This was a last minute day trip to visit the places that I had missed in Hualien before leaving Taiwan for good. The other options (renting a car in Taipei or reaching Hualien by train) were too slow, wasting precious time in my last available day.
This day trip was already posted in my native French here with the return flight in French here, in English there.
I took the subway on Saturday morning to TSA. Taipei is a city where the flag carrier prides itself in being a Skyteam member, all the way to an ad in the main station's corridors
It is unrelated to Skyteam's putative prestige. The main point is that it is one of the three main airlines alliances. That the flag carrier entered it is one of these tiny victories in Taiwan's daily battle for international recognition.
By the way, Eva Air, its privately owned rival, symmetrically entered Star Alliance. The last stretch of the subway ride to TSA is above ground, in a medium sized driverless line.
There is a sharp curve just before reaching TSA, a reminder that the Taiwanese realized at the last minute that serving the domestic airport might be a good idea.
At the exit of that curve, which is so tight that the civil speed limit is very low, passengers have a too fleeting view of the tarmac with two Dauphin fire department helicopters here.
This is a close up
A few Uni-Air Dash 8, a Mandarin Airlines E190, a Gulfstream (I think)
And the aircraft parked next to the international terminal (JL 767, CI A330, BR MD-90, FE MD82)
You need to be quick to snap a picture of this hardware which reminds that TSA would be a strategic location, in case the relation degraded with the mainland.
Zero wait at Transasia's counter, where I obtained a window seat on the right to my request.
The flight is booked full, which is quite usual on a Saturday morning.
It is hardly more crowded at the check in counters of the other airline in the domestic terminal.
On the other hand, the comfortable landside sofas are quite crowded with groups waiting for the signal of their leader to go through the security check.
It is 8 am, which is too early for the plane models shop
But you can nevertheless have your morning dose of Hello Kitty
It is also unfortunately too early for the observation platform which opens only at 9am. The sofas located between the international and domestic landside zones are empty.
It is just as quiet at the check in counters of the international terminal
In all fairness, TSA's international traffic is not intense
I go through the security check here, which will be slightly more crowded later.
This is at last the overall domestic departures display, which is quite interesting. There is an extra flight to KNH (because of the group I saw?), and – more noteworthy – all flights to Beigan (MFK) and Nangan (LZN) are Close, which means that these tiny airports are closed to traffic due to the seasonal fog. Better not try to fly to these islands in spring: they are regularly fogged out days in a row at that season.
It is not crowded airside. In the back, there is a lounge that I cannot visit despite my many Taiwanese flights, because domestic flights to not cumulate anything, and two self serve internet access computers.
The traditional corporate screen shot of the day
The passengers for flight GE009 keep coming in and crowd around Gate 13.
There is no rush, actually, so I can go to the upper level, used for flights using jetbridges, to see the tarmac. I got the message: the escalator is under repair.
Note that here, the strollers are pushed by a man.
Nothing really fascinating: always the same Uni-Air Dash-8 and TransAsia Airways ATR-72
What does the rooftop of a passenger transfer bus look like? This is the answer:
It is actually time to board it, and that is announced by a synthetic voice in Mandarin, Japanese, English, Taiwanese, and Hakka, in that order. How many airports have such announcements in five languages?
Again these front and side access buses
There are two curiosities in this picture:
Not only Daily Air does not have flights out of TSA (its DO-228s are based in the south of Taiwan, in Taitung and Kaohsiung), but they seem to worry that their minibuses could roll down the zero slope of the tarmac, and they have put wheel blocks.
Some plane spotting through the tinted glass of the bus windows on the way: a GE ATR72 (not mine)
BR MD-90 in front of a CI A330
… before reaching this ATR-72
A reminder for the readers who already forgot: we are in Taipei Songshan
Why this warning? Do these things pop outside without a warning?
The CI A330 taxies under the flight recorders
The seat pitch is OK if your size is Taiwanese, but the wrong thing is this seat support in the middle of the window seats, making it impossible to slip a standard carry-on luggage underneath. I used some of my neighbor's leg space.
The commonplace safety card. The safety demonstration is in Mandarin only, ending with We just made the safety demonstration - please refer to the safety card for details . That is minimal, but then they do not really expect to have foreigners on this flight.
The windows are dirty and badly scratched. I tried to do my best. Takeoff runway 10, with the iconic Taipei 101 Tower in the background.
The floodable parks alongside the Keelung River
The river zigzags at the east end of TSA's runway.
The window and my camera's sensor are both dirty, which does not help, but this is the reason for flying: the expressway towards Hualien is completely jammed on Saturday at 9am.
But we fly above the road traffic
The meanders of the river which ends at Fulong, at the north-east end of Taiwan
Yilan, on the north of the east coast, does not have a lot of industry, but a lot of vegetable fields, because it has the dubious privilege of being the most seismic city in Taiwan. Vegetables resist a lot better than factories to earthquakes.
The coast south of Yilan, beyond Su'ao, is part of my visiting goals of the day.
I need to make a brief photographic pause, while the FAs distribute an oshibori and 25cl of mile tea or energy drink, such as this one. I did not expect more on a flight which lasted 35 minutes according to both the schedule and my watch.
Once the FAs have disappeared in the galley, I go back to my photographic tasks.
The Qingshui cliffs are famous in Taiwan, because this is one of the few places where the rock is of good quality. Small wonder: it is marble. You can see the road which has been carved into the cliff halfway up.
It is well worth driving there
Flying and driving complete each other to discover these cliffs. On the other hand, forget about the train: most of that section of the track is in tunnels.
A typical example of the Taiwanese rivers which turn into devastating torrents in case of typhoon.
From the road, it is interesting too
Another one, alongside which there are quarries
There it is from ground level
This bridge marks the entrance of the Taroko gorges. The Taiwanese are very proud of them: they start a few kilometers from the sea and continue all the way beyond 2,000 m elevation. The road keeps going to a pass which is the highest point of the Taiwanese macadam, at 3,275 m elevation.
You would not expect a bridge addict to skip this one!
We are descending to Hualien Airport. Hualien airport is also a military airbase. Do not take any picture from the air or on the ground
HUN airbase has two parallel runways approximately one kilometer apart, connected by a superelevated taxiway
You can see it here on the left; the runway for military use only is in the background, at the foot of the mountain.
Right turn above Hualien
And lien up on runway 03R
The runway is indeed bordered with shelters for jet fighters: F5s and F16s which are too far and too much in the dark for pictures, but nevertheless easy to identify.
A picture without aiming while the staff was not looking
It was easier while walking in the terminal
If you have not understood that there is marble in the vicinity of Hualien, this terminal is a reminder!
HUN's terminal is incredibly oversized – I'll talk about it in more details on the FR of the return flight.
I only needed to take a taxi to the train station, because that is where the car rental agencies are. Since I inserted the tourist bonus in the middle of this flight report, time is up for the conclusion.
Taipei City - TSA
Hualien - HUN
A flight on time, efficient and smiling FAs who wasting little time to distribute the drinks, and advantage in a country where using an electronic equipment on board is prohibited. I do not penalize the seat support since I managed to squeeze my day pack. Having a window seat on the right hand side which provides an excellent view by fair weather was a significant plus. The flight was so short that I did not have time to feel if the seat was comfortable or not. Given the short duration of the flight, having a small drink only was acceptable.
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