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JVPhoto Jul 4, 16 4:04 am


Well what can I say?

Was looking to do a trip around my birthday to make sure pushed myself over the 100k PQMs to re-qualify for 1K in 2017. I'll be well over at 135k when I finish the year lol.

The routing was a bit decided by where I could use my GPUs and RPUs to book everything (except for the Island Hopper) into J.

I'll let the rest speak for itself.

United Club SFO & United 787 BusinessFirst SFO-TPE
Sheraton Grand Taipei
EVA Star Lounge & A321 Economy TPE-HKG
The Langham Hong Kong
United Club & 777 BusinessFirst HKG-EWR
The Ace New York
United 767 First EWR-HNL
United Club HNL & Y Island Hopper HNL-KWA-KSA-PNI-TKK-GUM
Sheraton Laguna & Guam
UC GUM, GUM-HNL, UC HNL, HNL-SFO Hawaii 777 Business

JVPhoto Jul 4, 16 4:05 am

United Club SFO & 787 BusinessFirst SFO-TPE

I ended up renting a car and driving up because it turns out to be cheaper (also when I arrive at 5:30am from HNL) than if I were to pay for parking for 3 weeks.
Booked at MRY the cheapest thing available and ended up getting a Passat. The lady tried to upsell me to a GLK or C class but really pointless to do that. First time driving a VW, wasn't too bad.

A bit longer check-in than I've seen the past few trips. Seemed like most of the people were families.

Pre-Check was a breeze aside from the Chinese lady who decided she was going to push in front of me and another woman only to then speak no English and didn't understand she had to leave her phone on the conveyer belt.

The United Club was a bit crowded, the NRT flight ended up having a 7 hour delay so they were still in there. Seems like once the earlier Asia flights go things ease up a bit. I left 10 min before boarding as things were showing on time.

Stopped to see a new guy at SFO.

SQ was boarding at the gate across from us. Although once I got there our delays started posting as we didn't have a plane at the gate yet. Ended up having an hour delay. Didn't stop people from lining up before we even had an aircraft.

Then had these two guys decide they didn't need to wait in line and would just hop in front of the well heeled Taiwanese woman and her daughter ahead of me. I thought they were friends, turns out bald spot was trying to chat up pink pants about cutting and he just flat out ignored him 3x when he asked why he was going to TPE.

I was out of stocked up hotel slippers to bring on the flights but I had forgotten until I boarded that UA was now giving out slippers in J/F to all flights to Asia, not just Japan. The new tins are flimsy so I just took the contents I want out. I kept the first one I got for the collection but not going forward.

The purser introduced herself to the GS/1Ks and she also ended up serving our side of the cabin which was nice. Attentive and looked after.
Haven't seen pork belly on a UA menu before, but I didn't peep it on anyone's tray.

Catering must have been out of ceramic, the sauce was in a plastic cup.
Beats most of the sad iceberg crap you get ex-US, but still not as good ex-EU.

Really good fish! Tasty and nice snap to the beans. Gobbled it up, would have eaten another bowl.

My sad dessert.

I slept through the noodle soup and didn't think to ask for one. I had a protein bar and one of my Complete Cookies and then picked at some fruit in the snack cart set up.

About 2.5 hours before landing I was up and the FA holding down fort came and asked me what I would like for breakfast so I was able to secure one of the congee. I'm not an aficionado but I thought it was a good and a nice change from the other breakfast stuff...served at 7pm local time.

I've only connected in TPE. Everything went pretty smoothly bags were out quick and I hoped in a cab to head to the hotel.

I actually zoned out and for a second thought I was in Hong Kong lol!

JVPhoto Jul 4, 16 4:17 am

Sheraton Grand Taipei

Going between Marriott and SPG I didn't really know where to stay. All I knew about Taipei was the history from my polisci classes in school and watching the Anthony Bourdain Lay Over show a few months ago. Not sure of the areas or what was what I noticed The Sheraton was walking distance or 2 metro stops from The Brick House at Ximen which is the big gay area. I walked through there during the middle of the day and that was it. Everyone told me gay nightlife in Taipei is great...being tired and falling asleep most nights by 8pm and being able to "order in" on Grindr I didn't end up going out.

That said the hotel was nice. It exceeded my expectations of Sheraton which is based on Prague and Singapore. The lobby areas looked nice and fresh.

Big bed but needed an extra set of padding. Japanese bidet toilets.

Had my 9pm in room dinner and sleeping pill.

Buffet breakfast served at Kitchen 12 in the big atrium. Not bad at about $20 US. Decent selections of things, most of the hot dishes changed out each day to something new.

There's a few other restaurants in the hotel and a set of upscale shops below the lobby. My 3rd night I had a hankering for something I was familiar with so went to Pizza Pub to get some seafood soup and a margherita pizza.
Soup was good, I loathe head on shrimp.
Pizza wasn't bad, needed a little bit of salt and a few red pepper flakes.

The staff was friendly, a Hello Kitty wedding happened in the ballroom and Emirates also uses it as the crew hotel. If I ever came back (not sure I will), I would maybe stay at The W.

JVPhoto Jul 4, 16 5:03 am



Along with Hong Kong and Singapore I was always fascinated by Taipei (my BA is in Political Science) in it's history, rise and relationship in the region. Now I just have to visit Korea to check off all the Asian Tigers.


I didn't really have any plans while I was here (other than of course Taipei 101) so I just winged it and breakfast the first morning looked things up.

5 min walk down the road towards Main Station I found World Gym which sold day passes so I could work out there. Reminds me of the EVA Infinity lounge in a garish design. I didn't even bother looking at the hotels. At 600 TWD it's a little expensive but it includes towels and they have a steam room and sauna. I found a place called Formosa Fitness which was about 350 TWD but it was not walking distance and didn't feel taking the metro for that.

The metro was super easy to use. Seems like everywhere I went was 20 or 25 TWD for a single trip which is like 0.65-75 USD.

First stop was Taipei 101. No lines, just got my ticket to the observation deck and spent more time walking through the stores to the snaked rope lines than I did waiting for the elevator.

Reminded me of Tokyo Sky Tree and those sorts of things.

Only half of the outside observation deck was open. I also had a Taiwanese girl jump up and down in front of me and get someone to take a photo of the two of us and then walk off.

What I thought was really cool was the 600 ton wind damper sphere that sits in the middle helping negate the effects of wind on the building. They had a video during the typhoon where it is moving a few feet.

Walked through the mall and then settled on Pepper Lunch in the food court which I always saw in Bangkok but never tried. Wasn't that bad for a few bucks. Takes forever to cool down to a temp you can eat.

On the way back I decided I would stop at the CKS memorial and then walk back to the hotel from there which was only about 12 min away.


Really big and beautiful. Was hot as hell and does't provide much cover.

Every hour, on the top of the hour you can see the guards change at the Lincoln-esque statue of CKS. I was there at :30 was I wasn't waiting around.

Clothes entirely soaked through from sweat I retired for a bath and a bit of a nap.
Decided I would get up and visit Shinlin Night Market to wander around and get some food.


I came across this stand that not only looked good I saw there was a mention about Andrew Zimmern and Bizarre Foods.

I waited in line for about 7 minutes to get one, wasn't sure what it was...but it was damn good! Turns out it's a sausage in a "sausage" where the lighter color "sausage" is actually sticky rice in casing that they split open and you use as the bun.

Really big market, was full of people but never horribly crowded.
Upon closer inspection, not really.

After sleeping and gym the next day and grabbing a quick snack at 7/11 I hopped on the metro to Longshan Temple.

It was nice to visit, not that big, but interesting. If it was more than the 3 stops from the hotel I would have not thought it worth the effort. I ended up snacking back through the streets to Ximen to hop back on the train.

I looked up best spots to SEE Taipei 101 and decided on hiking (i.e. 600 stairs) up to Elephant Hill close to sunset. It's one stop past Taipei 101 where the red line terminates. From there plenty of signs (and people) heading that way. You walk next to basketball courts and some tacky yet amazing apartment buildings.

What I read made it sound like it can take 90 minutes. I did at a cardio pace for my exercise and including a few photo stops and a few min at the top I was back down in 37 minutes. You could witness plenty of relationships starting to fall apart the closer you got to the top. What I did was stick all the way to the right at the forks which is the most direct way to the top and then I came around the other side that it loop backs into. You could also go up that way which is longer in distance but a little more gradual.

Clouds were starting to form and you could tell it would rain so I made my way back down and then by the time I was back at the hotel it was pouring. Near the bottom on your way back to the train is a restaurant called Nola that looked like southern/New Orleans inspired stuff that looked good but I wanted out of my clothes and a shower so I didn't eat.

The last day I decided I would just put around and get a massage. Not far was Villa Like so I went by at 11:30 and told they could take me at 1:30. Feeling like a coffee I just turned the corner and came across a block that seemed to be noting but coffee shops and stopped at O'Time for an iced coffee.

Walked around Zhongshan for a little and then stopped at Kao Chi for some dumplings before the massage.

The spa was nice. About $40 US for a 1h Thai massage that included a 5 min foot scrub and wash as well. Friendly staff, tea, very comfortable.


It started pouring again so I made it back to the hotel and then decided I'd get food at another night market and saw I could also walk to Ningxia. Turns out it's more just food and carnival games. Was fine to walk around. Super crowded in a single row, not sprawled out like the other. I wanted to try stinky tofu but couldn't bring myself, the smell reminds me of saw dust and pig .... from when I was a kid in 4-H. I wanted to get an oyster omelette but the line was about 35 people long. I found another sausage place, not as good as the one I had before. Smaller sausage and this one had raw garlic which overpowered it, I was tasting it the next day.

I'm glad I finally got to visit Taipei. I enjoyed the few sites I saw. I'd recommend it for anyone to come visit, but I don't think I would make a trip back (alone). Perhaps if I had some friends who wanted to come I would like to do that...but nothing about it compared to something like Tokyo or Paris or even Hong Kong did I find myself just enjoying my time on my own enough to be excited to return.

TOMFORD Jul 4, 16 6:03 am

This seems like your first TR without Thailand, enjoyable nonetheless!

maastrichtmouse Jul 4, 16 6:38 am

I've been meaning to visit my friend in Taipei. Your posts are only encouraging me to go there, so thanks for sharing!

Non-NonRev Jul 4, 16 7:12 am

Oyster omelette - that's essentially a Hangtown Fry, very appropriate for a Bay Area resident ^

Great narrative enhancing the photos, as usual.

LH4116 Jul 4, 16 10:19 am

Great report as always JV! The menu for the Taipei flight looks quite nice, especially the beef short ribs. Interesting about the breakfast though, since EVA Air also serve it as 2nd meal on daytime flights. Makes absolutely no sense, unless you've been flying for 2 days straight, and is still on NYC time.

"Order in on Grindr" that made me laugh! For a straight guy that would be impossible LOL.

Looking forward to the rest.

pnt1 Jul 4, 16 1:13 pm

Happy belated birthday! Did you get a good fare? This trip looks insane!

JVPhoto Jul 4, 16 4:28 pm

Originally Posted by pnt1 (Post 26869616)
Happy belated birthday! Did you get a good fare? This trip looks insane!

Errrr not the best $/miles return I think, which is why I say "milage run". :p I just needed to go far and let the Y to J GPUs decide. The Island Hopper was the real birthday treat for myself, the other stuff just fell into place as the dates and trip searches came through with R inventory to book into.

I think I spent about $3,000.

JVPhoto Jul 4, 16 6:41 pm

EVA Star Lounge & Economy A321 TPE-HKG

No traffic in the morning headed to the airport, but also helped it was a weekend. Again felt strangely similar to HKG I forgot where I was going. I do like the double decker freeway leading up to the airport, very cool stuff.

I've connected in TPE before doing a circuitous award ticket JFK-TPE-NRT so I could try out Royal Laurel and the Hello Kitty "Speed Puff" jet. Then I was in J so I used the Infinity lounge to the right which like World Gym has lots of glowing lights, garish decorations and the such.
The Star Lounge to the left was more subdued.
From what I recall the food and offerings seemed pretty similar.

I booked the flight because the time worked best and I've already been on the BR 777 and A330 (Hello Kitty) so I figured I would do one of their few narrow bodies to cross The Strait.

They started an announcement in Mandarin and then Cantonese and then English. It was actually the Zone 1 (J/*G) boarding announcement which was just myself and another guy. No mobs.

Decent plane, comfortable enough. Food (pork meatballs) was a little bland. Friendly crew.

And now we had some fun and I got to check something off my bucket aborted landing/go around!

We were coming into HKG, our wheels touched and we (what felt like) "bounced up" higher than normal. We weren't coming back down and I thought wow this is going to be a thud...only to then get pressed back into the seat as the captain put the pedal to the metal and we were taking back off.
After 5 min he came on and said the winds dramatically changed so we were going around. Took about another 12 min before we landed again. At the end of the runway on the go around we went right into rain/storm clouds. By the time we came back around the entire airport was now wet but the sun was coming through.

Since I had some time before check in I decided to just take the airport express to Hong Kong then transfer to Central and take the MRT back across to TST to get to The Langham. Sure enough the room wouldn't be ready for about an hour and half even with that.

roadwarrier Jul 5, 16 6:25 am

Happy Birthday!!

Looks like an epic trip - so looking forward to the rest.

And now we had some fun and I got to check something off my bucket aborted landing/go around!
Had that on a TK flight - not once, but twice! Cockpit made an announcement first in Turkish, then English. At the second abort, same announcement, but when he switched to English, the passengers were all highly animated and some were crying and praying so, I have no idea what was said.
But, third time lucky, we had a bit of a rocky landing and I think that some of the PAX really had stained undies after that. :D:D

mad_atta Jul 5, 16 7:04 am

Interesting to see a report on Taipei, it's about the last of the major Asian cities I have not yet got around to visiting (well, plus Jakarta but I'm happy to give that a miss) and yet despite contemplating visiting a few times I never quite can get quite excited enough about it to actually book. Sounds like you felt pretty similar :) Seems like a pleasant enough place to spend a few days.

As for your UA flights, *finally* a menu that looks a little different - some new dishes and some new design elements too. Can the rumours I hear about UA improving actually be true?

offerendum Jul 5, 16 8:28 am

Nice! The Sauce Looks a Little bit wired, like I ordered pizza:D

I agree, VW is not too bad;)

traveling_newbie Jul 5, 16 11:47 pm

I just got back from Hong Kong and Taiwan a couple of months ago and I am seriously having night market withdrawals! Your pictures are amazing, looking forward to the rest of your report :)


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