This is the second segment of a vacation in the South-East of Taiwan:
Taipei TSA – Taitung TTT (Mandarin Airlines 391) in French here and in English there Taitung TTT – Green Island GNI (Daily Air 7301) YOU ARE HERE Green Island GNI - Taitung TTT (Daily Air 7312) in French here English version to be posted soon) Taitung TTT – Orchid Island KYD (Daily Air 7503) in French here English version to be posted soon) Orchid Island KYD - Taitung TTT (Daily Air 7514) in French here English version to be posted soon) Taitung TTT – Taipei TSA (Mandarin Airlines 394 ) in French here English version to be posted soon)]
After I had tested the Taiwanese major airlines (Eva Air and China Airlines) while I was still based in Beijing, once I started exhausting the resources of the major domestic airlines (AE, B7, FE, GE), it was time to reach the top level of the Taiwanese air travel game with Daily Air Corporation (DA). I had been tempted by these super-exotic routes as soon as I had set foot on Taiwan, but like in the best video games, you must first complete the intermediate levels, because flying Daily Air is not for newbies.
The largest Taiwanese travel agency, which had an outlet in front of my office in Taipei, was unable to sell me tickets on DA. It took me some navigation on their website, of course 100% in Chinese, to find the page selling tickets, but there, the drop down menu to select the month of the flight would not drop down. No, this was no bug: Daily Air only sells tickets for the current month! I asked a Taiwanese colleague to call the hotline and he was quite surprised too. This company should call itself Monthly Air, not Daily Air.
My priority on the morning of February 1st was therefore buying these tickets. One of the flights that I wanted was already booked full, another only had one seat left. (I was later to find out that the above mentioned menu does drop down in end of the month). You should not believe the technical data of DA's favorite widebody aircraft. Their Dornier 228 do have 19 seats, but four seats only are sold to non-residents of Green Island and Orchid Island, respectively. This was clearly stated on the website, and that was the reason why I wanted to book my seats early. Green Island is a typical week-end destination, and I had to change the order of KYD and GNI in my vacation schedule.
(The limited number of seats for outsiders may have to do with the fact that these routes are subsidized by the government).
DAC does not send confirmation e-mails: I only received these SMS on my cell phone (of course you must provide a Taiwanese number). When you have a cell phone from the Bronze Age of telecommunications, it takes several screens per seat. Three SMS multipled by 4 flights multiplied by 2 passengers: my cell phone beeped continuously.
Sure, you can reach these islands by boat: the planes only have a small market share in summer. In winter, there are no typhoons, but there is wind, therefore waves, on that coast exposed to the not so Pacific Ocean. So much so that during the previous week, the small fishing boats of the tiny harbor of Shiping did not leave for two days in a row, and I bet that the ferries didn't either.
You must be Taiwanese to stand at the prow of these tiny boats and use a harpoon to spear 300 to 500 kg tunas, as a fisherman described it to me in the harbor. Some seamen deserve respect. For smaller fish, the local housewives have an interestingly motorized version of your shopping trolley.
You can see Green Island on the horizon from the coast at Xiaoyeliu, when the storm abated… somewhat.
That morning, I returned in which I had logged 1,200 km to that beautiful car rental agency on the right. I was five minutes ahead of time: everything was closed, but the manager arrived at 7:30 sharp as pre-arranged, and drove me to the terminal, less than 500m away.
The first incoming flights are announced on time outside, which lets me hope that my flight will be on time too, since Flight DAC7302 is the return of Flight DAC7301. In Taiwan, you are supposed to be fluent in Chinese or in IATA/OACI codes.
The sense of service of that car rental manager did not stop there: she accompanies me to Daily Air's counter, and left only when she was reassured that there were indeed tickets bearing our names.
See behind the airport staff the list of DA's daily flights out of TTT, all operated with Do-228s. The first flight – mine – is booked full.
No problem for having a window seat; you will understand why.
Let's say that there is no feeling of a rush half an hour before the departure of the first flight out of TTT on a weekday.
This provides the opportunity for visiting this hall. In the foreground, public phones are decorated with the the prows of Orchid Island canoes, and there is the unavoidable tourist office counter in the background.
Keep visiting: the tourist office is of course in front of the passengers exit; on the left, you have the luggage storage room and rental bicycles (yes, in the hall itself!)
On the right, the flights display, similar to the one outside. You do not really need to familiar with the IATA codes, since the city names are written in Chinese too.
Let's keep walking around with this infirmary, where a curtain can be drawn to mask passengers who fell sick.
In front, there is an internet corner: the keyboards are on the desk, with the flat screens behind, so you won't have the traditional FR home page. There are also power plugs for charging cell phones.
Another must-see: the toilets. They are not luxurious, but undoubtedly clean and feature all useful accessories.
Note the small posters above the urinals
They are reminders of the do's and dont's of air travel
It is about time to go upstairs and reach Boarding gate Number 3, but there is no rush: I took this picture at 7:46, and the security checkpoint has not opened yet. The first flight, which is mine, only boards at 8:05. Staff arrive one by one and sign in a register beyond the opened door in the center.
Meanwhile, this is an overview of the decoration: the same public phones whose decoration stems from the canoes such as this one. These canoes are actually a very elaborate design, using 21 or 27 wood planks according to the size. It takes three years to build one, because there are strict rules on the trees to be used and the season when each part can be made.
Sorry for the colors, due to the blue windows.
This display provides a more complete list of all the flights from TTT that morning, to three domestic destinations only.
And this is in black and white the emblematic aircraft of Daily Air, which is an All Dornier228 Airline, if you disregard a few helicopters for survey, construction, etc… which are not relevant for Flight Report.
The boarding gate used by Daily Air, with a beautiful floral decoration of orchids, since Daily Air serves Orchid Island.
The other gates are deserted
Quite frankly, it is not crowded at gate 3 either. The Flight Reporters who cringe at the thought of having potentially noisy small children on their flight would have had a full serving on this one: there was an infant on the left and a baby in the center among the passengers for this flight.
Since there really was no rush, I still had time to have a look at the second floor toilets, which are not much different from those of the ground level.
They are spotless, since they are cleaned by Mr Sun and Mrs Huang, and it is possible to complain if hte job is not done right.
We eventually reach the tarmac, after a standard BP and ID check. Our Dornier 228 is not this one, which will operate Flight DA7501 to KYD.
It is not this one either, which is unlikely to operate any flight today.
But behind the first one, there is another one, hidden by a service vehicle.
There it is, with some of the passengers of Flight DA7301.
The one of a kind detail: you must bow to enter the aircraft
Aisle seat or window seat? The Do-228 offers both to two thirds of the passengers, because there are two twin seat rows in the back , the rest having a 1+1 layout. The Do-228 has a minibus with wings design: contrary to pressurized aircraft, it has a nearly rectangular section, which optimizes space for cargo.
Booked full? there are several empty seats, booked by island residents who are no-show. What a waste in a tiny 19-seater plane! Anyway, the small size of the aircraft does not preclude having an acceptable seat pitch.
I thought about the safety card addicts.
The folding door of the cockpit remained opened during the whole flight. A ground staff peers to check that all the seat belts are fastened or being fastened and leaves the plane: there is no flight attendant or safety demonstration on board.
Welcome to this flight to Green Island. Our flight time will be ten minutes, said the captain in English. That was a remarkable savings of time in the translation, since the flight time was fifteen minutes in the preceding Mandarin version.
Take-off. Note the smallest turboprops I ever saw on a commercial aircraft.
On the left, facing the terminal on the other side of the runway, you have the fire department building.
This is the countryside in the vicinity of Taitung.
We had bad weather in Taitung, so we were quickly in the clouds.
And we only saw the sea when approaching the destination.
A wide turn to land on Runway 35, at the north-west tip of the island.
Green Island is a volcanic island, and the Taiwanese did not have much of a choice of a location to build the runway which ends at the seashore.
Of course, you can't see it on this picture, but this is the first time I see the runway through the windshield while being on a regular passenger seat.
Touchdown at 8:31
Behind the runway, it is the ocean.
The plane turns back and taxies back to the terminal.
The picture of the cockpit, with the kind authorization of the pilots.
So, 15 minutes aloft in Chinese, or 10 minutes in English. My camera splits the difference: we have been aloft for 12 minutes. Twelve minutes are short, very short, and you find like I do that it was over too quickly?
Since I was travelling with my wife, I offer as a bonus pictures from the right hand side, since the Do-228's layout allows side by side seating AND have two window seats. Same player, shoot again : we take off again from TTT.
This is Taitung: this is not a big city.
A view of the right hand side engine
Green Island's coast looks black because of the lighting conditions, but it is actually by a thick green jungle which is next to impenetrable.
Green Island's harbour
Back to my pictures, with the empty cabin once all other passengers had disembarked.
… and towards the rear, from the cockpit.
The last three rows in the rear, behind the door; note the two seats to be avoided at all cost: there is no window on either both sides.
No, you won't have a picture of the toilets, since there is none on board. The coverage of those at TTT should compensate.
The nose of the Do-228 has been extended to accommodate a small hold, used here for freight and postal stuff.
This is the pick-up for the checked luggage.
GNI's control tower. The Chinese means Green Island Airport, and is pronounced Lüdao Hangkongzhan in Mandarin, hence the sign on the right which mixes English and the Hanyu pinyin transcription of Mandarin.
The tiny luggage delivery room, from the outside the next day.
Apart from the flight itself, why would you want to go Green Island ?
Long distance runners may want to run two and a half laps around the 18 km coastal road.
Scuba or snorkeling divers are attracted by the coral reefs and their tropical fish. If you do not want to get into the water, there is the glass bottom boat option, but in February, it does not want to go into the water either.
Hot springs fans know that this is one of three places in the world (with spots in Japan and Italy) where there is a natural hot sea water spring, heated by the underlying magma. Due to their colonial heritage, the Taiwanese love hot springs (onsen in Japanese, wenquan in Mandarin, but the ideograms are the same) as much as their former masters, and their volcanic islands are full of them, including in the outskirts of Taipei. In the low season, they become quasi-private baths, where the water in the hot pools is at a stable 38°C and 43°C, respectively.
Last, not least, contemporary historians know that Green Island has been to Taiwan what Robben Island was to South Africa: a terrible prison for the worst criminals, and also for thousands of victims of the White Terror, from where there was no escape, and which later became a memorial to the uncountable and anonymous victims of thirty eight years of military dictatorship in Taiwan. Uncountable and anonymous, because only 697 political prisoners have been identified, and served an average ten years there before being victim to ostracism after their release, even though there was an average two thousand prisoners there. For one Annette Lu, who was jailed there and later elected to the vice-presidency of the Republic after the end of the dictatorship, how many ordinary citizens have been crushed, sometimes for flimsy suspicions?
I loop the loop of this flight report by reminding that it is thanks to a color film shot from a PBY Catalina by an American advisor to the Taiwanese government that the so-called Oasis Villa – a sick joke of that time – was reconstituted.
Taitung City - TTT
Green Island - GNI
One minute late is a lot in percentage of the flight time, but negligible in absolute value. Comfort is optimal with 15 window seats and 16 aisle seats out of 19, and they are comfortable, although you do not really have enough time to rate them. On the other hand, there is no storage bin: everything has to fit under the seats. The view of and through the cockpit is also worth a bonus in entertainment : this is not a flight where an IFE would be of any use, much less a front camera.
The FA rating deserves a comment: having none on board was paradoxically a major plus, because I have been able to take all the picture I wanted, whereas the use of all electronic equipment is forbidden on board domestic flights in Taiwan, and impossible while drinks are distributed. Add to that the checking-in of my luggage, when the staff fumbled in the rubbish bin to give me back the luggage tag of the previous flight that I wanted to keep as a souvenir and forgotten to remove, and the courteousness of the pilots when I asked to take a picture of the cockpit : all that deserves the maximum grade. I give a neutral meal grade due to the absence of in-flight service.
Granted, it is difficult to obtain a ticket: seats on a Daily Air flight or in First class on a long distance flight are reserved to the happy few, and I acknowledge being part of that travelling elite.
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