Chiayi - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

January 6, 2019

Chiayi

Today’s ride to Chiayi may have been the nicest riding day of the tour.  For the first half of the ride especially, conditions were perfect - partly overcast skies, a comfortably warm morning in the mid sixties, a mile but refreshing tailwind.   With a longer ride ahead of us today, we got an early start and made good time as we biked due south through the basin of the broad Zhoushui River, following the river back up toward its source high in the central mountains.  We can’t see the river itself, which is about a half mile to the west of us beyond fields and forests - but it’s easy to see where it is by the sharp line of cliffs rising above its left bank, a high ridge behind it separating us from the coastal plain..  We follow this course for about fifteen miles, gently rolling through a lush upland rural landscape until we finally cross the river and turn toward a mercifully low gap in the range.

Looking back toward Jiji (on the left) across the reservoir behind Jiji Dam. The dam, of the Zhuoshui River, is controversial because of its effect on the riverbed and water quality downstream. Dust from the huge, largely empty river basin is a major source of air pollution in central Taiwan.
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The red bridge, Jiji
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At the Jiushan Visitor’s Center, a bit of bamboo sculpture by a local artist.
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The huge eroded cliffs along the Zhuoshui River are astounding.
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Another beautiful mystery
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Bill ShaneyfeltI think it is some species of glory bush, native to South America, but that is as close as I have been able to find searching on line.

https://www.thespruce.com/grow-tibouchina-plants-indoors-1902496
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltYou are so good, Bill! This sure looks like it. It even has ‘china’ as part of its name, which looks conclusive to me.
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2 weeks ago
Andrea BrownPrincess Flower (Tibouchina urvilleana), native to Brazil.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownYup. It looks like the same plant, with multiple common names.
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2 weeks ago
Nantou County, which includes the high country around Sun Moon Lake, is one of the premier tea growing regions of the island.
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Beehives and bamboo
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Bruce LellmanYes! Beehives AND bamboo.
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1 week ago
Drying tea leaves, I presume
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Sculptured tea fields grace many of the ridges we climb past.
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A sea of ducks. They’re amazing to watch, drifting across the lake like clouds of windblown cottonwood fiber.
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It’s a duck’s life.
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Bamboo truck
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The Zhuoshui River dominates the landscape here
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I’ve really been surprised at the number of pedestrian suspension bridges spanning Taiwan’s rivers. We must have seen well over a dozen of them by now.
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The climb to the summit of the gap is modest and short.  We rise gradually through bamboo and palm forests increasingly mixed with gorgeous green tea fields.  I don’t know why this surprised me, but for some reason I thought most of the tea on the island was cultivated on the eastern slope.  The road is almost empty other than for us and an occasional dog, so we enjoy a very pleasant leisurely climb to the top.  There, we find a perfectly situated gazebo overlooking the coastal plain.  With the morning clouds burning off and the day warming up, it is just the place to stop, sit in the shade, and break out lunch.

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Rolling up to the summit, I’m happy to arrive in time for lunch.
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We enjoyed an idyllic lunch at this gazebo at the summit.
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After a fast drop off the western face of the ridge, we soon come to Route 3 and turn south, gently rolling along the base of the ridge through a string of smaller villages.  It’s not as scenic, and there’s a bit more traffic.  It’s still a good ride though, as we follow Cycle Route 1 again.  Outside of the villages, we’re either on a separated bike lane or sharing a broad scooter/bike lane with the occasional scooter that zips past our shoulder.

The final ten miles of the day are almost flat, as we turn west again and drop into the broad Chiayi-Tainan plain, a miles wide flatland that is the largest plain in Taiwan.  It’s largely agricultural, and until we enter the outskirts of Chiayi we breeze past one absolutely plane field after another, planted in rice or vegetables.

Chiayi is a fair-sized city sprawling across the plain, about the size of Hsinchu.  I’ll say something positive about our days in Taichung - they really toughened us up.  The several mile ride into central Chiayi is busy but not crazy, and it doesn’t stress us at all as we share the road with an ever more congested mix of cars, scooters, bikes and peds.  

A grey treepie, a member of th crow family. Sorry it’s not a better shot, but I couldn’t entice it to come out from the branches.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesAh but the branches are central to the interesting composition.
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2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanIts name alone is enticing enough.
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1 week ago
Macrame art
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I don’t really understand what these beautiful temple-like gates are. Are they village entrances?
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The bridge across this river cautioned against swimming in it. We wouldn’t think of it.
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One of the two suspension bridges across the Niuchou River, in Zhuqi Riverside Park. Together, the two bridges make an attractive mile long loop walk.
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We do a bit of food research and are surprised to find hardly any restaurants listed nearby our hotel, even though we’re in the dead center of the city just a block or two from the central plaza and the primary commercial district.  We ask at the hotel desk for recommendations and they point down the street toward the night market.  So, for the second night in a row we eat out, this time rubbing elbows with a few thousand friends.  

It’s a quite different experience here though from the tiny, calm night market in Jiji.  This one is much, much larger.  Much more going on, much more to choose from, and much more crowded with a dense throng filling the street for blocks, browsing the booths and competing for space with the occasional scooter.  It would all be a bit overwhelming if we hadn’t just graduated from Night Market for Dummies 101.  We know just what to do, and soon emerge from the crowd with our selctions and head to the central plaza looking for a vacant bench.

Another night, another night market. This one, in Chiayi, is a bit more imposing. Good thing we had a gentle introduction to the institution back in Jiji to bring us up to speed.
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If I didn’t bite on the chicken feet, I’m certainly not going to try the duck heads either. For one, I don’t really understand the expectations - what part of the head and neck is considered good eating?
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Still playing it cautiously, we stick to the pork and chicken skewers, won tons, potato and cheese buns, and an assortment of fruit slices. All delicious.
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The Chiayi night market is much, much bigger than the tiny one in Jiji. No room to sit down, so we pick up drinks from the 7-11 and head to the nearby Central Plaza to sit and eat our meal.
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Ride stats today: 49 miles, 2,500’

Today's ride: 49 miles (79 km)
Total: 521 miles (838 km)

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