In Taichung: New Year’s Eve - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

December 31, 2018

In Taichung: New Year’s Eve

We owe our readers an apology.  We had meant to extend an invitation to you to join us here in the Tango Hotel, where our huge suite has room for a host of guests and bicycles.  The suite is far more elegant than we would normally book for ourselves, but it was the only reasonable place we could find in Taichung on New Year’s weekend when we started shopping around a few days ago.  

I would have invited you sooner, but I wanted to accompany the invitation with a video of the place so you could see what you would be signing up for if you teleported over here.  We were held up by technical issues with the video though, and now it’s probably too late for anyone to join us.  So you know what you missed though, here’s a quick tour of our sweet suite:

Today’s ride very nearly ended up a complete bust.  The plan when we left our hotel was a loop ride southwest to the coast, perhaps following it as far south as Lukang before doubling back to the hotel through Changhua City.  The ride began well enough.  We once again have fine weather - warm, dry, and the wind has abated considerably over the last two days - and we found a reasonably quiet route out of the core.  Within a few miles we were biking past Fongle Sculpture Park, an attraction I hadn’t noticed was on the route we had mapped out.

Fongle Sculpture Park was established about 25 years ago, and featured 52 award winning outdoor sculptures when it was opened.  Most of these still stand, and are a life-affirming collection of realistic human figures in various poses - pregnant women, men at work, dancers.  Every one is interesting and worth a look.  The park itself, with a large pond and graceful bridge, is also attractive in its own right.

In Fongle Sculpture Park
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I especially like that these dancers are both anatomically complete. This must be one of the more modern sculptures.
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Duck and lotus blossoms, Fongle Sculpture Park
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Things fell apart completely a few miles later when we came to the rats nest of overpasses, tunnels, and highways that front the Taichung HSR (high speed rail) terminal.  My mapped route had us skirting the south end of the terminal and continuing west toward the sea, but we were never able to locate that route.  Instead we hopefully at first and then a bit despairingly tried several alternatives, none of which led us anywhere useful.  

We were misled a bit here by our old friend Cycle Route One, which passes the HSR station.  We followed it for a ways, confident that it would lead us to the coast until we realized it was taking it back to Taichung.  So, we crossed the road and followed it in the other direction.  This led us back to the HSR terminal, and then doubled back toward Taichung again.  It eventually occurred to us that this must just be a dead ended spur of Cycle Route One, for folks who are trying to get to or from the terminal.

Eventually, after biking about five miles and advancing exactly zero, and after biking back to the terminal for at least the third time, we gave up and biked back the way we had come, toward Taichung.  You might find it amusing at this point to look at the map, which is of the track we followed today.  It looks like there is a small hairball in the route, roughly between miles 5 and 10.

I’m not sure what this mammoth overpass is that we biked beneath for about two miles, but I thought it was interesting enough for a photo. Not worth two photos though, I didn’t think, so I didn’t bother stopping again when we biked back the way we had just come.
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One nice thing about our loop de loop de loop at the HST terminal was this nice view of Taichung from the overpass we biked over. Again though, it was only worth one photo so I didn’t bother stopping on the next three traverses.
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So, we find ourselves biking without a route, still wanting to get a decent ride in and still hoping to escape the city for at least part of the ride.  My thinking is to just strike out southeast on the first relatively quiet cross street we came to, and try to work our way into the hills.  

A half an hour later and fifteen miles into our ride already, we find ourselves in Dali, one of Taichung’s southern suburbs.  It’s gradually getting a bit less urban and congested, but we still haven’t really left the city.  We’re both getting quite discouraged, when suddenly we come to a marked riverside cycle path.  Our spirits immediately pick up once we hop on and start biking upriver toward the distant hills. Not long afterwards we leave the city behind and see the outlines of lofty ranges looming ahead.  More like it!

A few miles later the bike path ends at a fairly quiet highway, with a break spot and benches.  We stop here for lunch, enjoying what we brought home from last night’s visit to Pizza Rock, staring at the impressive collection of cigarette butts and litter tastefully arranged beneath our feet.

On the Toubiankeng Cycle Route
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So what is this? These seed pods are enormous, over a foot long.
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Bill ShaneyfeltMaybe emerald tree?

http://www.terrain.net.nz/friends-of-te-henui-group/trees-exotic-botanical-names-r-to-z/radermachera-sinica-canton-lace.html
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5 months ago
I hadn’t realized before now how many different species of myna there are. This one is a jungle myna, I believe.
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Jacquie GaudetSort of like a yellow-beaked crow? I always wondered where Disney got the idea of crows with yellow beaks.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetSort of, at least appearance wise. They’re quite a bit smaller though. I was surprised to see that they’re a close relative of robins.
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5 months ago
The pedestrian bridge spanning the Toubiankeng
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Lunch stop, at the upriver terminus of the aroubiankeng cycle path.
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Everything up until now has just been buildup.  The real heart of the ride is the next 12 miles: an out and back up Route 136, a mountain road that if we kept following it would eventually bring us to the famous beauty spot Sun Moon Lake.  That is far too far for us today, so we just ride until we feel like we need to turn back in time to make our hotel before nightfall.

Route 136, at least the miles of it that we saw, is a cycling gold mine.  As we slowly gain elevation winding beside the river we soon find ourselves biking through bamboo forest, with  increasingly inspiring mountain views ahead and a few dramatic sights beside the road.  For part of the distance we have company: three young boys on their bicycles, who race to keep ahead of us.  One soon falls behind, but the other two do quite well and we find ourselves swapping lead roles with them until we pull up at the Bat Cave, a small roadside attraction complete with a hiking trail, a suspension bridge, and restrooms.  What more could you ask for?

The suspension bridge to the bat cave
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The winners!
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On the bridge
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The famous cave is pretty quiet today.
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This looks like it would make a great hike, if we had more time and had thought to bring the lock. We’d want to wear our helmets too, as protection from falling bamboo.
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We continue biking a few miles beyond the bat cave, until we feel the need to turn back.  On the return, we stop by for a quick look at the other big sight along the road - the massive golden Buddhist temple straight across the road from the suspension bridge.  I tried without success to find a name or description of this golden marvel, so I can’t really tell you anything about it that you can’t glean from the photos.

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Well, there is one thing I can tell you about the golden temple: once you’ve gazed your fill, you should wander down the driveway just to its left.  Otherwise, you would miss perhaps an even more interesting site - a splendid Hindu temple, complete with a six tiered pagoda.  I couldn’t find out anything about this temple either, unfortunately.  The next time you stop in at the bat cave though, you should definitely step across the road and give the temples a look too.

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Jen GrumbyOh how I would love to hear the sound this makes!
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyI know. I almost mentioned that. It took a lot of self restraint to not reach over and give the bar a small push.
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5 months ago
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The ride back to our hotel was a pleasant surprise.  We backtracked out of the hills down Route 136 until we came to the southeastern suburbs, and then just kept following the scooters into the city in the general direction of our hotel.  If you’re in a Taiwanese city and not sure of navigation, you can do worse than just follow the scooters - they know all the best routes.

On our way into the city we’re happy to hear the cheerful tune of the ice cream truck - err, trash collector - coming up behind us.  The tune is an alert to the upcoming neighborhood to gather their trash and rush out to the street to deposit it when the truck arrives.  An interesting model, which could only work in communities where someone will be at home at the right time of day.  Once we understood what this was a few days ago, I’ve been hoping to run across one of these again so I could video it.  So, if you’ve always been curious about how refuse is collected in Taiwan, here’s your chance: 

We get back to our room much quicker than expected, before four.  If we’d known this, we could have biked further into the hills before turning back.  It’s just as well we didn’t though - I later found a biker’s description of this road as a possible route to Sun Moon Lake, and he strongly recommends against it because it is such an arduous climb that just keeps getting steeper with every mile, capping out at a 25% grade near the summit.  The local riders call this highway The Fence.

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Ride stats today: 38 miles, 1,500’; 460 miles, 24,700’

Today's ride: 38 miles (61 km)
Total: 385 miles (620 km)

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Jen GrumbyWow - what a great post!

The high temp in Centennial today is 18F and that heated toilet seat sounds mighty fine. Wish we could join you for a kink-free CycleBlaze reunion at your suite. Very cool place!

And love the videos of the kids passing Team Anderson and the trash collection. What a pleasant tune they have to let people know bring their refuse to the curb. I will now think of trash day as a happy event!

My only disappointment with this post is that you didn't include a photo of the tastefully arranged cigarette butts and litter.

Butt (ha!), then, maybe that's an image better left for the imagination.
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5 months ago