Orchid Island is hardly more Taiwanese than Taiwan is Chinese. The island was classified as an ethnographic reservation by the Japanese during the colonial area, and closed to ordinary visitors until the 60s, and is the only place in Taiwan where the original aboriginal population has not been drowned by waves of immigration. The owner of the B&B where we spent the night had an obvious Melanesian look, and spoke Mandarin with an accent that I never heard anywhere else. The Yami were mostly fishermen, using these beautiful canoes built with the wood of the dense forests of the island.
It is a volcanic and coral island, whose shredded rocks have strange shapes. Among the most famous ones, those on the left have been bombed at the end of the war by the American who thought they were a Japanese battleship. On the right, this is the Rock of the Virgin, petrified at the moment when she was going to be no more.
Orchid Island, like Green Island and its prison, is also the dark side of post colonial Taiwan.
During the dictatorship, the government destroyed the traditional semi-buried housings which resisted to the intense summer heat and typhoons, contrary to the low quality concrete blocks which it built because it looked more modern. The stables for goats and pigs on the right are what is left of the traditional housing.
The young Taiwanese democracy did not do much better in building at the southern tip of the island a fish cannery. The capital's ecologists found it slightly uncanny, and raised the indignation of the local population, Yami or Han, when they disclosed that there was indeed something fishy in that cannery. The Yami do welcome foreigners – I can vouch for that – but their sense of hospitality stops at aliens like Cesium 137 and Cobalt 60. The euphemism wore out, and the official name at the entrance is now Lanyu Storage Centre.
Everybody understood that the point is not to store fish, but the radioactive waste produced by Taiwan's three nuclear power plants. I saw more graffiti painted on any available roadside surface than on the whole of Taiwan in one year, including here on the road itself.
Furthermore, the quality of the construction is said to be shoddy, and the local level of radioactivity is higher than the average. It may be a good idea to visit Orchid Island before the place becomes too unhealthy.
This introduction was not sponsored by the local tourist office; actually there is none, which is another proof that Orchid Island is definitely not like anywhere else in Taiwan.
This FR starts in the taxi which takes us from the hotel. Note the notice on a red background: since February 1st, 2012, you must buckle up on the rear seats, and there is a 4500 TWD fine (120 EUR) per person. In the case of a taxi, the driver must pay, unless he warned his passengers, orally or in written. Obviously, warnings like this one appeared within a couple days, especially since the police started fining passengers with ample media coverage on February 1st at midnight.
At check in, there are seats available on the flight to TSA, but the flight to KYD is booked full.
Six daily flights (numbered 75xx) to KYD, versus three to GNI : there are actually much fewer visitors to Orchid Island, but it is much longer by boat.
This time, we occupy the entire row 2
Note the lower counter on the right, to decently handle wheelchair handicapped customers.
The airport's information counter is also lower than average, for the same reason.
Again, no corporate FR home page, because the two internet access computers are being used.
This is the landside shop, which offers a large variety of local food products (bringing food is a standard gift when visiting somebody in Taiwan)
Once checked in, a stop at the luggage counter. No, the ones on the left are not mine!
On this partial view of the public area, you can barely see at the far right Daily Air's counter, and then that of Uni Air with its green sign overhead.
Further left, a floral decoration of orchids, of course.
And last the surprising small exhibit on the Taiwanese aboriginal tribes. How many airports would have something similar in their public area? On the left, the Ami (the largest tribe by head count in Taiwan), and to the right Orchid Island's Yami.
On the other side, a jewelry shop whose saleswoman is obviously desperately bored of inactivity.
Overhead, the weather forecast for the various destinations from TTT. Here, you must either read Chinese or know the IATA codes, which is the case of any Flight Reporter.
Note by the way that TTT is the code for Taitung International Airport, even though there are only domestic destinations. The list of international destinations is a short one: these are the immigration counters, carefully protected with dust covers.
Above, after the security check, Daily Air's gate, and a long slope down to the tarmac
In front, behind the blue windows, and beyond the runway, the fire department building.
Like the previous time, there are two Do-228 on the tarmac: the one on the left will go to GNI, the one on the right to KYD
And this time, it is a slightly shorter walk to the plane since we are going to KYD.
Behind, this DA's maintenance hangar.
Front view of the other Do-228
No matter their size, all adults must bow to enter the aircraft
The next to best view on the cockpit.
I am not the only one to take advantage of the absence of a FA: the passengers at seats 3A and 3C will take nearly as many pictures as me.
Before the departure, and before it moves too much, the essential safety card (both sides).
The traditional salutes of the ground crew
It is not even needed to taxi up the runway: there is a zero wind and we take off to the south, in the opposite direction of landings, from the center of the runway.
The countryside before reaching the ocean…
… and the cloud layer
This time, we shall reach the record altitude of 5,000 feet and stay there some time on level flight. How do I know? Easy, I only needed to check the altimeter…
… for even though I do not have a full view of the instruments, I cannot complain. Some views of the captain during the flight:
… and of the copilot, who wears gloves, from seat 2A.
Overhead, the tail trim that the captain adjusts at each flight.
Meanwhile, we climbed above the cloud layer, and we can still see for some time Taiwan's mountains on the horizon (which is not that horizontal on my pictures)
We approach Orchid Island: the passengers of seats 2A and 2C (I only needed to extend the arm) shared the same window on the left side. The lighting is not ideal.
Yeyou, the largest town in Orchid Island.
The island's stadium
Final descent on KYD Runway 31. Why kind of aircraft can rival with the Dornier 228, when you have this kind of view during landing from your seat?
Post flight checklist post-flight while the passengers disembark.
I am of course the last one to leave.
This provides me the opportunity to witness the end of the unloading of the checked luggage,
… while the last passengers reach the terminal.
A last look behind me at the aircraft
This is not the luggage delivery room…
… the luggage waiting room, since the passengers unload them themselves, which is actually simpler and faster. There is no risk of waiting for the luggage because the conveyor belt broke down either.
KYD's Departure and Arrivals hall:
Now I only need to rent a car. You cannot guess that, and since I had not guessed it, a policeman gave me the information: you can rent a vehicle at the one and only airport shop which sells a heterogeneous assortment of souvenirs.
You really want a car, not a scooter? It is more expensive, you know! For two days, it will be 2,000 TWD (50 EUR). OK, just write your name and cell phone number on that scrap of paper.
No, I did not produce an ID or a driver's license. Renting a car in Orchid Island is quite special, even more than you could think, but you will have to read the Flight Report of the return flight to know why.
Taitung City - TTT
Orchid Island - KYD
Yes, my grades of DA are too generous. But this is a one-of-kind airline, and having an aisle AND window AND cockpit seat AND full photographic permission can only deserve the maximum grade for comfort and entertainment. No FA means no limits on picture taking. There are no meals or drinks, and that was expected. No airport can beat KYD's accessibility: it is located on KYD's only road which circles the island (I disregard a minor road crossing the southern part), and the plane is parked a couple hundred meters from the parking lot, which is large enough to handle a 19-seater plane.
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