Taichung - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

December 29, 2018

Taichung

We have a long ride ahead of us today, and at the pace we’ve been moving lately we’ll need it all if we’re going to make it to Taichung before nightfall.    We’re up fixing breakfast before dark, sitting at the lone table in the lobby downstairs eating on the feast we brought home from the Carrafour last night.  We’re staying at the modest but quite comfortable Zhu Feng Hotel, a place we highly recommend if you need a stop on this part of the island.  

At eight, an ungodly early hour for us, we step out the door to a scene that shocks us at first.  Overnight, the street has been transformed from an eerily quiet lane to a bustling street market that begins right at the hotel entrance.  The entire block is filled wall to wall with booths, shoppers and of course scooters.  It makes a bracing way to start the day - almost like a jolt of espresso or slap in the face on the way out the door.

Rachael with our hostess at the very pleasant Zhu Feng Hotel. As always, we prefer to keep photos like this color coordinated. It almost looks like the two of them are in uniform this morning.
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This is the street in front of our hotel. Empty last night, it was a bit of a shock to step into this morning.
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Once we escape our street, the road down to the sea is reasonably quiet, other than for the roar of the wind gusting through town.  It is blowing from the northeast, and the  gusts are strong enough to blow us toward the center of the road when we come to an intersection and a gap between the buildings lining the streets.  Soon, we turn south on Highway 1, the coast highway, and explode southward in front of a 30 mph booster that will propel us most of the way to Taichung.  We’re lucky we’re heading south, or we’d be sitting the day out.

Highway 1 is also Cycle Route 1 at this point, and this morning we have plenty of company.  There are many bikers passing us in ones and twos, some giving us a shout or flashing a thumb up as they race by.  There’s also an organized group of perhaps a hundred young riders that snakes along the highway -probably a school group since they all are dressed alike and look about the same age.  Very well organized actually, with a leader who bikes ahead at key intersections to stop and wave them on through the light, blowing her scout whistle.

A mile from our hotel we come to the coast and Cycle Route 1 and fall in with the touring crowd.
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For miles to come, we really do very little work as we are shoved along by this huge tailwind.  We’re really lucky in that it’s coming from almost straight behind us so that it doesn’t buffet us around.  For about the first ten miles we stay on the broad highway, with a wide, safe lane that is shared by bikes and scooters.  We make good time of course, and don’t stop much partly because it’s not terribly scenic from the highway, but also because we have a lot of miles to cover.

Still photos of windmills on a day like this are misleading. In fact, the huge blades are turning over at high speed, and roar in the wind as we cycle beneath them. We’re at the broad mouth of the Houlong River here, at one of the few spots with a clear view of the coast from the highway.
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I have no idea what this man is doing, on the sands at the mouth of the Houlong. Drawing a line in the sand for some strange purpose.
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Emily SharpIs he getting little bait crabs? Nigel uses a little pump to pull them from the sand (called 'pippis' or something like that here) here and then uses them for fishing.
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5 months ago
At the mouth of the Houlong. I’d be curious to know also what the purpose of the nets is, if any of you happens to know.
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It’s too far out to really get a feeling for it, but the surf is pounding furiously all along the coast this morning.
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A different channel of the broad mouth of the Houlong, and a different set of mysterious nets.
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Just past the mouth of the Houlong, a large headland rises ahead of us - the Houlong Cape of Good Hope.  Highway 1 and Cycle Route one continue south rising up its eastern (landward) shoulder, and Rachael encourages us to stay with the flow - it’s the sure route, and in this gale the climb will be as nothing.  I’m keen to take our marked route though and follow the quiet road along the sea along the base of the cape.  Rachael goes along, possibly a bit skeptically, but I’m soon proven right.  The next fifteen miles are really the highlight of the day.

We fight a fierce crosswind as we turn east around the northern shoulder of the cape, but soon bend to the south and pick up our booster again.  In a mile or two we come to the immense Qingli Temple and its giant statue of Matsu, and pull off for a look.  Rachael quickly overcomes her skepticism of this route when she spies a public restroom by the temple parking lot.  Now, everybody’s happy.

Another giant statue, Qingli Temple
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Dragons galore, Qingli Temple
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A couple of other tourists are just leaving as we bike up to Qingli Temple.
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For the next six or seven miles we followed the Seaside Cycleway, a beautiful route right on the sea.  It alternates between riding on top of the sea wall and looking straight down on the shoreline, or on the road just beneath the wall on the landward side.  Great miles, but a bit slow going because there are many reasons to stop and take a longer look.

If you’re not a faithful viewers of our videos, don’t miss this one.  It gives a good feel for not just of the ride, but for our awesome tailwind.

Drying something or other here.
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Animal or vegetable? It looks like fruit slices to me, but we’re at the shore and there’s nothing fruity growing anywhere nearby.
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Mike AylingSea slugs perhaps?

Mike
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5 months ago
We’re following the Miaoli County Seaside Bikeway, a wonderful route right along the water that’s well worth seeking out. Miaoli gets its name from the Hakka words for cat (Miao, naturally) and town, by the way. I saw a pretty calico as we biked along, and now I wished I’d stopped for a photo.
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This isn’t as steep as all that. We wouldn’t have pushed it if the strong winds didn’t make it seem risky.
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The fleet is in.
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Posing on the Seaside Bikeway
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On the Seaside Bikeway
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On the Seaside Bikeway
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On the Seaside Bikeway
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At midday we come to Tongxiao, a fair sized seaside town, and break for lunch.  It’s too windy and cold to sit outside, so we look for shelter - starting at the 7-11, where Rachael picks up another of her new favorites, a half and half egg salad/tuna sandwich.  It’s a small store with only three tables, all full; one, annoyingly, occupied by a lone young woman carefully working her nails.  Instead, we bike over to the train station and sit in the lobby while we eat our lunch.

The giant, gas-fueled Tongxiao power plant doubles as a work of art.
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Moving south from Tongxiao, we leave Miaoli County and the Seaside cycleway.  Rejoining Cycle Route 1, we start angling inland.  In a few miles we cross first the Da’an and then the Dania River and then leave the coast highway to follow the Dania inland toward Taichung, still 17 miles away.  It’s not long past two, so we still have plenty of time.

The first few miles along the Dania bring the only climb of note for the day, a lazy 500’ ascent over three or four miles through a gap in the high ridge that shelters Taichung from the sea.  If you bike from the sea to Taichung yourself, this is definitely the way in.  On our first tour we crossed at the center of the ridge - it tops out at 800’, and is an agonizingly steep climb.

From the top, we turn south again for an easy/awful ten mile traverse into central Taichung (which, now that we’re here, feels like a huge cosmopolitan city).  Easy, because it’s flat or gently downhill the whole way, and downwind to boot; and because for the first half we ride either on a fine bike path or on quiet, minor lanes through the agricultural outskirts.  Awful, because once we leave the outskirts we’re in an urban cycling hell for a few miles - mixing it up with the scooters and taxis in the streets or with the pedestrian masses on the sidewalks when the streets are not viable.  We don’t really know for sure where we’re going, because my pre-mapped route is actually a major elevated highway and obviously no spot for a bicycle.  We pick out ourroute opportunistically, looking for viable streets , watching where the scooters go, and gradually honing in on our end point.  It’s very slow going though, with frequent minute-long stops for traffic lights at major intersections staffed by whistle-tweeting, wand-wielding traffic directors.

So it’s a good thing we started early, because we don’t reach our hotel until about 4:30.  We’re staying for the next three nights in the skyscraping Tango Hotel, the only place we could find open on New Year’s weekend on such short notice.  The Tango Hotel is a story in its own right, but not for today.  Hold that thought.

I liked this Matsu temple, built into the rocks, but now don’t know where it is. Somewhere between Tongxiao and Taitung, which narrows things down greatly.
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Yes, I know this is just another common little egret, a bird we’ve seen a thousand times now. What’s the crop it’s grazing through though?
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Steve Miller/GrampiesLòoks a lot like taro.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesOh, for goodness sake. I’ve known of taro forever, but never known what the plant actually looks like. Thanks!
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5 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltYup!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colocasia_esculenta
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5 months ago
Here’s another field of the same crop. We’ve just started seeing it cultivated in the last few miles, but now it’s a common sighting. It looks like the same huge elephant eared plant we see growing wild.
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It makes my hands hurt imagining trussing up these cabbages by hand.
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Ron GrumbyIf only you had a small steel implement, like a bottle opener, trussing the cabbages would be a breeze.
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5 months ago
Scott AndersonOh, what a shame I didn’t think of that! Thanks for the reminder though - there are still a few days left to flash it around in Asia.
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5 months ago
Bruce LellmanThis is cauliflower. They truss it up so that the sun doesn't hit the floweretes so that they are whiter.
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5 months ago
Chickens on the loose, in the suburbs of Taichung
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There’s a beautiful bike path, an apparent rail-trail conversion, that runs north/south through Taichung. We stumbled on it and followed it for a few miles, as long as it kept going generally in our direction.
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Swiftly Chasing the Wind - a suitable sculpture to end the day on.
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I don’t think the route into central Taichung is accurate. Which is fine - you wouldn’t want to follow it anyway.
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Ride stats today: 55 miles, 2,500’; 422 miles, 23,200’

Today's ride: 55 miles (89 km)
Total: 347 miles (558 km)

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Jen GrumbyRide like the wind! If I didn't know better, I'd have sworn by the video evidence that you were on swift e-bikes.

Glad you had the tailwind to offset the slow-going through urban congestion.

Love the video of the market, too.
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5 months ago