Today is the end of the first full day of my Taiwanese vacation with my family, I had one heck of a mishap/scare. In order to set the stage here, I couldn’t go directly from Moscow and instead had to have a two and a half layover in Shanghai. The eight hour flight for the first stage went by without a hitch, especially since I got a coveted window seat. Once I landed, this is where things started to go awry. See, if you’re transiting through Shanghai, you don’t need a visa, but rather a transitory visa to satisfy customs. To get this, you have to fill in a (blue) card, wait in line, and undergo a quick fingerprint scan in addition to getting your picture taken. Finally, after completing this and going to the wrong terminal (Shanghai airport is massive), I finally reached my terminal only to be told I missed my check in by a mere five minutes. This is where the fun started, so buckle up.
After being told I had to go to China Eastern’s ticket counter, the ladies there told me I couldn’t rebook my flight and instead had to purchase a completely new set of tickets. The reason they gave me was that since I had already fulfilled one part of my journey, there evidently was some rule that they couldn’t accommodate me for the other parts. Obviously, this was not ideal, so I braced myself for hearing the cost of this ticket. What they told me was about 3260 yuan, which was roughly over 33K rubles. The problem? My Russian bank account was ten thousand short of meeting that sum, and since I didn’t put in a travel notice for China for my American debit card, I couldn’t draw upon a significantly larger reserve. Making matters worse was the fact that thanks to spotty internet connection and a likely ban on most western social media, I couldn’t alert my parents to this dilemma. On top of this, I couldn’t let my Airbnb host and the driver who was supposed to pick me up know that I was late. Therefore I was stuck indefinitely until something could be worked out; there was also a significant amount of panic on my part. To their credit, the girls working behind the counter went out of their way to help me, and I cannot thank them enough for that. Finally after two hours, they rebooked me to a flight (after ending up paying 2000 yuan, or $300) at 3:15, by which that point I was positively relieved.
Upon landing at Taipei’s airport and after withdrawing some cash, the first thing I did was connect to the internet where I was bombarded with emails from my mom asking about my status. As was previously mentioned, I had zero way of contacting anybody, so rightfully so they were concerned. I emailed back explaining a basic version of what happened while praying this incident would secret severely impact anything. However, I had to pass through customs, which was a cinch. Sure, I had to pick up an arrival card that the flight attendants hadn’t provide us with, but mercifully there were extras to be had.
In the end, I took the incredibly wonderful metro system from the airport to the Airbnb. However, the last obstacle of the day was contacting my hosts. I’d tried to call while waiting for my flight to Taipei, but I got no answer. (Later, when I did meet the husband, he told me he receives the call but couldn’t call back.) Once I arrived at the location, I spotted a phone booth and tried calling from there, to no avail. Thank god there was free internet that allowed me to call via Skype, where we finally, nearly six hours later than originally planned, made contact. At that point, I was glad the ordeal was over and promptly celebrated by taking a much needed shower.