The Just Sleep Hotel has a Japanese feel to it. There are Japanese-style rooms where the beds are low, and the robes are in the style of kimonos.
That Japanese-ness extends to timekeeping. A few of us were downstairs for breakfast a few minutes before 7.00am. Everything looked ready, but we weren’t allowed in until 7.00am.
It was worth the wait though. The breakfast at Just Sleep is very good.
We had hoped to start riding at 8.00am. W didn’t get away until 8.30am. Perhaps the kaoliang drunk the evening before had something to do with it.
Our first stop was just 8km / 5mi away at the Lanyang Museum. The design of this museum about the local area was inspired by the cuestas (hills or ridges with a gentle slope on one side, and a steep slope on the other) commonly seen along the Beiguan Coast. The building emerges from the ground in a similar fashion to those cuestas.
It is a stunning building.
6km / 4mi further on we came to Wai’ao Beach. It was a very windy morning and the waves were crashing onto the rocks.
We hugged the coast riding north for a total of 30km / 18mi.
We left the Binhai Road at that point and entered the Old Caoling Tunnel. The tunnel was built in the 1920s to connect northern Taiwan with the eastern coast by rail. A new tunnel was built in the 1980s and the old tunnel was closed until 2008 when it reopened as a tourist-friendly bikeway.
The tunnel is about 2km / 1.2mi long and is decorated with mock railroad tracks on the ground.
I didn’t notice this as I was riding through the tunnel (I was preoccupied with how cold it was) but there is an underground border crossing between Yilan County and New Taipei City.
A few kilometres from the New Taipei City end of the tunnel is Fulong Station.
That was our last chance to buy food and drink and to use a restroom before our first climb of the day. About 500 metres / 1,640 feet of elevation over 10km / 6mi.
The tables and chairs behind us belong to a restaurant. The 7-Eleven at Fulong Station provided us with this step!
We crossed the Shuang River four times on the way to the fifth crossing at Shuangxi. That fifth crossing of the Shuang River marked the start of our climbing up to Buyanting.
At the summit is this pavilion.
It is known as the “Not Tired Of” pavilion, in reference to a poem in which the poet Li Bai says he is not tired of the view of Shuangxi District.
We stayed a long time enjoying the view (and catching our breath.
Lunch at Jiufen was next of the agenda. Thankfully it is mostly downhill to Jiufen.
With a stop at the Shumeiping Lookout Point.
Jiufen is known for the narrow alleyways of its old town, packed with teahouses, street-food shacks and souvenir shops. The town has a history as a mining hub during the Japanese-era gold rush.
After a lunch of beef noodle soup and dessert of taro balls and tau fu fah (beancurd jelly) it was time to head off to the second, and steeper, climb of the day. We had a 7km / 4.3mi downhill run before the left turn onto Jing’an Road.
Our goal was the Wufenshan Meteorological Radar Observatory, 12.2km / 7.6mi away and 673 metres / 2,208 feet upwards. The intermediate goal was to get to the Wufenshan Gate, which is 4.5km / 2.8mi from the observatory. Xiao Ger would not be able to drive our support van beyond that point.
The climb to the Wufenshan Gate averages 5.4%. From the gate to the meteorological observatory it ramps up slightly to average 6.0%.
The last few kilometres were a real slog. Fortunately, the meteorological observatory becomes visible from about 2 kilometres away. Having the final destination in sight definitely helped.
Delighted to have made it all the way to the top!
The view was quite spectacular.
None of us hung around very long enjoying the view though. The sun was setting and the wind had picked up. It was 14°C / 57°F up there and we were damp and not dressed for the cold. It was a fun but very chilly hairpin descent to the Wufenshan Gate.
We had planned to end our ride 6km / 4mi or so further down the road at Shifen but the cold and increasing gloom of the evening put paid to that plan. We waited at the gate for the last of the riders coming down from the observatory.
Once everyone was back at the gate we loaded up the vans (we had a second van just for this last road journey) and drove back to the City Suites – Beimen in Taipei.
The first order of business after arriving in Taipei, even before taking a shower, was to pack bicycles into bike cases.
Only then did we take showers and polish ourselves up for a Japanese-influenced traditional Taiwanese dinner. Don’t ask me what that means. All I can tell you is that every one of the thirteen dishes that Pai ordered was delicious. We were so hungry that no one took photographs of the food before diving in!
There was more shopping to be done by some after dinner. It was all I could do to stay awake during the taxi ride back to the hotel.