In Hsinchu: loop ride to Guanxi - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

December 27, 2018

In Hsinchu: loop ride to Guanxi

Between the rain and my cold, the last few days of our stay in Taiwan haven’t been all we’ve hoped for.  We were both ready for a day like this, which reminded us of the reasons we wanted to come here for a second time.  My cold is quite a bit better, the weather generally cooperated, and we had a really fine ride.

Before focusing on the ride though, let’s give you a better idea of what it is like biking in the cities here, so you can mentally prepare yourself if you decide to visit.  You definitely want to take those earbuds out and keep all your senses open.

 When we look at the weather this morning, we congratulate ourselves on our wise decision to come to Hsinchu.  It was just far enough south.  It’s windy and lightly sprinkling right now, but we’re being spared the brunt of it.  Starting about twenty miles northeast of here, it looks like the upper part of the island is getting soaked.  We have no room to complain about our grey but reasonably dry skies.

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Our ride is a wedge-shaped loop to the east of town, toward the hills.  It begins with three or four miles of Life in the Fast Lane, when we finally break out of the city, cross the Touqian, and head upriver.  For most of the next hour we avoid the numbered roads and follow quiet paved paths near the river.  I mapped out today’s route carefully, looking for roads like these - but by chance it turns out to be a marked cycleway as well - the Cross County Route I think it was called, and apparently just a local development.  

These roads make for fine cycling.  There is seldom any traffic on them other than an occasional scooter, or less frequently a small car or farm vehicle that you need to squeeze to the side for because the path is so narrow.  Best of all though is that it brings you up close to the landscape - rice fields, vegetable plots and bamboo fence rails right by your shoulder.

Upriver along the Touqian. I’m not sure of the usage of roads like these - I think this one is just a cycle path, but ones just a bit wider see an occasional motorized vehicle too. Yesterday we were on one not much wider than this, pulled over to let a car pass by, and then waited while he stopped for an oncoming car to back up to pullout so they could get by each other.
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Hibiscus hangs out onto the path, close enough that you can touch it as you pedal past.
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I don’t recognize this green. It almost looks like a crop that’s been flattened by a storm.
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Bill ShaneyfeltCould it be bok choy?

https://www.123rf.com/photo_10899596_freshly-harvested-bok-choy-on-display-at-the-farmers-market.html
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanThis crop has not been flattened by a storm but is in the process of being harvested. Some kind of choy I would say. There are so many choys that I couldn't say for certain which one.
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2 months ago
A young bunch
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I’m not sure about what these stacks are about, but it looks like they might provide shelter from the wind for the small plot in front of it.
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As we work our way east the land gets some contour. There are still rice fields, but they’re terraced now.
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It stopped showering about the time we left the hotel, not long before noon.  It’s a very windy day, blowing in from the northeast at 20-25 mph.  It hasn’t been bad though as we cycled up the Touqian because we’re sheltered by a low ridge that rises on our left.  About 13 miles into the ride we leave the river and bend toward the ridge, which we soon start climbing.  First though, passing through a small community, we stop at a Family Mart so Rachael can find something to eat before we have another calorie crisis.  I take a pass, electing to wait until we cross the ridge and drop to Guanxi on the other side - I hate eating and then climbing immediately.

The climb is a modest affair and never too steep, but it gets us off the valley floor enough that soon we’re biking through dense vegetation.  It’s a numbered road, but carries very little traffic - an ideal cycling route.  Once we cross over the top we immediately lose our wind break.  For the rest of the ride, 20+ mph winds accompany us all the way back to Hsinchu.

Crossing the ridge toward Guanxi on route 25. It looks and feels hardly larger than a cycle path. Looking at the map again, there are several other minor roads like this into and across these hills. Imagine they’re all brilliant on a bicycle.
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Hard to believe this narrow lane is a car route. Once we left the flats, I think we saw a single car on our way to the summit.
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Somewhere near the summit. Just over the top there was a small clearing to view out ver the valley to the north, but I didn’t stop for a photo because I decided to wait for a larger clearing. There wasn’t one though, until we bottomed out again.
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Wild poinsettia and bamboo
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Bamboo is much more prevalent on the northern side of the ridge. As we biked along beneath it we could hear it creak and snap, making us wonder if a shoot might fall our way.
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As soon as we drop off the ridge we come to Guanxi, a small Hakka community.  The Hakka are an ancestral Han Chinese people from the mainland that have retained their own cultural identity and language.  Taiwan has a significant Hakka population, mostly clustered in the foothills here on the west side of the island.  I imagine we’ll pass through Hakka towns and villages often in the coming days as we make our way south.

Biking through and around Guanxi is fascinating, with one striking sight after another.  I’m reminded of Jeff’s question in the forum, of Increasingly rare views.  This part of Taiwan has that feeling to me, with visions that feel very out of time, a closing window into a fast fading past.

Entering Guanxi from the mountain side.
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In Guanxi
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In Guanxi
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In Guanxi
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Cats and fishermen, Guanxi
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Bruce LellmanI love the cat looking in the bucket at, presumably, fish.
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2 months ago
At a market on Guanxi Old Street
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In Guanxi
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In Guanxi
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In Guanxi
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Sowing rice, I think
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Here’s another new cultivated crop, to me. Some variety of cactus?
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks like dragon fruit cactus.

https://balconygardenweb.com/how-to-grow-dragon-fruit-growing-dragonfruit-pitaya/
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Bill ShaneyfeltThat looks like it, alright. It doesn’t look like we’re anywhere near its fruit-bearing season though.
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Bill ShaneyfeltCorrect, this is dragonfruit.
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2 months ago

We’ve dallied too much though.  Leaving Guanxi, it’s around three already and we still have almost twenty miles to go before returning to our hotel.  With sundown at 5:15 now, Rachael is understandably worried about our daylight window.  I reassure her, saying that we’re going to get blasted home by a tailwind; and for a change, I’m right.  Soon enough we’re back to Life in the Fast Lane, weaving through rush hour traffic for a few miles before arriving at our hotel at 4:50.  And we arrive dry, although for a while we weren’t sure about that either.  Something is blowing in, but we beat it out this time.  A truly great ride.

And, a great day all around - we end it at The Park, an appealing small cafe close to our hotel that specializes in western cuisine.  The owner, Ian, is from Montreal.  He claims he started the business because he wanted to find meals here that he’d like to eat himself.  He proudly stated that his food is authentically prepared - he doesn’t add sugar to the pasta sauce, for example.  We have a Greek meal - a real Greek salad with feta cheese, and chicken souvlaki.

A fast downwind dash for shelter
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Ride stats. Today: 42 miles, 2,200’; for the tour: 343 miles, 16,700’

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 259 miles (417 km)

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Suzanne GibsonVideo 1 - scarey!
Video 2 - love the music!
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesIn Video 1, how did you know you had to make a left turn - preparing for it fluidly under pressure?

Steve
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI was glad Rachael caught that. It’s nice to look like I know what I’m doing for a change. It’s taken some practice and observation, but this is the standard method for a left turn on a busy street. Just follow the scooters.
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2 months ago