Monday, February 19, 2018

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 14: Taitung To Yuli - Of Paddies & Railway Bento

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 14: Taitung To Yuli - Of Paddies & Railway Bento
Taiwan Day 14: Friday, 27th October - Taitung to Yuli
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan, From Taitung (臺東市) to Yuli (玉里鎮):
Taitung (臺東市)>by TRA train>Luye (鹿野鄉)>Guanshan (關山鎮)>Chishang (池上鄉)>by TRA train>Yuli (玉里鎮).
Cycling Distance: 41.12 km.
Train Ride Distance: 40.30 km.
Total Distance: 81.43 km.
Level: Easy (Medium if doing the whole route by cycling).
Time : 8:00am to 6:15pm
Time Taken : 10 hrs. 15 mins. (including two train rides, waiting for trains, stops for lunch, coffee & tea breaks, & frequent stops to enjoy the scenic padi fields view, and many photo opps).

This is page 13 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D13 Taitung             |           Go to Other Days        |         Go to D15 Hualien >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
     The Taiwan (台湾) is left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route is fairly flat with nice scenery at the Guanshan (關山鎮) & Chishang (池上鄉) padifields. Click here to download a PDF guide on Cycling Around Taiwan.

3. Weather
    At Chishang (池上鄉), the daytime weather was fairly warm, averaging at 24°C with clear skies. At Yuli (玉里鎮) evening temperatures averaged at 21°C at night. Wind speed was averaged 10kph with gusts up to 18kph, at the Huadong Valley.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites for the Taiwan are the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau and AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Places of Interest
- The padi fields scenery along the southern Huadong Valley (花東縱谷, East Rift Valley) at:
   - Guanshan (關山鎮) (GPS: 23.0477, 121.15749) &
   - Chishang (池上鄉) (GPS: 23.10463, 121.20042).
Takeshi Kaneshiro Tree (金城武樹) (GPS: 23.09738, 121.20444).
- Large picture frame (伯朗大道画框) (GPS: 23.09988, 121.21839) at Mr. Brown Avenue (伯朗大道, Bolang Dadao).
- The timber-glass structure of the Chishang Train Station (GPS: 23.12611, 121.21947) and the nice artwork on display there.
- Yuli night market (玉里夜市) (GPS: 23.32793, 121.32007).

5. Food
- Breakfast: inclusive western breakfast at hotel.
- Lunch: Roast chicken & roast pork rice at Hong Kong Liang Kee Roast Shop (香港良記燒臘店) (GPS: 23.04574, 121.16332in Guanshan (關山鎮).
- Coffee Break: Life21 House (享空間) (GPS: 23.09213, 121.21187).
- Tea: Taiwanese Railway bento box meal (臺鐵便當, biandang) set at Chishang Jiaxiang Fangbaodian shop (家鄉池上飯包) (GPS: 23.12575, 121.21996). Price per box is NTD80.
- Dinner: Yuli Noodles at 玉里麵馬蓋先美食 shop (GPS: 23.33141, 121.31453).

6. Accommodations
One night in Yuli (玉里鎮) at Vanilla Inn (瓦拉米客棧) (GPS: 23.33163, 121.3125); three 2-pax rooms at NTD1,000 per room per night.
Address: 214, Datong Road, Yuli Township, Hualien County, Taiwan 981.
Tel: +886 3 888 6681

7. Travelling By Trains And Bringing Bikes Onto Trains In Taiwan
    Folding bicycle are allowed onto most trains (express, local and metro trains) but must be bagged before entering the platform, and only unbagged after leaving the platform. Unbagged folding bikes (and full-sized bikes) will usually face a charge equivalent to 50% of the fare. Do note that at smaller stations there are not lifts or escalators for getting to the platforms, so do expect some carrying across bridges or underpasses. A few stations do provide bike-way for pushing across the tracks, do look for signages indicating these; but use of them is subject to the station master's discretion on safety.
    For more details on charges on bringing bikes onto the different trains (local or express trains) click here for the Taiwan Railway Administration Guide On Carriage of Bicycles.
   Click here for a link to the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) website for booking train routes and fares; and also to see which railway line totally does not allow bicycles on board.
    Click here for guidelines on bring folidng bikes onto the Taipei Metro.
    Train services are quite regular between larger towns, but at smaller towns services may not be that regular (perhaps like every two or three hours). Do check at the respective stations for the train schedules or at this TRA booking site link.
    The train fare from Taitung (臺東市) to Luye (鹿野鄉) was NTD25, and from Chishang (池上鄉) to Yuli (玉里鎮) was NTD38.

8. Communicating with Each Other
   When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost from the rest.
    At Taipei Taoyuan Airport Terminal One, just after exiting the into the arrival hall, there are several booths on the left selling pre-paid phone SIM cards. We got pre-paid 4G prepaid SIM cards from Chung Hwa as they had good coverage even in remote areas. These cost NTD1,000 for a 30-day plan that includes unlimited data and NTD$430 credit for texts or calls. These can also be booked on line.
    Those without sim card could try using free Wifi that are sometimes available at the airport, some bigger train stations or hotels; do note that these free wifi may not be stable and registration could be required.

9. Communicating with Locals
    Most Taiwanese (台湾人) speaks Mandarin (官话) and Hokkien (福建話), and very few speak English. So it would be good to have a person in the team who can converse in Mandarin or Hokkien.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedules.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.
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PRELUDE

Yesterday, we had taken on the east coast of Taiwan and found it a beautiful route to cycle on despite the undulating terrain with several steep slopes. But the ongoing maintenance and upgrading roadworks made our ride not a smooth one with intermittent stops where the construction works had turned the road into a one-way. Because of this, today we took a bold decision make major changes in our plans to swing away from the coastal route and instead ride in the interior, along the quieter Huadong Valley (花東縱谷, East Rift Valley). Did it turn out to be a good decision.... Hmmmmmm... let's see.

THE RIDE

RouteTaitung (臺東市)>by TRA train>Luye (鹿野鄉)>Guanshan (關山鎮)>Chishang (池上鄉)>by TRA train>Yuli (玉里鎮).
Cycling Distance: 38.03 km     Total Distance: 78.33km (inclg. two train journeys)
Level: Easy (Medium if doing the whole route by cycling).
The route heads into the interior scenic Huadong Valley (花東縱谷, East Rift Valley) and includes a couple of train rides (from Taitung to Luye & from Chishang to Yuli), but it is doable fully on bicycles.

Our original plans were to continue on the coastal route and head for Chenggong (成功鎮). But after facing the roadworks on the coastal roads, we decided to head inland to cycle along the southern Huadong Valley and kicked off the day with a 40-minutes train ride from Taitung to Luye. Also a friend Brenda had cycled here a few weeks earlier and had recommended taking the inner valley which had a beauty of it's own.
Luye lies in the long and narrow Huadong Valley (also known as East Rift Valley) located between Central Mountain Range and Hai'an Range. It is as an agricultural plains area which is about 180 kilometers long, located near the eastern coast of Taiwan, and stretches from Hualien in the north to Taitung at the south. The charming township of Luye was first settled by Amis and Puyuma aborigines who hunted the abundant herds of deer nearby. Today the township is a prosperous tea-growing region, a popular retirement destination and a center for paragliding and the popular Taiwan's annual international hot-air balloon festival (台灣國際熱空氣氣球節).

From Luye we started cycling, heading north without any clear destination in mind. Without the great coastal views (and slopes!), the scenery out of the town was nothing special, rather mundane in fact. The only thing that caught my eye were some street art and this lady cycling on the opposite side with her infant. A thought cropped to my mind on whether she touring with her baby, that would be wonderful memories for the child. But perhaps she was just commuting between towns.

It was only after the Wuling Bridge, that the spectacular views of bright green padi fields came into view. They spread out as far as our eyes could see, right up to the foothills of the Central Mountain Range and Hai'an Range. We just had to stop for a photo, carrying our bikes onto a small patch of bare land next to an irrigation ditch.

The nice scenes started our hearts soaring, but our tummies were grumbling - "Hey! It's time to EAT!" At the Hong Kong Liang Kee Roast Shop (香港良記燒臘店), nearby to the Guanshan railway station, we did make our tummies happy, for here was a shop that served yummilicious roast duck, roast pork and soy sauce chicken.

After lunch, we headed further inland trying to look for the Guanshan Cycling Path, but the road led us to a dead end with some steep stairs heading up to a viewing platform. The bike path is up there, but no way are we going to carry our bikes AND luggage up that sixty foot climb on the left.

We back tracked and somewhere there I took this warped photos of my buddies with the padi fields. It's warped because it's a reflection from a convex road mirror. Short of a selfie stick or a long arm, these convex mirrors are good for selfies.

The padi fields here are beautiful and reminded us of the Sekinchan Padi Fields back home; but over here even though on a bright sunny day it was not as hot or humid as the tropics.

Although we did intercept the bike path as it came rolling down slope further ahead, we cycled mainly along the rural roads here. It's newly paved and the best thing was that there were hardly any traffic around. Along side most of the roads were small irrigation canals with "bamboo" safety railing on "timber" logs prevent any accidental cycling into these canals.

Nearer the foothills, along the gentle slopes, the fields terraced upwards - more memories for this old man, this time of the terraced paddies of Tegalalalng in Bali, Indonesia.

Nice as Guanshan was, it was time to leave and we followed the bike path that led us out of the paddies and onto a shady path running gently down slope next to some streams. It's so cool, and shady here and soon we were laughing away happily coasting downhill. But our revelry came to an end a hundred meters from the main road; road repair works blocked our way. We had to back-track, cycling up slope, this time with a little less laughter 😥.

To get from Guanshan to Chishang  would require us riding about six kilometers along Taiwan's Highway Route 9. Though traffic can be heavy, there are emergency lanes cum cycling lanes to safely cycle on. A Taiwan Railway Admistration train whooshed by us we rode along.
Just before reaching the town we crossed the Chishang Bridge which spans over the Beinan River; it was dry season and the river was at a low level exposing many rocks that had been washed down from upstream.

Just as we turned off from the highway, this wonderful sight froze us! Golden green paddies stretched out with dark green trees spotting the golden hue. A rustic timber water wheel right at the middle was there just to complete this picturesque scene.
As John McClane of Die Hard would have shouted: "Yipeee Kai Yeah!" Let's hit the road!

The beautiful scenery encouraged us to stop often, to take photos of the wide open spaces as the wind billowed through the stalks of rice, singing to us a haunting melody.

Narrow irrigation canals criss-cross the area, their walls going above the road, and the water in them strangely higher than the road level.

This place is a haven for tourists, here and there were small huts sitting above the canals. Resting inside one can hear the the babbling of water us they churned below.

And dark green trees stand independently away from each other, making the scene as if surrealistically jumping out of a Dali painting.

A few of the trees are renown, this one here called the Takeshi Kaneshiro Tree became famous when in the summer of 2013 Taiwanese-Japanese superstar Takeshi Kaneshiro sipped tea in its shade in an EVA Airways TV commercial. The commercial calling this place a paradise, made the tree and the surrounding fields one of the most popular tourist destinations of the county. Further down the road is the Jolin Tsai Tree.


YouTube video of Takeshi Kaneshiro cycling at Chishang padi fields in EVA Airways TV commercial.

Taking in the casual mood of the place, we stopped for drinks at the cafe in the Life21 House hotel. It's a small hotel but had a nicely decorated cafe which serves a good range of drinks.

Our next stop was a small shop that sells the famous Mr. Brown coffee. Here's Goofy with Mr. Brown, who looks like a younger version of Colonel Sanders of the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain. I wonder: is he toasting the good coffee or giving the thumbs up for my copper plated bike?

Next to the shop's compound, along a slope facing the famed padi fields were a row of cellos. They are mocked-up cellos with speakers withing them and playing our classical music from Straus, Beethoven, etc. With the soothing music, perhaps the rice harvested from these fields must be much better.

One last stop - the famed large photo frame, this is a must visit place as it cutely frame visitors for a memorable photo. Unfamiliar with where it was we had to ask around; we found it along  Mr. Brown Avenue at GPS: 23.09988, 121.21839).

Or plans were fluid and we had thought of staying a night in Chishang, but locals advised that at night the place is rather serene, good for honeymooning couples but was without much choices of food and did not have many hotels. Their advise was to stay in Yuli, a much larger town about thirty kilometers away.
So it was to the nearby Chihshang Train Station to catch a train... AND who did we meet their but fellow Malaysian bike tourer Mr. Wong whom we had met on our second day in Taiwan at Taipei. He had done pretty well with his touring bike, cycling almost all the way.

The next train to Yuli was an in hour and half time giving us some time to go check out Chishang. Located just a couple of blocks from the station is the Chishang Jiaxiang Fangbaodian shop (家鄉飯包) which sells the bian-dang - railway lunch box meal (臺鐵便當), the one with a easily recognisable retro-looking red steam locomotive. Rail travelers with not much time to spare would get these bian-dang to eat while on board.
The ones we got came in a retro-looking box made from thin pine veneer. Inside was half a soy-coated hard-boiled egg, roast chicken, pork chop with white steamed rice soaked in some soy gravy. The set came with pickles and chili condiments. We were not that hungry yet and got three boxes to share among the six of us, each box cost a reasonable NTD80.
Overall, it was a simple yet tasty meal, and since we were in Chihshang, ours came with a bonus of the fragrant, white pearl Chihshang rice.

Chishang may be a small place but it has one of the most beautiful train station in Taiwan. With a structure consisting of large timber members framing clear glass, it creates a blend of the old and the new making it an attractive building. Above is the external view of the entrance arch with Ann waving, "Goodbye Chihshang!"

Inside it had a spartan yet pleasing look with timber arches holding up the roof and glass clad walls.

On some of the walls were award winning paintings done by the local school children.
It's great to see how the authorities have encouraged the artistic talents of the youngsters by publicly displaying their artwork.

6:00pm - After a half hour train ride we arrived at Yuli and started to look for accommodations, quickly checked in and straight away cycled out to look for food, going to the Yuli night market about one and a half kilometers away. It was quite a lively market with some food stall but we did not eat there and just bought some tempting looking deep-fried huge chicken drumsticks as take-away.

We did find a suitable shop to eat in, the 玉里麵馬蓋先美食 shop. It was not a fanciful place, what drew us was a small sign that said "Yuli Noodles". We ordered a combo of different bowls of both soup and dried noodles (together with some other dishes), these were somewhat similar to ramen but the noodles themselves were thinner and chewy.

This is our hotel, the Vanilla Inn (瓦拉米客棧). The entrance is that bright reception slightly on the right at the ground floor. It doesn't look like much but was conveniently just opposite the railway station. The rooms were at the upper floors, there were no lifts but thankfully they allowed us to put our bicycles at a store room on the ground floor... Phew!

"à-man"
(that's 暗安, "Goodnight" in the local Minnan dialect)

(For more photos of the Day 14, Click Here)
This is page 13 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D13 Taitung             |           Go to Other Days        |         Go to D15 Hualien >

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