Back lanes to Wuguoshuei - 五溝水 - Taiwan's Southwest - CycleBlaze

January 30, 2019

Back lanes to Wuguoshuei - 五溝水

north to Pintung City

There's usually a 7-Eleven not too far away in any Taiwanese town and it doesn't take long to find one a block from my hotel for a coffee and a microwaved croissant at around 9:00. I also buy a bottle of cold water  for the road because it's going to be a hot one and after stepping outside, my arms and cheeks get a coat of sun cream.

My back tyre isn't quite hard enough from using my mini-pump after  puncturing yesterday and when I spot a Yamaha scooter dealership they let me use their compressed air hose and within three seconds its done.

Museum of Traditional Theatre in Chaozhou
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Chaozhou has a couple of sights to see. There's a Japanese building Debbie told me about, plus two other spots I've marked on a map, but it's not long before I get a bit lost. After talking to a woman in a shop the first place turns out to be just a block away and it's then that I realise the bottle of water is still where I left it on the narrow counter-top in 7-Eleven. I can't be bothered to ride back and get it.

A red brick building with stone gables tells me it's the one Debbie told me about last night. Now home to the Museum of Traditional Theatre, it was once a post office, and maybe the Town Hall, too. I remember reading somewhere that the Japanese architects who designed such buildings were trained in the UK and liked the formal British style. It shows.

Some wooden Japanese buildings are close by and they've been renovated quite recently. My bike gets parked and I walk around to the sunny side, but the brightness/contrast is too much, so I go back to the front and stand in the small hallway and take a shot of the simple interior of tatami mats on a polished floor. 

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A few blocks away is a passage running between buildings. People find its nickname interesting: Breast Touching Alley. That's how narrow it is. Well, not quite. It turns out it's a popular shortcut and scooters come and go as I stand there taking snaps of the terracotta tiles stuck to a wall, with my bike squeezed into the alcove formed at a dogleg.

At the far end I make a right and head east-ish towards a road lined with trees. For the first five minutes I'm on a lane that doesn't allow cars, but then it opens out and the trees appear, with wWhite-painted metal benches placed along the verges. It's clearly a place where locals come for a stroll or perhaps a jog and the shade from the overhanging branches is nice and traffic is minimal.

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The green tunnel brings me to route 187, where I go north, with the mountains coming into view again. After crossing route 110, I head to a small village where it gets confusing and I ride along a road that seems too wide and eventually go back and find the small back road that'll take me more away from traffic - not that there's much of it here in rural Pingtung County.

Once back in the network of alleys, a Google Maps screen-shot stored on my small tablet tells me the actual name of the street that I want and I ask a market vendor in the centre who tells me this is the actual street and it takes me out of the village of Sikuaicuo.

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My computer reads over six kilometres and there's no traffic on this back lane that goes past fields of pineapples planted in neat rows. They'e almost ready to pick and have different forms of protection, with some covered in what reminds me of an Elizabethan ruff. Tall and spindly betel nut trees cover other areas - rows of them planted about six feet or so apart and then there's another village - Jiazuo.

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There's a 7-Eleven in here on the main road, which is route 103, and it's what I was likely cycling on earlier when a bit lost coming out of Sikuaicuo. At a T junction I go left as that's where the 7-Eleven is and it's just a short distance and as it's getting on for noon and I feel a bit empty I have a microwaved pasta and a banana and drink a carton of soya milk.

A handful of villagers come and go as I sit in the window. it's a peaceful place.

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Heading back through the village there's an old single-storey brick house that's been abandoned and I go into its courtyard area and take a snap and notice a policeman has come out of the station across the 103 to see what I'm doing. He shrugs slightly when he sees my camera and goes back inside.

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At the eastern end of Jiazuo there's a simplistic painting of a bicycle on a blue wall and I stop to photograph it and as I do so a woman on a scooter pulls up and asks where I'm from and then wishes me well. 

I veer north on the 103 and it becomes narrow and rural and it's just 2km to Wugoushuei. At a junction woman tells me this is Wugoushuei, yet it doesn't seem right so I ask where Jiazuo is and she says that this is the place, which confuses me even more. The woman then points up the road and once I see some houses and make a left down an alley and cruise into the village it's clear this is the place.

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Wu-gou-shuei translates to 'fifth ditch' and the tranquil village dates back to the 1600s, when Chinese arrived and took root. They transformed the landscape by channeling the water flowing down from the Central Mountains to irrigate the land, digging a series of ditches. 

The village's preeminent family are the Lius (劉) and many of the nice buildings belong to the clan.

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It's a small village of just over 1,000 people, so it doesn't take very long to explore. In the heat, it has a lazy feel, with hardly anyone on the streets and the few people I see seem reticent to say anything. It's doubtful many foreigners venture here. 

After taking some snaps of various houses and other old buildings, I decide it's time to hit the road.

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The next goal for today is to find a bed somewhere -maybe the small city of Pingtung, a bit further north.

A quiet road heads west straight out of the village and it's route 111, which takes me to the 100 and just to a little north is a small town called Neipu.

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There's an 'old street' in Neipu and I find it easily enough, but it's not on the same scale as this morning's sights, so I just go to the top part of town where there's a coffee shop called 85 Degrees and I sit for 10 minutes in the shade - enjoying an iced latte and a chocolate cake with the face of a toy bear. It's about two o'clock now and it becomes clear that this is one easy tour.

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If there was a chance of getting lost it seemed that it would be leaving little Neipu, as the route out looked convoluted on Google Maps. Nevertheless, I find the back street that has an old house on it soon enough and once I've taken a quick snap of the sadly rundown place I just keep going and see signs for the 48-1, knowing this is the right way.

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The 48-1 feeds farms and and the odd house and takes me past betel nut trees and isolated duck farms. There are a couple of tiny villages and at one junction where I stop to check my bearings, a boy of about 13 on a bike comes over and talks to me and asks where I'm from. He clearly finds it hard to believe that he's talking to a foreign cyclist in his humble village in out-of-the-way Pingtung County. 

I weave my way west and get a bit confused in Xishi, taking a left when I should bear right, but soon see the rail tracks that tell me to double back. I get off the 81 and go on the 43 directly west for a bit.

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The back lane running north takes a bit of finding, but I get on it and cruise between fields that are empty at this time of year. A tractor is ploughing one and it seems rice will get planted soon as water is a few inches deep.

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Eventually I hit route 27, which is a big road full of traffic. It goes into Pingtung and there's no alternative, but it only lasts 10 minutes or so and once at the train station I get on a train with my bike heading west to the big city of Kaohshiung which will leave within 20 minutes.

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The huge, new-ish train station in Kaoshuing is a bit confusing. It's not quite finished and a policeman tells me I need to take an elevator to get out to street level.

My plan is to stay close to what is called Pier-2, which is a museum complex housed in old warehouses. There are a few hotels near to it and getting there is simple enough as it just means riding along a wide but busy road and across numerous traffic lights and finally the Love River.  .

The sun is very low and dull when I take a few snaps before riding back a block to a hotel that I'd seen where the manager/receptionist quotes me NT$1,200 - which is OK. My bike gets wheeled around to a parking area at the back which has a locked gate and a roofed area. 

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Later, at nearly seven, the manager tells me to eat somewhere along the nearby main road and after a 10-minute stroll a simple place that has shrimp fried rice advertised for NT$60 looks good enough and I help myself to a bottle of cold San Miguel from the tall, glass-fronted fridge and sit outside. The rice is so oily I can't finish it.

Today's ride: 34 km (21 miles)
Total: 105 km (65 miles)

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