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The R@SKLs in Taiwan: Day 6

Day 6 banner

It was a cold, wet and windy Sunday morning.  Not a good time to be outside on a bicycle.

We had other things on our mind anyway.  Firstly, how to fit our bikes back into their cases?  I get there in the end but am never able to duplicate the way I got my bike to fit in its case the last time.

Day 6 Bike Packed

We took our bike cases to the hotel lobby at 8.00am.  Xiao Ger was waiting to load them onto a small truck for transport to Taoyuan Airport.

At breakfast, the thirty-three boxes of Sunny Hills pineapple cake that we ordered were distributed.  Many Taiwanese consider these the best Feng Li Su (pineapple cakes).  I had strict orders to bring some home for my Biker Chick.

Day 6 Sunny Hills

TH, Kiam Woon, and Heng Keng went to the Rapha Taipei shop after breakfast.  They wanted to buy Pai a gift in appreciation of all his hard work arranging this trip and looking after us so well.  Sadly they had been misinformed about the Sunday opening times.  The Rapha cafe opens at 9.00am, but the shop doesn’t open until noon on Sundays.  So they came back empty-handed.

As with our arrival, we were on different flights departing Taipei.  Lay, Simon, and Pai were the first at the airport.  They followed the lorry carrying our bike cases, helped unload them, and kept an eye on them while waiting for the rest of us to arrive.

Luane, Voon Kiat, Ralf, and Aaron were next.  I don’t know how the Hong Kong boys convinced Luanne to get drinks for them.

The six boys on the MAS flight checked in together.  Which was a good thing for those who had overweight check-in bags.  (Courtesy of the Kavalan distillery shop).  The counter staff allowed us to lump together the weight of our check-in bags so that the average weight came under our individual baggage allowances.

Day 6 Airport Liew Kiam Woon

Photograph courtesy of Liew Kiam Woon

Then it was on to one last snack before boarding.

Day 6 Mos Burger

We all had a fabulous time in Taiwan.  And we can’t thank Pai, Xiao Ger, and Ah Dar enough for all that they did to make our cycling visit to Taiwan such a success.

Day 6 xiexie

The R@SKLs in Taiwan: Day 5

Day 5 banner

This was our last full day in Taiwan.  The itinerary at the start of this trip listed a Day 5 ride as optional.  Not having ridden at all the day before, we were all up for riding in Taipei.

There are at least 200km of bike paths in the city.  All the bike paths are coloured orange in the map below.

Pai plotted a 95km route that took us from our hotel in the centre of the map north to Tamsui where the Tamsui River empties into the Taiwan Strait.  Then we reversed direction to Bitan which is where the MRT Green Line terminates at its southernmost point before returning to our hotel along the opposite bank of the Tamsui River.

Day 5 Route (1)

Twelve of us did the ride.  Simon had a cold and opted to sightsee rather than ride.  Arthur kept him company.

Day 5 Ready to Toll Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Within 3km of the hotel, we were on the bike path alongside the east bank of the Keelung River.

The bike paths are uniformly excellent.

Day 5 Bike Path 3Day 5 Bike Path 1Day 5 Bike Path 2

As were the river views.

Day 5 River view Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Day 5 River view Luanne Sieh

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Day 5 View

Our first stop was at one of the Bicycle Stores which dot the bike path system.  These shops offer bike rentals, cycling accessories, and equipment repairs.  Luanne is holding a rear blinker which she had just bought.

Day 5 Pathside bike shop Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

At the 20km mark, we were at Tamsui. Tamsui Old Street is lined with shops, restaurants, and vendors selling local specialties.  Some R@SKLs went off in search of snacks.

 

Mark and I went exploring to the end of the bike path.  We came upon a memorial to Dr. George Leslie Mackay, who was the first Presbyterian minister in northern Formosa (Qing-era Taiwan).  He landed at this spot on 9th March 1872, later making Tamsui his home and place for his missionary, medical, and educational work.

Day 5 Dr Mackay

Mark and I needed a pedalo to go any further.

Day 5 Pier End Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

On the way back to the others, we passed these statues of a girl with a group of cats.   I’ve tried to find information about this group of statues, to no avail.

Day 5 Cats

Snacking was still going on.  Pai shared his red bean-filled cake with me.

Day 5 Snack Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Arthur and Simon were in the meantime exploring Taipei on foot.

Day 5 Taipei 1 Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Day 5 Taipei 2 Simon Soo Hu

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Taipei 101 was officially classified as the world’s tallest building in 2004 and remained so until the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010.

Day 5 Taipei 101 Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Back at Tamsui, Kiam Woon had a problem with his rear derailleur.  How many cyclists does it take to . . . . ?

Day 5 Kiam Woon repair Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Once we got Kiam Woon rolling again we rode south and crossed the Tamsui River via the Guandu Bridge which links Tamsui District and Bali District.

Day 5 Guandu Bridge

This yellow zero marks the start of the Bali Left Bank Cycling Path.

Day 5 Bike Path marker Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

Day 5 Cycling Path Map

We got rained on, sometimes heavily, during this ride.

Day 5 Wet wet wet Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

 

You wouldn’t expect much climbing on bike paths alongside rivers.  There wasn’t any, except when you had to get up onto elevated bridges and overpasses.  Then you had to get up and down ramps like this one, up to and alongside the New Taipei Expressway.

Day 5 Ramp to New Taipei Expressway

The section alongside the New Taipei Expressway was about 1.2km long.  About halfway along there was a bike path interchange of sorts, where be path dropped to a set of ramps that took you to round level.

If you were going straight you had to climb back up to expressway level.  It was narrow and wet when we were there.  Better safe than sorry.

 

About 10km from Bitan Aaron had a puncture.  How many cyclists does it take to . . . . ?

Day 5 Flat Liew Kiam Woon

Photograph courtesy of Liew Kiam Woon

Bitan was our turnaround point.  It was also where we had lunch.  Most everyone headed down this street looking for food.

Day 5 Bitun Street Luanne Sieh

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

 

Here is an annotated photograph of what was on their table.

Day 5 Food Luanne (1)

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Mark and I went Western rather than Asian.  KFC for him and this old standby for me.  I couldn’t get enough of that Super Supao sports drink.

Day 5 Bitan 7-Eleven

We took a group photograph with the Bitan suspension bridge behind us.  The pedestrian bridge across the Xindian River was built in 1937.

Day 5 After Lunch Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

It was a 30km ride back to the Golden China Hotel.  We made a couple of pit stops along the way.  Along with the Bicycle Stores, there are restrooms at regular intervals on the bike paths.  Outstanding!

Day 5 Toilets

We got drenched again as well as lost for a while on the way back to the hotel.  But the paths and the views were so nice that we didn’t mind.

Day 5 Bridge Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Pai got his bearings back and pretty soon we were one traffic light away from the hotel.

Day 5 Almost back at the hotel Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

We would all be packing our bikes that evening for the trip back home.  Everything was covered in sand, so a wash was in order.  There wasn’t a hose, so Ralf improvised.

Day 5 Hotel Bike wash Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Xiao Ger had arranged dinner for us at a restaurant / karaoke bar.  I have just noticed that Ralf’s shoes match the front door.

Day 5 karaoke restaurant Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Belting out the tunes.

Day 5 Karaoke TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Four of us snuck out during dinner to make a quick visit to the Taipei Rapha store.  We’ll see how long it takes the other R@SKLs to spot who has a new jersey.

 

We got back to the restaurant in time to sing Alles Gute dir to Ralf.

Day 5 Ralf birthday TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The night rocked and rolled on until 2.00am.  Celebrating the most perhaps was Pai, after successfully leading us through an excellent tour of Taiwan.  Thank you Pai!

Day 5 Pai can relax Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

 

 

 

THE R@SKLS in Taiwan: Day 4

Day 4 An Tong Hotspring Hotel Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

The plan for today had been a 125km ride from An-Tong to Hualien.  With 1,139 metres of elevation thrown in just for fun.

Pai modified that plan into something less ambitious.  We would instead drive part of the way and then ride.

While Xiao Ger adjusted bikes we all got suited up.

Day 4 Driver 2 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Except for TH, who didn’t think it would be comfortable to drive for hours wearing bib shorts.

Day 4 An-Tong lobby Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

We left the An-Tong Hot Spring Hotel fairly late.  When we reached Hualien City 90km away it was time for lunch.  This is the front window display at our chosen restaurant.

Day 4 Lunch Selection

The R@SKLs can eat.  The dish at the top is the specialty of the house.  I’ll leave it to you to guess what it is.

Well-fed and happy!

Day 4 Lunch stop TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The entrance to Taroko National Park is thirty minutes from Hualien City.  The Arch of Taroko at the Taroko Gorge marks the start of the climb up Wuling Mountain.  With 3,500 metres of vertical gain in less than 80km, it is one tough climb.

Day 4 Wuling Gate

The view up Taroko Gorge.

Day 4 Wuling Gorge

There are things to see on the ground as well.

Day 4 Sidewalk detail

We hopped back into our vans and drove to the coast.  10km later we were looking at this.

Day 4 Ocean View

Day 4 Cliffs

Amazing scenery.

There was one “must visit” destination for some of the R@SKLs.  The Kavalan distillery in Yuanshan.  Taiwan’s first whiskey maker.  As it turned out, the Kavalan distillery was a long 95km north.

There was a lot of traffic on Route 9.  The slow driving conditions were made worse by roadworks where only one lane was open, necessitating long waits for your turn through the one-way section.

Work was being done to shore up the rock faces on the land side of the road.  We were lucky to have been on that road on Friday.  There was a landslide the next day which closed the road.

We saw some touring cyclists earlier in the day.  They wouldn’t be on Route 9 north of Suhua Township.  The tunnels are so narrow that bicycles are not allowed.

Day 4 Touring Riders Ralf Hamberger

Photograph courtesy of Ralf Hamberger

Ah Dar stayed in good spirits while driving the van despite the slow going.

Day 4 Driver Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were too late for the tour when we got to the Kavalan distillery.

Day 4 Kavalan Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

But not too late for a quick sample taste and to buy out half the distillery shop.  There were some overweight bags at the airport when it was time to leave Taiwan!

Long before we reached the distillery we had resigned ourselves to not riding on this day.  To his credit, TH wasn’t too smug about not wearing his cycling kit.

We decided to eat dinner near the distillery to avoid the Friday evening rush hour in Taipei.  Funnily enough, we were starving, despite just sitting in a van for most of the day.

Goose was the specialty of the restaurant we ate at.  I can assure you that we ate more than just goose.

Day 4 Goose Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Our first task after checking in at the Golden China Hotel in Taipei was to retrieve our bike cases from the hotel’s basement storage.  The bike cases had been delivered to the hotel direct from Taoyuan Airport.

Day 4 Cases

After a shower, the more energetic in the group went to the Shilin Night Market.  One of the largest and most popular night markets in Taiwan, especially when it comes to food.

Day 4 Night Market Aaron Au

Photograph courtesy of Aaron Au

I didn’t ask Heng Keng, Mark, Luanne, or Lay what they thought of the WOW Frog eggs!

Day 4 Night Market Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

 

The R@SKLs in Taiwan: Day 1

Taiwan Banner

Photograph courtesy of http://www.veronikasadventure.com

Last year Pai floated the idea of a R@SKLs cycling trip to Taiwan.  Pai is Taiwanese.  He offered to make all the arrangments.

In September 2017 planning started in earnest.  When to go?  How to get there?  Where to ride?  Where to stay?  What support would we need?  What would it cost?

By early December the dates for the trip had been confirmed.  April 10th to April 15th.

Pai flew to Taipei a few days before to finalise arrangements.  Kenix and Mark were also in Taipei a day or two early,  The rest of us flew into Taoyuan Airport on Tuesday.  Arthur, Heng Keng, Kiam Woon, Lay, Luanne, Simon, TH and I were on flights from Kuala Lumpur.  Aaron, Ralf and Voon Kiat flew in from Hong Kong.

This was the queue to depart Kuala Lumpur International Airport.  It took an hour to taxi to the runway.

Day 0 Taxiway queue

We unpacked and assembled our bikes in the Taoyuan Airport arrival hall.  All the bikes arrived unscathed.

The trio from Hong Kong had been the earliest to arrive.  While the rest of us were building up our bikes. Pai, Ralf, and Voon Kiat set the tone for our trip.  Yam seng!

Day 0 Setting the Tone Pai Tsing C

Photograph courtesy of Tsing C Pai

After all the bikes were assembled, we took the party outside the airport.

Day 0 Assembly Done TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

There was one casualty during the bike assembly process.  A broken seat post clamp on Heng Keng’s bike.

Day 0 Seat clamp TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Pai had laid on excellent local assistance.  Xiao Ger and Ah Dar would be driving the vans and providing mechanical support.  They knew where to get a new seat post clamp for Heng Keng’s Cervelo.  His bike would be sorted out in the morning

Our bikes were loaded onto the vans to be driven to the Kenting Youth Activity Centre, 450km to the south.  That is where we would spend our first night in Taiwan.

Day 0 Loaded

We started by rail.  First via the Taipei Metro from Taoyuan Airport to Taoyuan Station.

Day 0 MRT from Taoyuan Airport to High-Speed Rail station TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Everyone was hungry, so we had something to eat at Taoyuan Station.  Some of us opted for Mos Burger.

Day 0 HSR Station Dinner

Arthur had an aperitif while waiting for his wagyu beef burger.

Day 0 Aperitif Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

After dinner, we rode the  Taiwan High Speed Rail to Zuoying Station.  At times we were travelling at more than 295kph.

Day 0 HSR to Zuoying TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The Kenting Youth Activity Centre is about 115km from Zuoying.  We had planned to take the express bus.  The last express bus for the day had left by the time we got to Zuoying.  So we piled into three large taxis instead.

The centre is designed in the classical Minnan style.  Minnan or Hokio architecture features, among other things, the swallowtail roof with itsupward-curving ridges.

Day 0 Kenting Nature Park Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

This is the entrance to a set of guest rooms.

Day 0 Kenting Nature Park Room 1

 

Within walking distance of the activity centre is the Kenting Street Night Market.  It is probably the biggest market in southern Taiwan, second only to the Fengjia Night Market in Taichung.

Where there is a night market, there is food.  And where there is food, there are R@SKLs.

Day 0 Kenting Night Market Food Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Day 0 Night Market Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

There are also lots of stalls sellingknickknacks, gadgets, accessories, and clothes.  I am just glad that Ralf didn’t wear these while riding!

Day 0 Cycling Shorts Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim