15 February 2011


If you ever have the (good?) fortune to find yourself in a layover in the Taipei airport, and you can talk yourself into - or simply show your boarding pass - the Evergreen Lounge, have an espresso. They have excellent espresso. By far the very finest I have ever had in Asia and I have drunk a lot of espresso in Asia. It's surprising.

If its xiao long bao you're wanting, though, go back into the terminal and pay for it. There's some superb xlb to be found there.

Getting this far - a three hour layover before my flight leaves for Bangkok - was something of a chore.

I was told to get to Los Angeles International at least 2-1/2 hours before my flight. Traffic at rush hour was overly cooperative and I got there three hours early. It took 45 minutes to get through security. The only country in the world where I have gone through airport security and they make you take off your shoes or your computer out of your bag, is the U.S. I guess it's good for the show, because it's pretty meaningless in terms of actual screening.

Then, once you get through security, the LAX international departures terminal has the most meager and poor quality services of any international departure terminal I have ever been in. There were expensive old hot dogs to eat, or green around the edges sandwiches, and I was hungry. There were a wide variety of salted and sweet snacks and bottled beverages or super overpriced off brand cocktails. That was it. There's a crappy magazine stand, Sees Candy and a feeble excuse for a duty free.

There's not much sense in complaining about the flight. EVA Air is pretty nice, nicer than almost any U.S.-based airline. Food was crummy, it was crowded and the seats could be better. But at least they don't force you to stay in your seat. They actually let you stand in the areas outside the restroom and stretch and talk with other passengers - unlike U.S. carriers that seem to worry you'll be conspiring with someone if you do that. And they have a nice variety of Asian movies with English subtitles to watch if you don't want to watch the standard airplane cinematic fare.

People ask me "how was the flight?" and I never know what to say. What is there to say? Is there such a thing as a really good, much less great flight anymore?

"The flight didn't crash. I got there pretty much on time. It was fine."

I'm looking forward to my trip. I do have a very strange fondness for arriving in the airport in Jakarta, Indonesia. I'm hoping they haven't banned smoking in the terminal since I was last there. In the past, as soon as I would exit the plane I'd be hit square in the nose with the mingled scent of orchids and clove cigarettes. Something about that odor relaxes me. I'd take a deep breath and feel my blood pressure lowering.

Still, even though I've been in three different Jakarta train stations and none of them smell as good as the airport, it's a shame there isn't a fast train from L.A. to Asia. I love train travel.

In any event, this is just a short blog post by way of letting you know I'm on the road: to Bangkok, then Jakarta, then Bali, then back to Jakarta, then back to Bangkok than home - part work, mostly for fun. Check back for pictures and stories as the trip progresses.

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