Wednesday, December 29, 2010

day 98_and I'm off!

Thursday morning when I woke well before my alarm (around 5am), I conceded that there was no hope in falling back to sleep with so much anticipated adventure in my day. At least that gave me plenty of time to prepare: showering, cleaning, packing the few last minute items, taking out the trash, paying any bills that might be due in my absence, etc!

My building security had the taxi I'd requested ready and waiting at our front door at 7:30am, ready for the 45 minute ride to the airport. So, with one suitcase entirely filled with Christmas gifts (the larger suitcase) and another lightly packed suitcase with a few clothing and trip essentials, I hopped into the backseat to begin my 24 hour commute home.

First stop: Taoyuan International Airport - just outside Taipei City.
Thankfully, my check in at the airport was easy and uneventful. I haven't spent much time there and I am typically in such a rush to be either coming or going, that I guess I have never really looked around. It's interesting that in some cities, the airport may be the only place you've seen - and I'm sure I will passing through this one plenty of times - I decided to look around a bit while I waited. The airport was actually quite nice, and of course had an abundance of overpriced Taiwan-influenced gifts and souvenirs...

Decorative local art at the Taoyuan Airport.
Second stop: Narita International Airport - Tokyo, Japan.
When it came to purchasing my flight, I had decided to go with the cheapest ticket (which means more layovers), and I chose a ticket with United (which means the inevitable layovers at Narita, one of their hubs). This airport was quite nice in my opinion, even though I didn't see much of it. I strolled my terminal, looking at duty-free gifts, and admiring the eat-in or take-out sushi menu near my gate. Mmmm. Many people like to ask me how long my journey home takes - and that depends on if you want to know the actual flying time, or the time from door to door, including times like this spent wandering among the souvenirs...

Third stop: San Fransisco International Airport - San Fransisco, California, USA.
I suppose the benefit to having multiple layovers was that it really broke up the flying time - instead of having any flights totalling 10+ hours, the longest leg of my trip was only 8 hours 49 minutes (the hop across the big pond), and was more than manageable considering it consisted of dinner and a 7 hour snooze, followed by breakfast. I was also thrilled to discover that security at the San Fran airport was business as usual... I guess they have not been blessed with the new full body scanners that everyone is ranting about lately. The best part about my final layover? My brief discussion with the customs officer which went something like this:
"I see that you've been living in Taiwan, ma'am?"
"And approximately how long was the duration of your stay?"
"Around about 100 days..."
"Well, welcome back to the United States of America. Welcome home ma'am."
"Thank you!" (and said to myself in my head "God bless America!")

Despite the super short layover, exceptionally long security lines, crowded holiday travel madness, and delayed receipt of my luggage (ugh... which had to be re-checked upon entry to the United States), I managed to catch my last flight! Barely. After a longer-than-average commute home, I made it to my final destination:

Fourth stop: Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas, Texas, USA.

[From my apartment in Taipei to my house in Dallas]: +/- 23 hours and 30 minutes
[and for those of you who even dare saying this is too far away for a visit... not to worry... you can certainly buy a flight with fewer layovers, and significantly less travel time :) ]

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