To Hsinchu: Xmas on the train - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

December 25, 2018

To Hsinchu: Xmas on the train

We’ve spent the last two nights in Hang Khau Hotel and Book Cafe.  It’s a small place - not many rooms, three floors - but modern feeling, clean and friendly.  The desk staff both speak English fairly fluently, and are very helpful.  The place has an appealing atmosphere, and almost feels like a hostel rather than a hotel.

We have only one quarrel with it, but it’s a significant one.  It’s very damp in the rooms.  The windows perspire heavily, and everything feels a bit clammy.  When we arrived, we hung up everything that had gotten wet from the ride; when we pack to leave, it’s possibly even damper than when we arrived.

My glasses are missing!  After just bragging about not losing them yet on this tour, now I’ve done it.  I go back and forth between the lobby and our room three times before finally giving up.  I’m hopeless.

We hang around the room until checkout time, and then go down to the lobby where I stay warm and dry over a cup of tea while Rachael takes our wet clothes over to a coin op laundromat two blocks away to dry everything out.

Hang Khau is a very friendly small hotel/cafe/bookshop. It’s especially nice that it’s reindeer-friendly.
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About noon we step out for lunch, walking over to the Soufflé House - the spot our restaurant consultant Bob recommended to us.  On the way, we stop by Le Temps, last night’s restaurant, hoping my glasses are there.  As soon as I walk in the door, one of the greeters looks up, flashes a big smile, and beckons me over.  They had run out after us with them last night, but too late to find us.

After lunch we walk down to the river and through riverfront park, eventually making about a four mile loop before returning to the hotel.  It’s actually quite nice out today - it hasn’t rained yet after all, and there are even a few thin blue patches breaking through the clouds.  It would have been a fine day for a ride, really; but I wouldn’t have had much energy for it.  This short walk is enough.  I’m glad to get out and get some fresh air and see a bit of the town, but I’m glad to return to the hotel too.  

Taiwanese city streets seem to come in two main flavors. Larger commercial arterial, like this one, often have sidewalks to separate you from the traffic, often with overhangs to protect you from the rain as well. Walking is a bit awkward, because you share it with scooters and commercial displays and have to watch your step so you don’t trip on abrupt mid-block curbs and rises.
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Smaller streets are more like this one: no sidewalks; open storefronts with shoppers standing in the street looking at the goods; one or two narrow lanes that everyone shares, regardless of mode. It all works, if you pay attention.
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A bike tour group, probably better prepared for the weather than we are.
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I’m not sure of what we’re seeing here. We’ve been walking down a lane that looks a bit like an art gallery, with the wall lined with low relief sculptures paintings and artwork that suggest the local history.
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This is about a third of the large painted map you can see in the photo above.
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Yilan River, and the riverfront park
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I believe the pedestrian walkway on the Qinghe Bridge across the Yilan is a recent addition. I don’t quite get the rickety architecture here, but it does have a unique look.
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The Yilan River, from the Qinghe Bridge
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An iris, presumably. I don’t remember seeing one with quite this coloration.
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Andrea BrownThis is a canna lily.
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownOh, for goodness sake. It looks more like an iris than a lily to me - I almost didn’t bother taking a photo but it was such an interesting color. Thanks!
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3 weeks ago
Andrea BrownThat’s because it isn’t a true lily, cannas are another genus altogether, but for some reason people call them “canna lilies”. Their leaves are striking and they are very colorful but their asymmetrically formed blossoms always seem too random to me, they grow best in somebody else’s yard.
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3 weeks ago
Music lesson, Riverside Park. I think this is a suona? Sounds a bit like a nasal duck squawk, and noticibly harsher when played by the apprentice.
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In Yilan Riverfront Park
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks like bleeding heart vine.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerodendrum_thomsoniae
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3 weeks ago
I’d like to know what these folks are gleaning from these grassy meadows. It’s quite a common activity that we’ve seen in several places over here. Mushrooms? Snails?
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Quite common here. Popular with bees, apparently.
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Bill ShaneyfeltLooks like orchid tree.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phanera_purpurea
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3 weeks ago
Another pair of harvesters
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In Yilan riverfront park
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In Yilan riverfront park
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It looks menacing, but it never ended up raining today. It was enough to make me wonder if we’ve done the right thing by scurrying back to the west coast.
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One benefit of changing our plan is that I can report on how it is taking an assembled bike on a train in Taiwan.  Folders are easier, as long as you have proper bags for them.  Assembled though, you have to find the right train that supports them, as I indicated earlier.  When you’re ready to board, you need to arrive suitably early so you can take your bike to the baggage station, purchase a ticket for them (same cost as a passenger ticket), fill out a claim form with your name and phone number, and hand over the bike.  They take it from there, and you keep the claim form to show at the other end to retrieve your bike again.

Managing the train itself is also easy.  Departure boards are bilingual.  We had assumed they’d seats, so we needed to watch for the right car to board when the train arrived.  And we needed to board quickly because the train isn’t in station for long and waits for no dalliers.

It still hasn’t started raining when we leave town, and it’s still light for about a half hour so we can look out as we race past flooded rice fields and see a rugged coastline ahead.  I feel a bit wistful about missing this part of the ride, and I’m sure will always second guess our decision to go west here instead.  What’s done is done though, and there’s no use looking back.  And my cold is still with me - after our modest four mile walk I’m pretty worn out, and I sleep half the way to Hsinchu.  We’ve probably done the smart thing here.

I’m sure there must be a good story behind the giraffe at the Yilan Station.
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Interesting sign at the Yilan station
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Apparently you can take your scooter on the train as long as it’s properly wrapped.
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These are the fields I was trying to describe on our ride into town. Rice?
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We arrive in Hsinchu precisely on time, at 8:55.  It’s been very easy to track our progress and know when our stop is approaching by the announcements: they’re bilingual Taiwanese/English, announce the coming stop, and when you depart each station announce the one coming up.

Off the train, we walk to the Baggage Station and arrive just as a man is pushing the first of our bikes up the stairs and preparing to lock it into a storage cage.  I holler to him, show him our luggage receipt, and take the bike while he crosses back under the tracks again to get the other.  Very simple.

We didn’t do this intentionally, so we’re just lucky that our hotel is a mere three blocks from the station and an easy walk.   The streets are lit enough that we could probably bike, but we don’t bother and just walk instead.  It’s a warm night, and the air feels dry. Nice.

Our room in the SOL Hotel, Hsinchu. Should be adequate.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesAny room that has a blogging desk (especially if it does not face a distracting mirror) is great!
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3 weeks ago
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Sue PriceHope you feel better and can enjoy the cycling soon! Nothing worse than trying to ride when you feel crummy!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Sue PriceThanks, Sue. I’ve been loooking at those blue skies of yours with considerable envy!
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3 weeks ago
Jen GrumbyGlad you were able to revise your plans and find lodging.

Hope you can get the rest you need to recover from your cold!!
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3 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThanks, Jen. Slowing down for a few days and moving back to the ‘dry’ (that is, less wet) side of the island was the right plan. Not quite normal yet, but doing much better.
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3 weeks ago