To The Land Of The Rising Sun

Tl;dr – 3am start, rain-soaked walk, 4am bus, everything opens at 6am in Taoyuan airport, 6am boarding, decent uneventful flight, Japanese trains are confusing, hostel is super close to the subway

3am is much more frequently an end of a day than a start, but for some reason we found ourselves waking up at this horrible hour once more. But unlike the last one, where I got to chill out for a few hours in bed, we were up and out the door by 3:20 to walk to the bus station, in the pouring rain. When we got there the bus station was shut, but there was a queue outside the front (of course, it was under an awning) which we joined not really knowing if it was for our bus. At around 3:50 a small, old, bald man opened up the doors and we rushed to the front of the new queue at the gate for the bus. We had purchased Easycards for the metro and they were accepted on the bus so we didn’t need to buy tickets, so this meant we could be right at the front of the bus queue. 4am came and went and no bus. The small, old, bald man informed us (I think) that the bus would be 5 minutes, and lo and behold he was right. We got straight on and sat at the front because we are super cool and watched as some small puddles formed around our soggy shoes. 10 minutes later we were off.

The bus journey was much quicker than the previous journey in the opposite direction and so, in about half an hour, we were at the terminal ready to check-in. Taoyuan Airport has a good little addition at check-in where you go and stand at a screen and watch your bag make it through the X-ray machine. So if you’ve packed some explosives or hard drugs then you know whether or not they make them on the plane. As we had neither, we watched Kate’s bag plop out the other end of the X-ray machine and we headed off through security.

Once out the other end we both started to feel a bit peckish. They have a lot of vending machines in Taipei and it came in handy when you got thirsty knowing you weren’t far from some sugary hydration. Unfortunately, solid nutrition is not found in vending machines so after finding our gate I set off on a solo mission to find some nosh. I went up and down the terminal and found nothing. Obviously the important shops were there, the Hello Kitty emporium and duty free, but the other shops seemed to be unavailable at this time in the morning. At 5:58 our boarding call went out and I headed back to the gate, watching curtain after curtain fall to reveal a variety of shopping options. It seems 6am is the golden hour. So my only remaining option was to put all my remaining coins in a vending machine and so I bought 4 cans of pop. A lady asked if I had change for 100 NT$ for the vending machine. I said no but I had some spare coins if she wanted a drink. She asked for a water, which I felt was reasonable so I got one for her. I was thanked multiple times and was told that I had saved her life. I hope she doesn’t tell Jeremy Hunt I’m now paying people to save their lives or he might get ideas…

We boarded our flight, on the plane next to the Hello Kitty plane. Ours was much more boring so I didn’t photograph that one.

Our plane was quite nice inside however. It was the same model as our Norwegian plane to Bangkok so was kitted out nicely and was a pleasant flight which we both slept through most of. At one point I leant on the light button on the armrest and turned my neighbours reading light on. I said sorry. That was about as exciting as it got.

Getting off the plane it became apparent how big Narita airport is when it took us 15 minutes to get to baggage claim walking on travellators.

The view from the start of the travellators

Once through security a sniffer puppy in training smelt our bags and was satisfied it didn’t contain any tasty treats so we continued on. Then we had a customs official ask us where we were going in Japan. We had seen this happen many times on border control programmes on the lesser watched TV channels. We didn’t really have a solid plan but I named some cities and that seemed to satisfy him and we were let loose.

After getting our metro pass and some yen we got some food and coffee and attempted to work out how to get to the hostel. It seemed pretty straightforward in principle but to get to Tokyo we had at least 5 options, probably a good amount more. 1 was the bus and 4 were various trains. There were 2 main companies, JR (Japan Rail) and Keisei. JR was well over ¥2000, as was the fastest Keisei (the Skyliner). There were however 2 other Keisei trains: the Access Express and the Limited Express. The access one was more inconvenient for our hostel so we plumped for the limited one on the nice Keisei man’s recommendation. The limited express was neither quick, nor did it skip many or any stops. In fact it was the second slowest after the bus. It was however less than half the price of the faster trains and got us to Ueno station where we only had a short metro ride to the hostel.

The instructions for how to get to the hostel from Hatchabori station read “Take exit A1 and walk for 1 minute”. I hoped this would suffice and it would be really easy but it turned out it wasn’t very accurate after all. We walked out of exit A1 and thankfully had the sense to stop after 20 seconds because we had already arrived.

Konnichiwa Tokyo.

The stats

03:20 (GMT +8) walk from Taipei Family Hostel to Taipei West Terminal Bus Station: 20 minutes

04:20 bus to Taiwan Taoyuan Airport: 30 minutes, 250 NT$ (£10.82)

07:02 (22 minute delay) Scoot flight  to Tokyo Narita: 2 hours 55 minutes (12 minute delay), 4152 NT$ (£98.39)

13:10 (GMT +9) Kensei Limited Express train : 1 hour 18 minutes,  ¥2060 (£15.47)

14:38 subway to Hatchobori: 10 minutes, ¥340 (£2.55)

14:48 walk to Wise Owls Hostel: 1 minute (if that)

Arrived 14:49 GMT +9

Total time in transit: 5 hours 14 minutes

Total travel time: 10 hours 28 minutes

Total cost: £127.23 (£63.62 each)

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