Sunday, November 20, 2005

Greetings from Taipei!

Eeee!  I'm on another continent!

As it's just this side of 1:00 a.m. here, I don't really have a solid impression of the place.  The airport seemed a lot like international airports everywhere; the freeway seemed much like American freeways (they drive on the right over here; signs are in English as well as Chinese) and the city itself -- at night anyway -- looks pretty much like any sprawling metropolis.  Well, any sprawling metropolis dotted with the occasional example of obviously Asian architecture.  I mean, we're driving along the freeway, and it's high-rise after high-rise ... and then there's some pagoda-like building that reminds you, "Hey, this is Asia."  In case you forgot.

The journey over the Pacific was, as expected, a pain in the butt.  (And the lower back... and the knees...)  We flew over on EVA Air, an airline which I am still uncertain as to whether to pronounce it as "Eva" or "E.V.A." -- as both versions showed up in the flight attendants' announcements.  But we chose EVA -- well, we chose EVA because my friends have frequent flier accounts with them -- but, as far as I'm concerned, the reason we chose them is because they have a fourth class of service, between Economy and Business, called "Economy Deluxe."  Basically, it gives you wider seats, more legroom, and individual video screens.  All of which make 14 hours wedged between two total strangers (my friends and I ended up two rows apart) somewhat more bearable.

The individual video screens, I should note, helped to pass the time.  And that's about all I can say for them.  On the way here, I saw:  "Red Eye," some Hillary Duff movie, "Fantastic Four," and some Brooke Shields thing I'd never heard of called "Bob The Butler."  They all kinda blew, but the only time I ever actually slept was during "Fantastic Four."  (I couldn't sleep when I'd affirmatively tried to, but "Fantastic Four" put me out faster than those late-night beauty product infomercials.)  The duller the video entertainment got, the more I tried to kill time by trying to figure out (from watching the subtitles) one Chinese character.  (ANY Chinese character.  I just thought it'd be cool.)  I thought I had a lead on one, but by the time I was watching some world sports show, it didn't pan out.  Peggylater told me that SOME of the subtitles had been in Japanese, not Chinese -- so I clearly had no chance AT ALL of figuring this stuff out.

There's no easy way to say this:  EVA Air has a "Hello Kitty" plane.  I read about it on their website -- looks like a normal plane but with pictures of "Hello Kitty" on the fuselage.  Kinda like how Air New Zealand did up some planes with "Lord of the Rings" characters. 

That's what I thought.  Now, don't get me wrong -- I was not ON the "Hello Kitty" plane; I just read about it.  And it scared me.  The exterior images are just a clue to the fun waiting inside.  The flight attendants wear special themed uniforms.  You get your beverages served in "Hello Kitty" cups; there's "Hello Kitty" art on the plane (there's "Hello Kitty" art??) and, of course, an opportunity to purchase limited edition "Hello Kitty" stuff.  The mind boggles.  I mean, why's a grown woman want to dish out $70 for a "Hello Kitty" wallet?

I need to further investigate this -- not the "Hello Kitty" plane thing -- but there appears to be some sort of attraction to cute in Asia that we don't really have in the States.  I mean, I was greeted at the airport by a standing cardboard character that had a teapot for a head.  (It was a little disturbing.)  And, before we landed, we saw a short 20-second cartoon on preventing the spread of Avian Flu, and it actually showed a cartoon bird flying across the sky and dropping a big pile of cartoon bird poop on the ground.  (I am so not making this up.  How could I make up cartoon bird poop?)  Or my hotel room -- I have a beautiful room in a really nice hotel.  I ended up with a room on the Executive Floor (it seemed worth the extra fee for the free breakfast and free internet access).  So, picture this -- I'm in this totally elegant room which is designed for business travellers.  (Hell, my package includes a free suit pressing.  Quick, find me a suit to press.)  And I walk in the bathroom and see... two rubber duckies on the edge of the tub. 

I'm telling you.  I've always had this impression that Asian culture was all steeped in ritual, and very formal and traditional.  (And I've been reading all these websites about how Asians seldom show expressions in public and stuff like that.)  And then I get here, and it's all cartoon bird poop, teapot-head-man, Hello Kitty planes, and rubber duckies in the bathroom. 

Like I said, this requires further investigation.


dklars said...

Can't wait to hear more of your adventure!  Have a great time

rgwindland said...

By all means, investigate. Then let those of us who are living vicariously know what you find out. BTW, I don't get the Hello Kitty thing either. Rhonda

hewasolddog299 said...

I know that Japan has gone head over tea kettle for the whole "Hello, Kitty" fad. To now learn that Taiwan has succumbed is so very sad.

The ducks. Every right-thinking executive (and a few on the Left, too) need rubber duckies to unwind in the tub with after a long, hard day of trying to cut a deal with inscrutable Taiwanese business personages. Otherwise, they might resort to onanism and we wouldn't want THAT, now would we?

Do investigate and report back pronto, Tontashar.

ravenlark2 said...

Well we ARE talking about the same culture who idolizes Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton! EWWWWWW....anyone  that goes ape when those two come out should be forgiven any "Hello Kitty" and rubber duck fetish. There are WORSE things to be fans of.

Can't wait to hear more of your travels. Sounds exciting!


memes121 said...

Yes, I must know!