Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 3: Taipei To Hsinchu - Sanxia Old Street

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 3: Taipei To Hsinchu - Sanxia Old Street
Taiwan Day 3: Monday, 16th October - Taipei to Hsinchu
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan:

Cycling Distance - 44.16km.     Level: Medium
Cycling Time : 7:30 am to 4:30pm.
Time Taken :  9hrs (inclusive of stops for breakfast & lunch, stops at a few of the parks, a long stop at Sanxia Old Street and many, many photo opps).

This is page 2 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D1&2 Taipei                 |      Go to Other Days   |              Go to D4 Taichung >

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 took us from Ximending, entering the Tamsiu Cycling Path at Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭) to the Sanxia Old Street. After that we boarded a TRA train at Yingge Railway Station to head for Hsinchu Railway Station; fare was NTD84 per pax.
   It was a relatively flat route, with part way Dahan River Bike Path, then on the Tamsiu River & Xindian River cycling paths. These cycling paths are a pleasure to cycle on as passes through numerous parks. Most of the paths were on Taiwan National Cycling Route #1.  Click here to download a PDF guide on Cycling Around Taiwan.
    Cycling in Taipei during peak period is difficult; traffic is heavy and there are many traffic lights. In the cities and towns, note that at traffic lights intersections there are marked up boxes up front for motor-cyclists and cyclists to wait for the light to turn green (usually there is a count-down). It's a good system and cyclists then don't have to be squeezed dangerously in between cars/trucks at the lights

3. Weather
    The weather was hotter than usual, averaging at 32°C during the day (with not much cloud cover) and 25°C at night. Wind speed was fairly strong, averaging 25km/hr.
    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 bike paths along the Tamsui (淡水河) and Xindan (新店溪) rivers.
Dadaocheng Park (GPS: 25.05861, 121.51034).
Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭) (GPS: 25.05696, 121.50784).
Machangting Memorial Park (GPS: 25.0186, 121.5033).
Huazhong Bridge (恐龍園区) (GPS: 25.01015, 121.49532), this marks the boundary between Taipei & New Taipei.
Jiangzicuijingguan Riverside Dinosaur Park (華江橫移門) (GPS: 25.03651, 121.46987).
- Fuzhouzujie Biking Station (GPS: 24.99503, 121.43992).
- White Arch Bridge at Longpu Rd, Sanxia (三角涌大桥) (GPS: 24.93752, 121.38851).
Sanxia Old Street (GPS: 24.93376, 121.36981).
Yingge Ceramics Museum (新北市立鶯歌陶瓷博物館) (GPS: 24.94925, 121.35203).
Hsinchu Du Chenghuang City God Temple (新竹都城隍廟) (GPS: 24.80424, 120.96614).
Hsinchu Ying Hsi Men (東門圓環) (GPS: 24.80416, 120.97024), the city's old east gate fortress.

5. Food
- Breakfast: Glutinous rice cake at 良心 合記豆漿 (GPS: 25.05375, 121.50769), Taipei; opposite the Yuquan Evacuation Gate.
- Lunch: Pork trotter rice at 老街豬腳飯 (GPS: 24.93445, 121.37013), near Sanxia Old Street.
- Dinner: Pork rice set at roadside stall near the City God Temple, Hsinchu (新竹市).
- Shaved-ice desserts at Ah Chung Ice Shop (阿忠冰店) (GPS: 24.80442, 120.96638)Hsinchu. The ice were shaved rather coarse.

6. Accommodations
    Hsinchu Persimmon Hotel (柿子紅快捷旅店) (GPS: 24.80327, 120.96933) at 900-1,000NTD per night for a room for two pax.
Address: 5, Lane 23, Datong Road, East District, Hsinchu City, Taiwan 300.
Tel: +886 3 522 3232

7. Travelling By Trains And Bringing Bikes Onto Trains
    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 the link to this TRA booking site.
    The train fare from Yingge Station to Hsinchu TRA Station was NTD84 per pax.

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.

Two days prior we had arrived in Taipei from Kuala Lumpur , and had warm up to the city's sights and food. Unfortunately, the rainy weather prevented us from doing any cycling. Today, the skies have cleared and we are eager to kick-off our round Taiwan island cycling tour.



Cycling route: Ximending (Taipei)>Dadaocheng Park>Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭)>Machangting Memorial Park>Huazhong Bridge (恐龍園区)>Jiangzicuijingguan Park>Fuzhouzujie Biking Station>Sanxia Old Street>Yingge Railway Station>by TRA train>Hsinchu Railway Station.
This interesting route starts from the busy streets of Taipei and then goes onto the dedicated cycling paths along Tamsui River, Dahan River and Xindian River. The dedicate path exits just before Sanxia and continues along shared bike lanes. Most of the paths were on Taiwan National Cycling Route #1.

7:30am - We checked out of Freebird Apartments in Ximending and started off for Dadaocheng. It was a weekday and the roads were filled with peak hour traffic of people rushing to work, the roads were so packed that often we had to go onto the pavements to cycle. Getting out of the city center was not easy, there were many stops at traffic-lighted junctions and it took us a while as we were relatively moving at a snail's pace.

Breakfast was glutinous rice balls with soy bean milk. The balls were almost round and filled with minced meat. We had these along the way, at a small corner shop called 良心 合記豆漿, located just opposite the Yuquan Evacuation Gate. Evacuation? Yes, I will explain this later on.
One thing about drinks from food shops in Taiwan, most are sold in plastic cups sealed off at the top. The shops have machines that does the sealing.

We decided to get off from the main roads and take a route through quieter smaller roads and even narrow side & back lanes. This, although a longer way was much more interesting. We could take our concentration off avoiding zooming cars and motorcycles and observe going on around us....

... like these white laborer T-shirts hanging out to dry. These were worn by workers in labor-intensive work, it's thin and soft and definitely comfy. I have some similar to these (of the renown Pagoda Brand) which I bring along as pajama tops during my cycling tours. Being thin, it just takes up a small corner of my bag.

Our GPS unit directed us to Dadaocheng... but it's not the right place; it took us to the Dadaocheng Park. But it's unexpected detours like this that make our tours interesting, that's when we find some nice hidden bonuses. Although a small park, at one corner was a memorial statue of a famous local called Lee Lin-chiu (李臨秋), song composer, a script writer, and poet who lived during the early 1900s.

8:45am - We reach the Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭), a road leads into the wharf on which normal traffic could ply. Traffic was heavy and we waited patiently with the rest for the lights to turn green.
The entry was through a large flood gate that forms part of a very long stretch of tall walls running along the Tamsui River. Taiwan is subject to typhoons and heavy rains and large rivers like the Tamsui will overflow their banks. These walls act as flood walls, and the gates will close in the event of floods, before that a siren will sound for people to evacuate.

We were fortunate that it was not rainy season. Inside, the banks were very wide with parks like the Dadaocheng Wharf dotting the way. Some of these banks are opened to normal traffic, but no worries as there are separate dedicated cycle paths to ride along.
The parks are also well decorated and equipped, here's Sin in front of a mock up Chinese junk.

We rode along the river bank, happily enjoying the scenery. Ahead was the Zhongxiao Bridge that separates Taipei from New Taipei. Further on will be another more impressive birdge, the Zhongxing Bridge (sorry no good photos of it).
Along the way other than beautiful parks and bridges we would also pass by several brush land habituated by wild life, where photographers with impressive equipment could be seen hiding while trying to take snap shots of birds.
In the early morning, the weather was cooling...

... but it got hot later on and we could see several cyclists and jogger remove their tops to ride/jog along topless.

We were happily riding along, reaching the Machangting Memorial Park when Anne (our walking compass) shouted out. "Hey! We are heading North when we should be heading South!" We had overshot, missed a bridge crossing, and were now riding along the Xindian River, and quickly made a U-turn. There were several bridges along the way, but we could not find a way to access them; luckily a helpful local cyclists redirected us to the access ramps leading to the Huazhong Bridge (恐龍園区).
Up on the bridge a wonderful sight greeted us... rows of Taiwan flags were fluttering in the wind, in a way greeting us "Welcome to Taiwan!".

Back down below was the Jiangzicuijingguan Riverside Dinosaur Park (華江橫移門); two friendly baby dinosaurs greeted us...

... under the bridge, it was another story. A not so friendly Tyrannosaurus Rex was chasing a cyclist. Ride fast man, ride fast!

Away from the landward side, the Tamsui River serenely reflected the tall buildings of New Taipei.

Further along, a red colored bridge. Along our tour, later on, we were to see many other colorful bridges - blue ones, green ones, purple ones and even a rainbow colored one!

Riding here was a pleasure, there are so many green parks and brush-land. Even the flood walls have been decorated with beautiful wall murals. Here's Anne riding pass a stretch that depicted scenes from China's early periods, with people dressed in traditional costumes going along their daily business.

10:50am - A rest stop at the Fuzhouzujie Biking Station, there is a bike repair shop at the far end (located in a shipping container) that also sell some parts and drinks.
A man was playing a romantic tune, adding to the calm atmosphere. Often we got to see locals playing music, singing songs and even reciting poetry at stops like this.

To another side was a goat farm, cute yah?

At Changshoushan, we got off the bike path, rode further along on shared roads onto the Sanjiaoyong Bridge (三角涌大桥). It's another impressive bridge, a white arch one spanning over the Tamsui River, and will lead us into Sanxia.

12:15 pm - We arrive at Sanxia, rode pass an unique narrow temple. Our destination, Sanxia Old Street is ahead, a red banner heralding it's location.

A group photo for the road.

Sanxia Old Street stretches about three hundred meters along part of Minquan Street. It's a street with old red-brick houses which have retained their architecture from the time they were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Do note that the street is not a pedestrian mall and is opened to other traffic, so do ride with care there.

The place had preserved it's old town aura, even the covered walkway looked ancient.

Thriving on its history, it has retained many of the original shops, like this one selling Chinese calligraphy brushes.

And this one promoting old Chinese period costumes.

A shop selling preserve produce like bamboos shoots, taujoo (fermented bean curd), beans, soy sauce, etc.

At the front end is the Sanxia Qingshui Zushi Temple (三峽清水祖師廟), dedicated to Zushi-Gong (袓師公Pe̍h-ōe-jīChó͘-su-kong) an old impressive temple with a large compound. Zushi Temple was first built during the Qing Dynasty in 1767 by Hokkien immigrants from Anxi CountyEvery sixth day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar on Zushi-Gong's birthday, the temple holds a Pigs of God (神豬) Contest. Farmers compete to raise the fattest pig, which during the competition day, the pig is decorated with ornaments.

Other than viewing the old buildings, we did have a fun time day. Wow! Isn't that a huge writing brush!

And here's Fenn, locking horns with a water buffalo. Guess who will win? I will back Fenn anytime as she's a gutsy lady.

Here's a man getting to the coconut water by drilling a hole into the nuts, and then pouring the water into a bottle. Intrigue we bought a couple, not realizing that they cost NTD80 each!
Expensive and yet not as sweet as the Pandan Coconuts back home.

Lunch at 老街豬腳飯 Pig Trotters Rice Shop. What did we have? Pig trotters, of course; they came in a rice set  and we had side orders of peppery pig's stomach soup. The rice set was delicious, flavorful with thick soy sauce. The soup was another matter, pig's stomach are subject to individual liking.

2:00pm - Time to say goodbye but not before leaving our "footsteps" at one of the town's ornate gratings.

Getting out of Sanxia to head for Yingge Railway Station was another "on the pavement" matter. Traffic was heavy too. Along the way we passed the Yingge Ceramics Museum (新北市立鶯歌陶瓷博物館), Yingge (鶯歌) is a famed ceramics production area known for it's elaborate pottery and fine porcelain. Short of time we did not visit as we wanted to find arrive early at Hsinchu to find accommodations. At the station were displays of these, so we did get to see how impressive their workmanship were.
From Yingge we took the 2:47pm Fuxing Shuttle 2233 and arrived at Hsinchu Station at 3:41pm, fare was NTD84 pax.

Hsinchu Railway Station was an elaborate stately building built along the mixed Chinese-European style of the early 1900s.

Our hotel at Hsinchu (新竹市) was the Persimmon Hotel (柿子紅快捷旅店). Rate per room was NTD900-1,000 per night, relatively cheap as it was one of those "love" motels where couples came for secret rendezvous!
In one of the rooms was a "love chair"; the photo above shows it with the user's ecstasy-face censored... this is not a 18-SX blog... heh! heh! This chair would be a topic whenever we checked into other hotels, joking with ourselves "Did your room have THE CHAIR?" 😍😍😍.

Food hunting time again; we saw this road-side place with a long queque and decided to eat there. The cook was a grouchy lady, with an angry face and harsh words too. But when her food came, it was dang good. Even the simply fried beehoon topped up with some minced pork was unbelievably tasty; we went for seconds. Okay, her grouchiness was forgiven 😆.

This is the town's renown temple - Hsinchu Du Chenghuang City God Temple (新竹都城隍廟), built in 1748. In 1887, Hsinchu's city god was declared by Emperor Guangxu to take precedence over all other city and town gods in Taiwan and the Penghu archipelago. This status is obvious from the shrine's name; unlike other city-god temples, its name features the word du (meaning "prefectural capital"). An inscribed board presented on behalf of the emperor in 1891 is further proof of the deity's importance.
There's a ramshackle food court just right in front, occupying most of the temple's compound making it hard to take a complete frontage photo of the temple. We did not eat at this food court, as it was too crowded and the environment was stifling.

Irrespective of that, inside devotees said their prayers to the city god. Brightly lit candle towers flanked the alter and in front two temple guard deities are there to ward away evil spirits to keep all safe.

Nearby is the Ying Hsi Men (東門圓環), the city's old east gate fortress, the only one of the old city gates still left standing.

With the temple deities and city gate guarding us, we will definitely have a good night's sleep.

Till tomorrow then,

(For more photos of the Day 3, Click Here)
This is page 2 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
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