In quarantine in Taipei

On September 27th I caught a bus and train to go to Sydney Airport to catch a flight to Taiwan. Only a minority of the passengers on the bus and train were masked; the New South Wales government had relaxed the masking rule.

At the airport I went to the airline desk. The check-in agent asked whether I had completed a “Quarantine System for Entry” form for Taiwan. This was the first I’ve heard of this form.

Not to worry, the check-in agent said, you fill the form out online – so I did.

The photo above is taken from the aircraft at Sydney Airport, about 8:30pm. The first leg of the trip was to Singapore. I slept almost immediately after leaving Sydney, squashed into my seat with my head hanging down.

Landing in Singapore, about 2:30am Singapore time. Surprisingly I felt refreshed after my nap.

Changi Airport was busy even at this time. Singapore is a tourism hub, like Bangkok, dealing with travelers going from and to the Indian subcontinent, down from the Sinosphere, up from Australasia, and criss-crossing South-East Asia.

Tropical Singapore (above), showing Immigration on the right. I’ve visited Singapore only a couple of months ago – it’s a fascinating city.

My next aircraft. On to Taipei!

Goodbye Singapore. This last shot captures the many ships at anchor off Singapore.

After almost five hours, we were on approach to Taoyuan Airport, Taiwan.

After landing, I disembarked the aircraft and on to the passageway leading to a quarantine station. The quarantine officials wanted a Taiwanese mobile number, offering a PIN chip. I reluctantly handed over my Australian mobile phone, but it was incompatible with the Taiwanese system. I was forced to rent a new mobile phone for eight days, costing in the order of NTD1,200 or $AUD60.

On the bright side, the official loaded the quarantine form I filled at Sydney Airport, a very useful document as it allowed me to enter the COVID19 testing station and book a taxi.

At Immigration there wasn’t a line; there were more immigration officials than passengers. Unfortunately when presenting documents I hadn’t filled out a form, but the immigration official let me do it on the spot, and I got through.

Next stop, the saliva test for COVID19. This station was actually outside the terminal; the heat was a shock – 33 degrees! Note the nurse wearing full PPE gear.

At the entrance-way to the airport I enquired about a bus, but it would take too long. Instead I took a taxi (above), costing NDT1,000 (about $AUD50).

The taxi dropped me off in Wanhua, near the Ximen MRT Station. It’s an older part of Taipei. Apologies for the blurry nature of the next few photos – I was taking them without a wall or desk to support my camera.

Inside the door I was greeted by a receptionist in full PPE gear, including a protector shield for the face. Note the sanitizing liquid to the bottom left of the photo. I talked with her through the clear plastic sheeting. The receptionist refused to take me to my room, instead coming after with my bag.

My room. It’s small, 16 square meters, but comfortable.

When shown this photo, my father commented “Almost a prison cell”. Indeed, it’s jail time for me at the moment. In a few days I’ll get parole, which is liberty for a few hours to walk the streets. I’ll taste freedom again when my quarantine ends, 8 days / 7 nights after it began.

The view out the window. I don’t want to talk about it.

Both the Taiwanese government and the hotel are in frequent communication; every few hours I was called to take the RAT test, or to give them the website of my “Quarantine System for Entry”, or to pay for a digital thermometer, or to remind me that my food was ready. After a difficult start I soon got used to these messages.

From what I gather, the current Taiwanese approach to COVID19 is similar to Australia’s approach in 2020, with strict quarantine. Now Australia has moved on, viewing COVID19 almost as recent history with 15,000 deaths, while Taiwan has not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s