In Taipei: Yangmingshan National Park - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

December 20, 2018

In Taipei: Yangmingshan National Park

Today’s ride is a hill climb, to the summit of Yangmingshan National Park, which covers the complex of volcanoes that form the north end of the island, just north of Taipei.  This is our second visit to the park.  Our first, a day ride from Tamsui four years ago, was ridden under much different conditions.  Today it’s another bright sunny day; but last time it was so foggy at the summit that I could barely see Rachael if she got a hundred yards ahead of me.  We’re looking forward to getting a better look at it this time.

First though, we have to get out of the city.  Today’s outing is really two completely different rides stitched together: a 20 mile mountain climb and descent sandwiched between two seven mile stretches of urban cycling.  Before the hill climb, we have to get out of Taipei.  

Riding the streets of Taipei takes some practice and is an acquired taste that I imagine not everyone will find appealing.  You have to put on your fish brain and calmly go with the flow, be patient and philosophical and not in too much of a rush, and keep a 360 degree view to watch out for moving objects of all kinds coming at you from all directions.  Once you learn the rules of the game, I think it’s really quite fun - but it’s definitely slow going.  It takes us longer to get out of the city than to climb the mountain.

Once you get to the park the traffic volume damps way down.  It’s a fairly narrow, steep, winding road to the top, but it feels quite safe the whole way because there’s little traffic and no one is in a hurry.  I think though that it’s probably a place better visited on foot.  If we come back again some year and have an extra day to spend, I’d like to get up here some other way and spend the day on a good long hike instead.

It’s a steep climb - very steep in spots- and Rachael has some difficulty with it because she’s feeling a bit nauseous.  We aren’t sure why, but we’re suspicious that it stems from either the smog biking through the city or the sulfurous fumes as we climb past active thermal areas.  Once we’re over the top and dropping off the SE side of the mountain she seems fine, so it was likely an environmental symptom.

We didn’t really plan what to do for lunch today, trusting that we would just pass places along the way - which we did, until about half of the way to the summit.  Neither of us wanted to stop for a meal and then keep climbing for another 1500 feet, so we didn’t look for food until we topped out.  By then though, we were stuck a bit - there’s nothing commercial on the top half of the mountain; and once Rachael concludes she’s hungry, she’s really hungry.  Our first thousand feet of the descent were a mix of enjoying the scenery and ride and listening to Rachael constantly calling me from behind that she’s still hungry, and I’d better find a place to stop soon.

So, we stop at the first place that looks at all commercial that we come to.  Unfortunately it turns out to just be a shrine, so we keep dropping.  Thankfully, we come shortly to another small spot that is clearly food-related.  We’re not sure what it has though or how to ask - but the shopkeeper beckons us in so we give it a try.  He uncovers a tray and shows us an assortment of steamed buns, and we each pick one - I take a large cheese one, and she takes a chocolate colored one that turns out to be a multigrain of some kind.

We look around for a place to sit and are about to just sit on the pavement when he smiles and comes out with a pair of small plastic chairs.  We sit down and start eating, and he comes out again with slices of some sort of orange fruit, and points to a basket of whole fruits so we know what we’re eating.  He points out the compost heap where we should toss the rinds.  We continue eating, and he comes out again with slices of a different orange fruit.  When we’re done, he points out a pail and hose where we can rinse off our sticky hands.

Our lunch stop was one of the highlights of the day.  It’s surprising how much of a human connection is possible here knowing only ni hao, xiexie, and a bit of pantomime.  Imagine if we could actually speak a bit of the language!

Back in town again, we enjoy a mile or two of blissful riverside cycling along the Keelung but then are back in the game again, riding the alleys and sidewalks of downtown Taipei to our hotel.  We arrive a bit before sundown, as usual, and not long afterwards are walking back to Merlot Cafe and Bistro for another great meal and more conversation with Bob, our new food consultant on the island.  We figure that we’ll have plenty of meals at 7-11’s and bun shops instead in the days ahead, so we might as well fill up on great meals while we’re in the city.  And we’ll be back, at the end of the tour.  Bob says that when we return they’ll save a special bottle of wine for us to honor our trip, and if things aren’t too busy he and Vicky will sit down and share a drink with us.  Something to look forward to!

We cross the Keelung River on the Chengde Bridge, Yangmingshan in our sights.
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From the bridge, we get a closer look at the Grand Hotel.
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The Grand Hike is a giant 92 kilometer walk through the ridges surrounding Taipei. The route, which links existing trails, was announced two months ago as a challenge to complete the full walk. This section is at the entrance to Jiantan Park, just across the River by the Grand Hotel. We should take the MRT over there and take a hike when we come back.
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Rag doll
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Yangmingshan is a complex of old volcanoes, some of which still have thermal activity. Pretty scary when you think about it, to have this just a few miles above a city of over two million people.
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At the entrance (I think) to the national park
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On a clear day, Yangmingshan must be a great place to view Taipei.
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We’re at about 1,000’ here, in a dense, jungle-like vegetative zone.
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The climb wouldn’t really be that bad if the grade was more uniform, but instead it’s almost like ascending a set of stairs - supersteep, then a breather, then another tough spell.
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Another steam vent, high on the south face of the mountain.
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At the summit, Yangmingshan
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At the summit, Yangmingshan
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Over the top, we get a brief view to the northeast and Jinshan on the coast.
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As we were stopped on the narrow shoulder near the summit, an SUV crew pulled up, parked in the middle of the road and pulled out camera equipment for a wedding shoot.
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Scott, I’m starving! We need food! OK, let’s stop at this dumpling shop.
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Rachael shows off her tasty bottle of sweat. Personally, I thought my can of Taiwan Beer was better.
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The giant Ferris wheel in Miramar Entertainment Park is 70 meters in diameter and lights up at night. We should try to get somewhere where we can see that when we return next month.
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This is the closest view we’re likely to get on this trip to Taipei 101. It’s in the dead center of the city, and not really close to any of the rivers. It doesn’t really feel worth four or five more miles of biking through downtown for a better look.
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Crossing the Keelung on the Huandong Bridge, we look down on one of Taipei’s endless riverside parks
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The riverside parks and their cycle paths are wonderful, if you can get to them. Some of the accesses cross at street level, but others are like this.
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Foot rest
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Taiwan’s extensive UBike program is very animal and pet friendly. It’s nice to know that it’s fine to take your penguin out for a spin.
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Jen GrumbyThat's just what you need to take this Tour of Taiwan to the next level ... 2 penquins for your handlebar baskets!!
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyNo handlebar baskets! So penguins are out, with those feet - they can’t grip the bars. Maybe a falcon.
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3 months ago
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Ride stats today: 37 miles, 4,100’; for the tour: 87 miles, 8,500’

Today's ride: 37 miles (60 km)
Total: 66 miles (106 km)

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