Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 19: Taroko To Taipei - Cycling In Taipei

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 19: Taroko To Taipei - Cycling With The Taiwanese Bikers
Taiwan Day 19 : Wednesday, 1st November- Taroko to Taipei
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan, From Taroko (太魯閣國家公園) to and around Taipei (臺北市).
The following is the route from Taroko to Taipei:
Hung Ying Hotel (太魯閣紅瑛民宿)>Xincheng Station (新城車站)>by TRA train>Songshan Station (松山火車站)>Keelung River Path>Tamsui River Bikeway>Dalongdong Baoan Temple (大龍峒保安宮)>Ximending (西門町) (Taipei).
Cycle Distance = 22.28km     |     Train Distance = 172km     |     Total Distance = 194.28km.
Level: Easy
Time : 8:15am to 4:10pm
Time Taken : 6 hrs. 55 mins. (including waiting for train, train ride, visiting temples, stops for, lunch, and many photo opps at parks, etc.).

The following is the night cycling route around Taipei:

Ximending (西門町)>Taipei Cinema Park (臺北市電影主題公園)>Dadaocheng Pier Plaza (大稻埕碼頭廣場)>Machangting Memorial Park (馬場町紀念公園)>Ximending.
Cycle Distance = 14.29km          |          Level: Easy
Time : 6:30pm to 10:55pm
Time Taken : 4 hrs. 25 mins. (including visiting parks, stops for dinner& supper, and many photo opps).

This is page 17 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D17-18 Taroko          |        Go to Other Days         |        Go to D20 Taipei 2 >

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  
- From our hotel near the Arch of Taroko (太魯閣牌樓), we cycled to the Xincheng Taroko Station (新城火車站); the route was gently sloping down and we even tried out some cycling paths near the station. From the station we took a train to Taipei stopping at the Songshan Station (松山火車站) on the outskirts of the city. From there we cycled along the Keelung River Bike Trail and the Tamsui River Bikeway to our hotel.
- In the evening we met up with some local Taiwanese cyclist friends who took us on a short 15km loop around the Tamsui River bikeway.

3. Weather
     At Hualien County (花蓮縣), mid-morning temperature averaged around 25°C  with clear, blue skies with wind speed averaging 16kph with gusts up to 25kph.
    At Taipei (臺北市), afternoon temperature averaged around 25° with clear, blue skies with wind speed averaging 25kph with gusts up to 35kph. Average evening temperature was 22°C with wind speed averaging 22kph with gusts up to 30kph
    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
- Cycling path near the Xincheng Taroko Station (新城火車站) (GPS: 24.12754, 121.64087).
Songshan Ciyou Temple (松山慈祐宮) (GPS: 25.05118, 121.57769).
- The Red Rainbow Bridge (彩虹橋) (GPS: 25.05214, 121.57665spanning across the Keelung River.
Yellow Neihu Maishuai Bridge (內湖麥帥一橋) (GPS: 25.05235, 121.57241spanning across the Keelung River.
Blue Second MacArthur Bridge (麥帥二橋) (GPS: 25.05603, 121.57158) along the MacArthur Thruway and spanning across the Keelung River.
Dalongdong Baoan Temple (大龍峒保安宮) (GPS: 25.0732, 121.51553).
Taipei Confucius Temple (臺北市孔廟) (GPS: 25.07294, 121.5166).
Taipei Cinema Park (臺北市電影主題公園) (GPS: 25.04471, 121.50319).
Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭) (GPS: 25.05696, 121.50784).
Machangting Memorial Park (GPS: 25.0186, 121.5033).

5. Food
- Breakfast: inclusive at our hotel in Taroko.
- Lunch: Beef rice, wantan noodles & iced desserts at the Four God Soup Stall (四神湯) (GPS: 25.05036, 121.57672) near the Raohe Night Market.
- Tea: Ay-chung rice noodles (阿宗麵線) (GPS: 25.04331, 121.50762) at Ximending.
- Dinner: Spaghetti at go義式 Pasta (GPS: 25.04158, 121.50675).
- Supper: Taiwanese dessert soup at First Soup Shop (第一家湯圓專賣店) (GPS: 25.02474, 121.50941) at Wanhua District.

6. Accommodations
Pre-booked and pre-paid accommodations via Air BnB for three nights at Freebird Apartments (GPS: 25.04349, 121.50803) at Emei Street in Ximending. It was a single apartment for six price at  NTD2,000 per night. It came with two queen beds and two floor mattresses, rudimentary utensils, fridge and even a washing machine. The only complain was that the bath and W.C. were combined, so we had to patiently take turns.
- Three nights a double room for two at Mei Lodge (GPS: 25.0421, 121.50536in Ximending.

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 Xincheng Taroko Station (新城火車站) to Songshan Station (松山火車站) was NTD391.
    
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

The couple of days earlier we had had traveled from Hualien to Taroko Gorge, and had a good time cycling around the Taroko Visitor Center (太魯閣遊客中心). This was followed by a bus tour deeper into the gorge the following day.
Today we took a long train trip back to Songshan Station and from there cycled into Ximending for another few nights in Taipei, it's more time to get know the city and it's outskirts better.

THE RIDE - FROM TARAKO TO TAIPEI

RouteHung Ying Hotel (太魯閣紅瑛民宿)>Xincheng Station (新城車站)>by TRA train>Songshan Station (松山火車站)>Keelung River Path>Tamsui River Bikeway>Dalongdong Baoan Temple (大龍峒保安宮)>Ximending (西門町) (Taipei).
Cycle Distance = 22.28km     |     Train Distance = 172km     |     Total Distance = 194.58km.
Level: Easy
The route is one of a train ride from Xincheng (新城鄉) to the Songshan Station and from there cycle to Ximending in (Taipei) via the Keelung & Tamsui River bike paths. It's an interesting cycling route with many parks along the river bike-ways.

Top of the morning! It's another beautiful day of blue sunny skies in Taroko, one that tugged at our heart-strings and tempted us to stay on and go visit the grottoes and the blue river gorges. But we have to wave goodbye to the swallows and head back to Taipei as we would be a meeting up with a local cycling group, an appointment which we were eager not to miss.

As we rode out from Taroko, we found it not as dusty as the day we arrived, no need to face-masked ourselves like the Lone Ranger or Zorro - and before we knew it we were at the Xincheng Taroko Station to get our train tickets to TaipeiWith time to spare, we two old dogs (Sin & me, woof! woof!) took a quick loop to see what the cycling lanes around the station were like.
Hmmmmm..... not bad, there's a view of the mountains of Taroko...

... and also a short stint across green light forests.

But you must me asking, why take the train and not cycle all the way to Taipei? Firstly the distance of almost 200km would probably take us two days (more likely three days) to do it. But the foremost reason, other than time saving, was the route from Taroko to Taipei would pass by some continuous, treacherously steep climbs, those that zap even the strongest riders. So putting valor aside, it's the train then. The 170 km. train ride took us just over three hours.

But as a consolation, Sin decided to stop our train ride at Songshan Station on the outskirts of Taipei and from there ride along the river pathways into the heart of the city.
From the station, we started off our cycling.... uh.... with some pushing! At the underground station we could not find our way out and ended up at a basement motorcycle path with a ramp to the ground level.

1:00pm - Exiting at ground level, a reward - the sight of the Songshan Ciyou Temple. But it's lunch time and our tummies were calling out, so we had to forgo visiting the temple and went food hunting instead.

Nearby, in the vicinity of the Raohe Night Market we found stalls at a backlane, usually backlane food should be cheap and good, and the ones here did indeed look promising. We ended up at the Four God Soup Stall, with such a name their soup must be very good, we ordered a couple of bowls which we had with fried rice. From an opposite stall we ordered a few of those famous Taiwanese dessert/drinks like cold red beans with soy bean curd and cincau (grass jelly) slivers; and another one was a refreshing icy mix of several ingredient which I deign to name in case I get them wrong 😆.

Okay.... time to start serous cycling along the Keelung River Bike Trail. This was through the nearby Raohe Evacuation Gate... hmmm evacuation gates? Sounds dangerous. Taiwan faces strong typhoon yearly which brings torrential rain that flood most of the rivers. As such, within the cities, most rivers are lined with tall flood walls to hold in the rain water should the river overflow. When this starts to happen, sirens will sound and people within will evacuate the river parks before the evacuation gate closes. But this happens only once a year during the typhoon season; so other than that it's safe to enter the wide riversides and enjoy the many beautiful parks within.

Okay, I am going to rant a bit about the few bridges we saw here; my apologies I just love bridges, especially the beautiful ones. Just after we entered into the park was this bridge called the Rainbow Bridge, it's an odd name for a bridge that's red in colour. Perhaps it because it arches like a rainbow, or perhaps just at the entrance gate is a pedestrian bridge that is  painted in rainbow colours.

Nevertheless, just after the gates are beautiful parks lining both side of the Keelung River. At the very start is a park with a large "LOVE" sign and within the letters were many locks which couples have locked their unwavering love for each other. There were even a few bicycle locks, did they signify that the locker shad a love so huge that it needed a bigger lock; or did the owners love their bicycles very much?

Just further down is the Yellow Neihu Maishuai Bridge.

And after that the Blue Second MacArthur Bridge running along the MacArthur Thruway The road opened on May 2, 1964. Originally, it was to be named Beiji 2nd Road (Chinese北基二路; literally: "2nd Taipei-Keelung Road"), and it was later renamed Beiji Xin Road (Chinese北基新路; literally: "New 'Taipei-Keelung' Road"). After General Douglas MacArthur died a month before the road opened, the road was renamed in his honor.

We exited the Keelung River Bike Trail at the Lin An Tai Evacuation Gate (林安泰疏散門) going up some ramps to take a short-cut across the city roads. We could have continued along the river path but it runs around a small river peninsula for another sixteen kilometres and would eventually lead us back to the same spot.

Just into the city roads were a couple of interesting temples. This one is the Dalongdong Baoan Templewhich was built by clan members who migrated from Fujian in the early 19th century. The temple construction commenced in 1804 and it replaced a previously existing wooden shrine from 1742.

Just adjacent to it is the Taipei Confucius Temple. It is modeled after the original Confucius Temple in QufuShandong Province of ChinaAmong the Confucius temples in Taiwan, this is the only one adorned with southern Fujian-style ceramic adornments. It was built in 1879 during the Qing era. During the Japanese era, the temple was demolished, but was rebuilt in 1930.

It's back onto the riverside, this time the Tamsui River Bikeway and entering via the Guoshun Evacuation Gate (國順疏散門). What we liked about the entrance park here were the many murals that were painted on the tall flood walls, these depicted the streets of old Taipei and life there during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

We had a pleasant ride along this bike path as the tall flood walls shaded us from the sun. Ahead we could see the tall buildings of our destination.
On arriving at Ximending, we made a short detour to the Mei Lodge; in view of the inadequate toilet facilities at the Freebird Apartments apartment, Sin had booked this other accommodations while on the train. How nice of him, now I don't have to worry about having to hold my pee and other stuff while waiting for the toilet.

After checking, I went over to try the renown Ay-chung rice noodles, fortunately during mid-afternoon there were no long queues and I was served within minutes. I went for the small bowl at NTD55 (a large bowl is NTD70). There's no seating provided and everyone just stand around to eat.
The rice noodles were well done, soft but not overly sticky soft. But this dish is not everybody's cup of cake; it's cooked with bamboo shoots and lcuts of arge pig's intestines. The bamboo shoot were well washed and there was just a hint of urea odor. The pig's intestine, cooked together with the noodles, can't be omitted; so those who don't like them can just put them to one side. Me? I eat almost anything so these were not a problem for me; in fact I love they chewiness!


THE RIDE - NIGHT RIDE AT TAMSUI RIVER BIKEWAY

Cycling Route: Ximending (西門町)>Taipei Cinema Park (臺北市電影主題公園)>Dadaocheng Pier Plaza (大稻埕碼頭廣場)>Machangting Memorial Park (馬場町紀念公園)>Ximending.
Cycle Distance = 14.29km          |          Level: Easy
This is a quick loop along the Tamsui River Bikeway. Starting from Ximending via the Taipei Cinema Park to start riding along the river at Dadaocheng Wharf down to M? and then looping back along city roads.

After a good rest, we rode out. We have an important appointment - one with local cyclists who will take us round their regular cycling haunts. We headed out using the side lanes and back alleys; although a bit dark, these were very clean and no odious stank came to greet us. In fact, some shops had their entrances at the back lanes.

But first a short detour to go義式 Pasta for dinner. For a change we had pasta, I had this clamp spaghetti which tasted very good and the clamps very fresh. The spaghetti though bitey were more like Chinese yellow noodles.

With time to spare, we spent some time at the Taipei Cinema Park. Many street art murals lined the walls and roller-shutters of the side and back lanes here.

There were even very large one taking up the side wall of three-storeys buildings.

8:30pm - We were at the Dadaocheng Wharf, waiting for Pei-Hsuan and her friends to arrive. The wharf here is one of their pit stops. At night the place here was even more beautiful with the river calmly reflecting the night lights.

Most of them were using Birdy bikes; proudly lining their babies up for a bike group photo.

Among the group was this veteran coming with a veteran bike too - one of the earliest Dahon folding bike, the Dahon Folding Bike 20 Unisex Adult.

Zoooommmm.... off we went, the locals rode fast and furious and we were panting hard trying to catch up with them. Fortunately Pei-Hsuan was with us at the rear to make sure we did not get lost.

A night the parks are much quieter and we ride pass several beautiful spots warmly lit at night, like this stretch with overhanging branches forming an arched boulevard.

The ride along the river path ended at the Machangding Memorial Park pit stop and from there we headed out to their favourite supper stop - the First Soup Shop which sells hot Taiwanese soup desserts.

The have quite a fair bit of variety here: red beans soup with mochi, ground nut soup with soy curd or mochi, beaten egg soup, barley and ground nut soup, etc. These tasted very good.... and.... and we went four a second round. I especially liked the ground nuts soup with mochi.

While the rest of the locals headed their own way back, Pei-Hsuan ride-guided us back to our hotel before taking the subway back home.
It was only later that the thought occurred to me:

YES! WE HAVE DONE IT!
WE HAVE CYCLED AROUND TAIWAN!
谢谢
(That's Sei-sei, that "Thank You" in Chinese)

(For more photos of the Day 19, Click Here)
This is page 17 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D17-18 Taroko          |        Go to Other Days         |        Go to D20 Taipei 2 >

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