Thursday, February 15, 2018

Flying to Taiwan

You have read about all the wonderful things to do and eat in Taiwan and have decided to visit. There are many international air carriers that fly into Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei.  If you are in North America, there are two Taiwan airlines that have many flights to Taiwan, China Airlines (not to be confused with mainland China’s Air China) and Eva Air. In 2017, Eva Air was rated the world's 6th best airline.

China Airlines with pink plum blossom on tail

Most of the flights leave from the west coast of the U.S. and Canada or from JFK in New York City. Eva Air has additional departure cities of Houston, Chicago, and Toronto.

Eva Air's North American routes

Asian air carriers constantly get high reviews of their exceptional service and I can attest to that from my experience on Eva Air. The Taiwan air carriers also fly to many other Asian countries, such as Thailand, Japan, and Vietnam, and China. If you are taking one of them to another Asian destination, why not increase your layover in Taipei and see some of amazing Taiwan? The Taiwan Tourism Bureau even has a free tour of Taipei if you have a layover of 7-24 hours.  Check out this website:

Eva Air Asian route map

There are three classes on both airlines, economy, premium economy, and business. The premium economy class would be similar to the first class on a domestic route in North America. The business classes offer lie-flat seats and are called Royal Laurel with Eva Air and Premium Business with China Airlines.

Both airlines booking sites leave something to be desired, but I find Eva Air’s booking website a little easier to use than China Airlines. Once you put in your requested dates and cites, you are presented with a range of prices with names such as Economy Super Saver, Economy Semi-Flex, or Premium Super Saver, etc.  I counted six different economy prices on China Airlines. The main difference between them is how many miles you will accumulate in the airlines’ rewards program and how much you will pay for a ticket refund. The Economy Super Saver, while the lowest price will not accumulate any miles and will have a high refund penalty.

All the different economy options on China Airlines

I have been using Eva Air on my trips to Taiwan and have never been disappointed. Eva is one of the few airlines flying the B777-300ER with 3-3-3 configuration in economy which gives you about a 1.5 inch wider seat than rivals flying a 3-4-3 configuration in economy on a B777. Eva Air’s seat pitch in economy is a very generous 33 inches.

For the Premium Economy class on Eva, it gets even better. Seats are configured 2-4-2 with 38 inches a pitch. In Royal Laurel or business class configuration is 1-2-1 and the seats are the lie-flat type.

Eva Air also has themed planes like Hello Kitty. Here was the Points Guy’s experience in economy:

Below are some pictures of the food I have experienced on Eva Air.

Premium Economy breakfast menu

Premium Economy dinner menu 


Amenity kit in Premium Economy

Eva Air dinner in Premium Economy

Starter in Royal Laurel

Main course duck in Royal Laurel

Dessert in Royal Laurel

Snack between dinner and breakfast

First course in Royal Laurel breakfast

If you have a U.S. Global Entry number you can use the Taiwan E-gate quick immigration system, however, you first need to complete an on-line application, pay NT$3,000, and schedule an in-person interview at the Taoyuan airport. If you are not a frequent traveler to Taiwan, it probably does not make sense.  I have never waited very long in the non-Taiwan citizen line at the airport immigration.

So now you are in Taipei’s Taoyuan International airport after a long overseas flight. You feel like you need a shower and you don’t belong to one of the lounges that have a shower. Not to worry, the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has you covered if you are making connections or you are staying in Taiwan. In terminal 2 in the upper floor where all the airlines have their lounges, you will find free, clean showers as you walk to Mos Burger. Use this if you have a layover. Towels are not provided so bring your own or rent one at the spa next door. There are also showers in the Business Center on the same floor.

In T2 upper floor walk toward Mos Burger and
the shower will be on your right.

Very clean!

Room for luggage. No towel though.

Water lasts for only 15 minutes.
If you are not connecting, there are free showers in the baggage claim areas. If you want to use them, don’t exit the baggage claim into the Arrival Hall. You cannot get back in. For location on a map, visit the Taoyuan International Airport website:

Eva Air has four lounges at the Taoyuan International Airport for their different levels of Mileagelands reward card members or those holding Royal Laurel business class tickets. The different lounges and who can use them are:

The Club – Silver member and booked Premium Economy
The Star – Gold members and Star Alliance Gold members
The Infinity – If you book the Royal Laurel business class
The Garden – Diamond members

Lounge map in T2 upper floor

Eva Club Lounge

Inside Club Lounge

Eva Garden Lounge

Eva Star Lounge

China Airlines also operates its own lounges at Taoyuan International Airport and if you are a Priority Pass member you also have access to the Plaza Premium and More lounges.

For Priority Pass members

It seems like most of the flights to Taiwan leave around midnight on the west coast which means you arrive around 6:00 am Taiwan time. My suggestion would be to ask your hotel for an early check-in. In my case, the hotel charged me half of the room rate and I also got their buffet breakfast. Being able to shower, change, and eat made me ready for exploring Taipei!

Welcome to Taiwan!

All Aboard Taiwan!


Instagram: ExperienceTaiwan

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How to get to the Old City of Lukang

I have just left Chiayi City and am heading to Taichung by train on this my seventh day going around Taipei with only public transportation. The purpose of going to Taichung is to travel to the old city of Lukang. Many years ago, the city elders decided they did not want a train station and all the unsavory development that it would bring. That was a good thing for us because visiting Lukang is like going back in time. We get a glimpse of life in Taiwan 50 or 100 years ago.

I will spend the night in Taichung and then take the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus to Lukang in the morning. The Taichung Railway station (TRA) is being modernized and enlarged. After arriving, I exited the rear of the station but took a maze to reach the front of the station. The hotel I selected is not a far walk from the train station. I try to pick nice hotels near the train stations on this trip around Taiwan. It makes life easier when I need to take public transportation.  My hotel in Taichung is the 1969 Blue Sky Hotel.  Probably one of the best values on my trip! It was a very cool modern-romantic industrial type of design that has been opened for only a short time.

Lobby of 1969 Blue Sky Hotel
Creative breakfast - 1969 Blue Sky Hotel

I need to travel to the nearby Taichung High-Speed Rail Station (HSR) to catch the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus to Lukang. I think there are local buses that leave from Taichung to Lukang, but most local bus schedules are in Chinese which I can't read, so I took a short train ride from the Taichung Rail Station to the High-Speed Rail Station.  Taichung will have an MRT soon that will link the downtown with the HSR station. Estimates are that this line will start in December 2018. By the way, I have never had a problem speaking English at any train ticket booth. 

Short train ride from Taichung TRA station
to Taichung HSR station

Finding the bus to Lukang at the Taichung HSR terminal is very easy. When you are in the main terminal of the HSR station, head down one floor to where the bus terminal is. I caught the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus at Platform 5 which also makes a stop at Changhua. There are helpful people at tourist information desks at the bus terminal and the main terminal floor. I had my Easy Card, so no need to buy a bus ticket!

The way down to the bus terminal

Bus Platform 5 to Lukang

One thing to remember, the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle does not stop at every stop. When you are getting close to your stop, you need to press the button on the bus. I was looking at Google Maps on my phone for the nearest stop to my hotel in Lukang, but I was too late. I ended up at the main bus stop in Lukang and had to walk some distance to my hotel. Lukang Old Town is not that large, so it was not a far walk.

The Changhua stop

Bus parking lot at Lukang bus stop

I stayed at a very new, modern, luxurious hotel called Union House. It is probably the best high-end choice in old town.

Union House hotel

Union House hotel lobby

Union House hotel reception

Time to explore the Old City! Lukang is known for its old buildings, small alleys where artisans still work, and its many temples. I could see the Longshan temple from my hotel’s window so that was my first stop.

Longshan Temple from Union House hotel

Longshan Temple

Now time to head up the street to the infamous Mazu Temple. There are so many food vendors around the temple, especially seafood.

Many food stands!

Wow! Those are big!

Pleasure for the eyes and stomach!

Squid on a stick

Mazu Temple

Time to explore some of the back alleys. It’s like a treasure hunt – you don’t know what you will discover.

This hotel was the only one I have stayed at in Taiwan that did not have a breakfast buffet. I think maybe it was because there were so few guests staying here. I didn’t see any other guests, but I saw lots of staff.

Union House hotel breakfast area

I will take the bus back to the Taichung HSR station and then take a high-speed train back to Taipei. I walked back to the bus stopped where I was dropped off the previous day and asked a person who worked there that didn’t speak English “where to get on the Tourist shuttle bus?” Using hand gestures, he told me to wait in the small bus terminal and I suspect he will then tell me when the bus arrives. 

Part of the bus schedule in the Lukang bus station

The next bus to Chunghua and then the HSR station was a local bus.  No problem. It makes more stops then the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus but still goes to the same place. It dropped me off at Platform 5 and I was at the HSR terminal. Since so many trains go to Taipei it is no problem buying tickets the same day, except around local holidays. After a short wait, I am speeding to Taipei!

All Aboard Taiwan!