag this trip (hard to pack clothing, cycling shoes/pedals, and a helmet in carry-on, it turns out), I experienced the joy of getting nickled ($25 for checked bag) and dimed ($39 for an aisle seat up front). (Too many parentheticals?) I don’t so much mind the total cost as the pettiness of dinging me for what I’ve come to expect as basics. We’ll just avoid the matter of food entirely. Personal thanks, though, to the flight attendant who took mercy on me and doubled my vodka tonic.
So I’m at the LAX Hilton now. Did you know you can snag pretty much any of the standard airport hotels (Marriott, Hilton, Crowne Plaza) for ~$65/night on Priceline? I used to mock a friend mercilessly for using them (and I still mostly avoid them), but that’s a regular and reliable halving of the price anywhere else. I’m trying to sort out a few more last minute things before I head off to uncertain connectivity, and then get a good night’s sleep ahead of what I’m sure will be something less than that.
But I’m really really looking forward to actually being in Taiwan.