Xindian - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

December 21, 2018

Xindian

For the third straight morning, we awoke in Taipei to a warm, sunny day.  Conditions are changing a bit - there’s more of a breeze in the air, that will gather strength throughout the day and develop into a significant north wind by late afternoon; and there are a few clouds to the north hanging over Yangmingshan that will also steadily build to a strong cloud bank that blankets the mountain in the afternoon.  The temperature is moving in the opposite direction though, and the weather feels almost uncomfortably hot, with a high of about 80 at midday.

We’ve certainly found what we came here for so far.  It’s quite an abrupt transition from our last chilly week in Girona.  It will change of course, and rain is in the forecast soon; but for now we’re grateful to have found such a warm welcome to Taiwan.

Today’s ride is another easy cruise along Taipei’s riverfront parks.  We’re moving on and will be carrying a load on our bikes for the first time in two weeks - but we’re not moving very far.  At day’s end we’ll be in another business class hotel in Xindian, one of Taipei’s southern suburbs, only about five miles as the crow flies from where we began today.  We’re taking the long way around in getting to Xindian though, by first biking south and upriver along the Tamsui and Dahan to Sanxia, and then reversing and biking north back to the confluence with the Xindian River.

We’re staying in Xindian as a result of a late change in plans.  We had originally booked ourselves for two nights in a hotel in Wulai, a hot spring resort up in the foothills ten miles south of Xindian.  We changed our minds though when they notified us that we couldn’t check in until 6 (almost an hour after sundown) and would have to check out again the next morning, put our gear in storage, and then check in again at 6 the following night.  Just too crazy and disruptive, so we canceled them and booked ourselves into the Platinum, a new 5 star joint that was reasonably priced and the best we could find on short notice.  We’ll just plan on seeing Wulai tomorrow on a day ride.

So, that’s way more than enough background fluff.  Let’s ride.  We begin by checking out of the hotel, leaving them with our suitcases for the next month plus, and biking back down to the river.  Soon we’re crossing the Tamsui on one of of Taipei’s myriad bridges.  Like so many of them now, this one makes crossing by bike very simple - there is a good bike ramp to carry you from the riverside bike path up to bridge level, and a good separated lane on the bridge for bikes and pedestrians.  I still can’t quite believe that Taiwan has invested so much in such effective bike infrastructure.

Keeping a close eye on her technique.
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Both sides of the Taipei Bridge are lined with the national flag today, as were several other bridges we passed. Is this in preparation for Republic Day, the national holiday that falls on New Year’s Day? It will be interesting seeing how the country celebrates this in the coming days.
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Across the bridge, we head south along the river, still riding the riverside bikeways - you’ll recall that they line both banks of all the rivers.  It’s easy riding, and we make fairly good time as we bike steadily along, pushed by the as yet mild north wind. We have an easy, not too long ride ahead, but we try to make good time because we have two end of day goals we want to leave time for.  First, we want to stop in at a bike store one more time, because both of our bikes still have issues from packing for the flight.  And, we want to get to our hotel in time to bike three miles to Bitan to have dinner at The Shack, a pizza joint recommended to us by our new dining consultant Bob.  Our plan is to bike there while it’s light, and then bike back after dark along the riverside bike path.  We’ll have lights, and it sounds perfectly safe - a small adventure, and a chance to see the waterfront after dark.

So, working backwards, we think we should be to Sanxia and have lunch by noon, and be at the bike store by about two.  

Here is another sign of festivities coming - a large lawn mural (we see only about a fourth of it here) composed of spray painted plastic bottles and car tires is under development in one of the waterfront parks.
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Many of the bridges crossing Taipei’s rivers have access ramps for bicycles and pedestrians. I think there are more now than when we visited four years ago.
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Biking south toward Sanxia along the Dahan River, the central mountains come into view through the haze.
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Plane trees, Taiwan style.
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We were excited to see these sacred ibises, part of a flock of a dozen or so in this shallow wetland. Sadly though, I see that they’re not wanted here. They’re an invasive species that became established after a zoo escape, and are starting to crowd out other native species.
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I really like Taiwan’s bridges - so many of them are stylish and imaginative.
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We do pretty well, and find ourselves crossing the Dahan and dropping into Sanxia not long past noon.  It doesn’t take us long to find a place to eat, because Sanxia is a college town and we arrive by the university.  It’s a newer area with a lot of modern development and attractive storefronts.  We immediately come to a 7-11, which would be good enough but we decide to cruise the strip quickly for something a bit better.  We find it in the City Cafe, a nice looking place with outdoor seating.  We park our bikes and head inside to see what the City Cafe has to offer, and are surprised to see that it too is just a 7-11.  Which is fine - at least there’s the attractive seating, and we can sit in the shade enjoying our typical 7-11 fare (Rachael: a tuna and corn sandwich; Scott: a liter of milk, a bag of mixed nuts, and some dried papaya) and watch the college crowd mill around the plaza.

Afterwards, we bike a few blocks further and come to Sanxia Old Street, the reason we biked out this way in the first place.  The ‘Old Streets’ are the traditional, minimally renovated old commercial neighborhoods you find in various towns around the island.  They’re very dynamic and colorful - narrow streets, old rickety storefronts crammed with booths selling pretty much everything you can imagine to be edible, and the street completely packed by slow-moving multimodal traffic trying to shop, gawk or just move on safely through the crowd.  They’re fascinating places.  If you’re familiar with Seattle, think of the Public Market embellished with bicycles, motor scooters and cars mixed in with the pedestrians.

The Dahan River is little more than a trickle when we cross it over the Sanyinger Bridge at Sanxia.
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The mix of cars, pedestrians, bicycles and scooters in Sanxia’s Old Street looks a bit chaotic, but everyone carefully works their way forward.
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Would you buy produce from this woman, who has been loudly hawking her wares? I’m not sure - she looks just a bit hostile to me, maybe even toxic.
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Jen GrumbyThe peppers look pretty nice, but I think her demeanor would scare me off.
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3 months ago
Now this is more like it. If I were in the market for a dead fish, I’d consider shopping here.
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Jen GrumbyYes, even a little smile makes a big difference.
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyYup. Now you, you’d be great at this. I’d definitely buy peppers or a dead fish from you. You guys should come over. You could work in a produce stand, and Ron could be a cowboy singer on the street corner.
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3 months ago
I have no idea if these are good eating or not, but they look great.
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I don’t recognize this - not so unusual, since I don’t recognize many things on sale in this market. Ginger root, maybe?
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Andrea BrownLooks like taro root.
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3 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Andrea BrownAgreed
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3 months ago

All of this sets us behind schedule a bit, and we don’t leave Sanxia until just past one.  We have a few miles of town and highway to navigate before we make it back to the riverfront again, but it’s easy navigation because the route is well marked if you’re paying careful attention: we’re on Cycle Route 1, the grand loop that circles the whole island.

The bike store is still about 13 miles away, in New Taipei City.  It’s easy riding once we make it back to the waterfront but we’re slowed down a bit by the north wind, which by now has amplified considerably.  We do well to make it to the bike store about 2:30, and are lucky to find it quickly.  We’re helped immeasurably by another great, very new looking crossover bridge that lifts us over the highway and drops us into the quiet alleys on the other side.

Cycling Route No. 1 is Taiwan’s big cycling calling card. It draws many visiting bikers to complete a loop of the island, usually in 9-12 days.
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And this? I don’t recognize it either. Grows as a small tree.
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Andrea BrownPerhaps a Bauhinia.
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3 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltAgreed... Had to look that one up.
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3 months ago
Looking north across Taipei to Yangmingshan, wrapped in clouds this afternoon. We were lucky in the conditions we saw up there yesterday.
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The pedestrian/bike overpass linking the Xindian waterfront and New Taipei City. I’m impressed both that the government builds these things, and that they implement such stylish architectures. This one is a delight just to look at.
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We’ve come to the perfect bike shop.  The mechanic speaks enough English that we can communicate about our various issues, and he immediately sets to work.  He’s obviously very competent and knowledgeable, works fast and well.  He replaces one of Rachael’s cables, adjusts my gears and both of our brakes, sends us out on a test ride and then makes improvements until they’re both perfect.  We’re out in not much over a half hour after we arrived.

We finally found our guy. The mechanic at the Specialized shop in New Taipei City really knows his stuff and inspires confidence.
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It’s about 3:30 by the time we make it back to the river.  We still have another seven miles to the hotel, so we agree that The Shack is off of today’s list.  We eat dinner at the hotel instead, and will check out The Shack tomorrow.

The riverside ramp of a large overpass that links the river with New Taipei City. I’m so impressed by the investment here in infrastructure like this. It really makes Taipei feel like a much more livable city.
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I initially took this photo to show the top of this elegant overpass, but then cropped it down when I found this woman more interesting. She has a tray of small objects of some kind that she’s placing before her one at a time and then carefully taking a photograph of.
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Image not found :(
Don’t wander down this bike path if you know what’s good for you.
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Jen GrumbyNo way that snaggle-toothed lizard could catch the 2 of you!

Go back, stick your tounges out at him, and say "Neener, Neener!"

And then Rachael can mount the camera ponting backwards to document your triumph over the beast.
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3 months ago
Taipei 101 again, from a different angle. We get a better look at it this time, without the sun behind it.
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This large flock of pigeons continually circled above this pair of rapt spectators, completing perhaps a half dozen large orbits before settling down.
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A few blocks from our hotel we came upon a large group of cyclists, obviously part of an organized ride. We were surprised to follow them all the way to our hotel. It’s a group of Shanghai high school students (I think from a Taiwan-run school) on a circuit of the island. More just kept rolling in as we watched, perhaps fifty in total.
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We ate at our hotel tonight. They had a few western dishes, served with an oriental flair with sides of onion soup, pickles, and exotic fruits.
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The meal was just a bit light so we opted for dessert. This only looks like a shar pei, but he’s really a chocolate moose; er, mousse. I had to turn him away before nibbling his legs off so his sad eyes weren’t making me feel guilty.
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Ride stats today: 42 miles, 1,700’; for the tour: 129 miles, 10,200’

Today's ride: 42 miles (68 km)
Total: 108 miles (174 km)

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