June 3rd - Taiwan Lockdown - CycleBlaze

June 3, 2021

June 3rd

Out to Danan

It was too good to last.

Taiwan's escape from the pandemic came to an abrupt end in May and the government closed schools and various businesses. You probably know what that's like.

It means I've not been teaching for the last few weeks. With time on my hands, it seems a good idea to get out on the bike.

During the past few days the temperature hasn't been too high. Usually June is brutal. In fact last month it was in the frazzling mid-30s. We'll see how it goes.

With my camera in my barbag and a tripod in the saddlebag, I'll be taking a few snaps and letting you know how things go here during these trying times.

It's 9-ish and today the blue sky looks really nice, but it tells me the mercury will already have climbed to the 30 mark and it'll be hard to enjoy a ride.

After 11:00 I decide to bite the bullet.

I sat inside all day yesterday and that was enough and as there are clouds here and there it will hopefully be bearable. With some SF30 smeared on my forearms and wearing a pink cotton cycling cap and a pair of sunglasses, plus the compulsory mask, I wheel my bike outside into the heat. My goal is not too far away - about 10km to a town called Danan (pronounced Dar-An).

Heading to Danan
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A block from home is route 114 and I ride along it southeast, away from the town centre. The 114 is a typical urban road that's lined continuously with a boring assortment of stores, workshops and government buildings. It's not photogenic, hence no photos.

After a couple of kilometres there's an intersection where I go left and then soon veer right off the wide road onto a narrow lane which drops slightly down an escarpment for roughly 100 metres. It's a gentle incline that's lined with houses. There's no traffic now.

Cruising down just two kilometers from home
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Countryside appears at the bottom of the slope. If you stayed on the main roads around here, like the 114, you'd never know it existed. it's like a secret garden.

The rice that's growing is a few feet tall and the grains are getting heavy. Sunflowers in one field have drooped. Substantial grass grows along parts of the verge and sways in the breeze. There are numerous polytunnels and most of the fertile land appears to be smallholdings, but there are no people around. Maybe everyone is having lunch.

The lane follows a river. The water isn't very deep. It looks possible to wade across in places. Long-legged white egrets stand around looking for fish.

Having done just over 6km of cycling, the winding lane leads me to route 48. This is similar to the 114, with semi-industrial units sandwiched between shops and simple places to eat. Again there's traffic to contend with, but it's not a serious issue and besides, it's just 10 minutes to where I can get a coffee in Danan.

Even though I've lived here for over 20 years, the first time I cycled this route was just a couple of months ago. I decided to explore it as there's a rare charity shop in Danan and once I knew where it was, I zoomed in on Google Maps and found the best way of riding to it - along the lane between the 114 and the 48. If it wasn't for that, I'd be none the wiser.

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I make my way past the small charity shop and like most others in the neighborhood, it's roller shutter is down. It could be some time before these places reopen.

The coffee shop is just around the corner. It's a branch of Louisa, a local chain which makes decent stuff. Obviously it's only take-out now. I get an iced cappuccino and a small lemon tart and stick the paper cup in my bottle cage and set off to find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy it.

Once back past the market stalls and onto the main street, I spot a park and ride and find a concrete bench in the shade of large trees.

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It's hard to say how old the park is. The trees are well established, but everything else seems quite new. Sadly there's very little grass growing and the patches of reddish earth give it look of neglect. You don't see grass growing in Taiwan like you do in Europe.

The lemon tart is gone in three bites.

I set up the tripod and take a snap of myself and an elderly man sat not too far away is looking on at my antics, likely wondering what it's all about as a weird foreigner gets up and adjusts a camera a second time to capture himself holding a coffee cup.

At another bench are two men sat opposite each other, their legs straddling the concrete, playing a board game. It doesn't look like mahjong, which is popular here. When I walk past I can see they are playing go - an old Chinese game that goes back millennia. I don't understand it.

I don't see any women sat in the park before leaving. I get the impression the handful of men in their 60s under a tree will have a chat about me. You don't see many foreigners in Taiwan.

Having my iced coffee in a park in central Danan
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Scott AndersonWell worth the extra effort.
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1 week ago
Graham FinchHi, Scott

It was a nice little spin today. Rain is forecast this weekend, so hopefully it stays relatively cool and I can get out again with the camera.

I do miss the coffee shops being open. Louisa shops make good coffee.. better than Starbucks and quite a bit cheaper.
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1 week ago
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Scott AndersonI used to love this game. I’m holding it out as something to go back to when I’m really old.
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1 week ago
Graham FinchTo Scott AndersonThe two men were engrossed and I don't think they noticed me taking their photo.

What's 'really' old?
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Graham FinchWell, after a too-hot ride like today’s, I think maybe 74. On a good day though, perhaps 80-85. By then it might sound quite nice to spend my days staring at a Go board instead of the pavement ahead.
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1 week ago
Graham FinchI do wonder when the day will come when riding becomes an issue. Who knows how we'll feel in the years ahead. Obviously health is vital, but the will needs to be there. Maybe riding a trike will help.
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1 week ago

Along the 48 is a convenience store called Hi-Life. It's like 7-Eleven. Hi-Life is the only outlet I know of in Taiwan that stocks a Lithuanian beer that s really nice. If you buy three cans, there's a decent discount.

It's worth me checking out if they have any left - many of the outlets have sold out as they only seem to get six cans per shop. As with all shops, customers have to register their entry by either swiping their phone over a QR code, or - like me - writing their name and tel number down on a sheet of paper at the door.

Luckily they have some IPA on a shelf. They're the only cans of beer I know that are an actual pint. It actually has that imperial measurement printed on the can. The three cost me NT$227 - NT$76 each, which is about US$3 a pint. People outside of urban centers probably think this is too expensive as that's over double what a smaller can of Heineken costs here. I can't stand that stuff.

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A few months ago one of my students told me he likes drinking beer and that is favorite is ipa - pronouncing it as an acronym rather than an initialism. It took us a bit of time before we cleared it up. 

A left off the 48 and veering along the lane beside the shallow river takes me closer to home. 

It seems hotter now and the clouds have mostly disappeared. The sun is burning my arms and my cap is wet with sweat.

A egret is on the lookout for lunch and I get my camera out and try to take a decent shot of it in the water, but it's too far away and the image isn't very sharp when I enlarge it on the screen. Once it detects my presence it flies off.

A little bit later I go into the field of drooping sunflowers and set up the tripod, but the shot of me riding past is disappointing and it seems easier to take a snap inside one of the numerous polytunnels.

The first row I get to have the usual mesh screens on the entrances and as I'm about to pull one aside to get my camera a clear shot, the small electrodes that I guess are protecting it - or connected to an alarm system- become apparent.

Just along the lane I see some without the wiring and stop and lift the bottom edge of the mesh, with the small green shoots planted in long lines enhancing the length of these structures. I think they're called hoop houses in the US.

Heading home
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The escarpment arrives but it's far better cycling up the small lane than it is on the 114, which is always pretty busy. The lane has a more gentle gradient and no traffic.

Some of the houses are clearly old and I stop at one which looks abandoned, but who knows - a new-ish motor scooter is parked in the front yard.

The house is typical of those built about 100 years ago - or before that. It's single storey with thin rectangular overlapping clay tiles on the pitched roof. The bottom section of the walls are built with large pebbles and my guess is this was a form of damp-proofing. The walls are rendered and underneath will be mud blocks.  Bricks are only used around the doors openings and on the corners as they would have been more expensive.

The screen-door to an annex looks about rotten, with a lower panel section missing. After taking a quick snap, I pedal to the top of the slope and head for home - just a couple of kilometres away.

Someone's home
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Today's ride: 20 km (12 miles)
Total: 20 km (12 miles)

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