Friday, December 1, 2017

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 4: Hsinchu To Taichung - The Windy Haowangjiao

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 4: Hsinchu To Taichung - The Windy Haowangjiao
Taiwan Day 4: Tuesday, 17th October - Hsinchu to Taichung
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan:
Hsinchu (新竹市)>Xiangshan Cycle Path>Haowangjiao (好望角)>Tongxiao Salt Factory (通霄精塩廠)>Tongxiao (通霄鎮)>by TRA train>Taichung (臺中).
Cycling Distance - 60.65km.     Level: Medium (Hard at the uphill stretch to Haowangjiao due to strong headwinds).
Cycling Time : 7:45 am to 9:30pm.
Time Taken :  13hrs 45mins (inclusive of stops for morning tea & lunch, long stops at Haowangjiao Windy Scenic Viewpoint (好望角) & Tongxiao Salt Factory (通霄精塩廠), 3-1/2 hrs wait for train at Tongxiao Station, and many, many photo opps).

This is page 3 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D3 Hsinchu           |      Go to Other Days   |    Go to D5 Around 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 starts from Hsinchu cuts into the Xiangshan Cycle Path and then onto local roads of Miaoli County that runs parallel to the West Coast Expressway. Along the way is a scenic view point with  some steep climbs made more difficult by strong head winds, and there is also a salt factory. We ended our ride cycling along the Tongxiao Coastal Cycle Path before taking a train from Tongxiao to Taichung. Most of the paths were on Taiwan National Cycling Route #1. Click here to download a PDF guide on Cycling Around Taiwan.

3. Weather
    The weather was hotter than usual, averaging at 32°C during the day (with not much cloud cover) and 26°C at night. Wind speed was fairly strong, averaging 30kph with gusts up to 50-70kph at Haowangjiao, so do hold on to your things their. Fortunately it was an overcast day and the cool wind did help.
    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 Xiangshan Cycle Path (start point GPS: 24.80291, 120.91751) that run partly along the Xiangshan Wetlands in Xiangshan District.
   Along this cycle path:
   Rainbow Bridge (彩虹大橋) (GPS: 24.80139, 120.91672).
   - Xiangshan Chinese Temple (恵民宮天上聖母) (GPS: 24.78581, 120.91506).
   - Haishan Fishing Harbor (GPS: 24.76515, 120.90417).
   - Kwan Yin Temple (护港宫) (GPS: 24.76421, 120.90339).
   - Blue Sky Bridge (藍天橋) (GPS: 24.76044, 120.90606).
   - White Cloud Bridge (白雲橋) (GPS: 24.7461, 120.90055).
   - Xiangshan Seaside Park (十七公里自行車道終点) (GPS: 24.74048, 120.88939).
Haowangjiao Windy Scenic Viewpoint (好望角) (GPS: 24.60215, 120.73119).
Tongxiao Salt Factory (通霄精塩廠) (GPS: 24.55596, 120.70357).
- The Tongxiao Coastline Bicycle Trail (start point GPS: 24.52307, 120.69228).

5. Food
- Breakfast: inclusive at Persimmon Hotel in Hsinchu.
- Morning Tea: Grilled Taiwanese sausages at cycle rest stop, Cheyouxiuxi Station (車友休息站) (GPS: 24.65936, 120.81359along the cycle path, somewhere near Houlong Town.
- Lunch: Rice set at QQ Restaurant (大碗公) (GPS: 24.55102, 120.69987near Tongxiao.
- Dinner: Duck flat noodles at stall at side-lane next to Chance Hotel in Taichung.

6. Accommodations
Chance Hotel (巧合大飯店) (GPS: 24.1382, 120.68533) at 1,000NTD per night for a room for two pax.
Address: 163號, Jianguo Road, Central District, Taichung City, Taiwan 400.
Tel: +886 4 2229 7161.

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 (TRA) 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 Tongxiao Station to Taichung TRA Station was NTD88 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.
_________________________________________________________________________
PRELUDE

The previous day we had a cycled a good route from Taipei to Hsinchu; the interesting bike paths along the rivers, an old street had us wondering what else can beat that. But Taiwan amazed us as we headed for Tongxiao with more surprises in the change of scenery from riverine to coastal. And what's this top-most photo of well-worn and odd looking feet right at the top... well read on to find out!

THE RIDE


Cycling route: Hsinchu (新竹市)>Xiangshan Cycle Path>Haowangjiao (好望角)>Tongxiao Salt Factory (通霄精塩廠)>Tongxiao (通霄鎮)>by TRA train>Taichung (臺中).
The route differs from the previous day's; it's no more by the river and yet gets more interesting. It will take us through a couple of nice bike paths, up to a viewpoint with super strong winds and to a salt factory too. We are still on Taiwan's National Cycling Route #1.


Breakfast was included in Persimmon Hotel's room rates; it was simple yet good. Over a mix of congee and pickled vegetables, and some light Western breakfast we recapped about yesterday's ride.... the chat somehow inadvertently ended with us talking about THE CHAIR (see, the hotel was one of those love motels and in one of our rooms was a helpful chair for some romantic liaisons. See the previous blog for a photo of THE CHAIR). We asked our buddies who were using that room on how versatile that chair was.... okay, okay... I won't go further and will leave the rest to your imagination.
Anyway, back to our ride; as we rode out of town, Sin was looking for a cycle path, one that Hsinchu was well known for among local cyclists. As we pedaled along a riverside, we could see a multi-colored bridge which probably should be on THAT cycling path.... but we could not find a way to get onto it! Haha.... that's a cyclist's frustration... seeing a nice place to ride and not knowing how to reach it.


To cut the story short, we managed to ask a local cyclist for directions (there were not to many around on a weekday morning!) So here's Heong with happy grin as we finally got onto the cycling path called the Xiangshan Cycle Path, one that hugs the coast closely and stretches for some seventeen kilometers passing through wetlands, a small port and bridges with lofty names!


About a couple of kilometers ahead, painted right smack on the center of the lane was a sign that says 8K+400, meaning we were already at the 8.400 kilometer point of this bike path. Now wonder we could not find an easy access to this path; we had intercepted it almost mid-way!


Another short distance away.... it's the colorful bridge we saw from afar! Up close, it's even more impressive with the colors changing along its arch. This is the Rainbow Bridge (彩虹大橋), obvious name isn't it... but it's a bridge that will lead us skywards to the clouds, REALLY!


But before going up to the heavens, first something more down to earth - a stretch going a few kilometers through earthy colored ficus trees with their long dangling roots reaching earthwards.


This stretch, that runs through the Xiangshan Wetlands, is so cooling and nice that we had to stop for pix.


Somewhere along the center of this bike path is a temple called the 恵民宮天上聖母; I must confess I can't read Mandarin and Mr. Google translated this as "Palace of God Our Lady of Heaven" Temple. It may not be as mighty as it's name but it was a nice place to stop and take a respite at it's small sea-front courtyard while slowly taking in breaths of fresh sea breeze.


Further along is the Haishan Fishing Harbor, a small harbor that seems serene and calm ...


..... that 's until one decided to walk along the pier, which like a finger pointed outwards into the sea. Out there the waves were nothing serene, coming in strongly to lash upwards and across the pier. We played it safe and decided to stick to the dry, safe end.


This harbor is on a small long cove, on the other side is the 护港宫; Google speak it as the "Protection Palace" - a verbatim translation - but one gets the idea. We did not have to time to visit , but I would love to get a closer look of the large statue that looked like a younger version of Kwan Yin sitting there while seemingly peering outwards to calm the sea and protect the whole place.


Beyond this the path lead us "skywards" in a manner; first to a bright blue bridge called the Blue Sky Bridge (藍天橋) which leads us to ...


... a white bridge call the White Cloud Bridge (白雲橋). See, I was not stretching it when I earlier mentioned that this path will lead us to the heavens: from rainbows, to blue skies, to white clouds to a harbor haven protected by the calm looking god.


Almost at the end of the path, is this tower with something amiss... fan blades. This is suppose to be a mock-up wind mill but I am not sure what happened to the blades; only the rotor shaft seems to be left sticking out from the upper walls.


The path continues a short distance along some brush-land...

... and ends up connecting to the West Coast Expressway (Route 61). At the exit point where Lane 106 Nangang Street meets the expressway are several shrines at the roadside.


But we won't be cycling on the highway (I don't think that's allowed anyway). Instead we will be riding along roads running parallel to the highway; these are roads for the local traffic and only connects to the highway intermittently. The local road are separated from the highway by concrete barriers and would take us pass vegetable farms, small towns and some factories. Soon we will cross the border of Hsinchu City and enter into Maoli County.


A quick rest near the Zhonggang Creek Park, next to the park was the Jhunan Incineration Plant. Shaped liked a ship with its funnel painted with green flowers.


The park sits at the mouth of the Xiaohuangjiang River (小环江), on the other side of the mouth were gigantic wind turbines. On our journey we will get to see many of these, most of which are strategically located at windy spots of Taiwanisland. Taiwan has abundant wind power resources. As of August 2016, there were 346 installed onshore turbines in operation with the total installed capacity of 682 MW.


11:00am - A nearby signboard directed us to a cycling rest stop the, Cheyouxiuxi Station (車友休息站). It's a bicycle servcing/repair shop that also sells drinks ... and barbecued Taiwanese sausages! We ordered some and the girls were soon happy munching away. I tried to take a photo of the owner, but he was camera shy with a red mouth munching away on betel leaves and areca nuts (Paan). Taiwan does have a small population of paan munchers.


The road started sloping upwards and we will be going even higher, up to the hill on the right. Over there is supposed to be a nice viewpoint called the Haowangjiao (好望角), in English - the Cape of Good Hope.


The girls smiling away at the junction leading up to Haowangjiao. Soon their smiles will fade as we make the steep climb upwards; the climb was not that difficult but it was exacerbated by strong headwinds. Pant.... pant ... pant... climb... climb... climb!


Okay, that's me... and I am not pregnant! It's the strong wind billowing through my shirt! The wind blows continually and at times gusts up to 70-80 kph. The scenery below is quiet panoramic, click here for more photos.


This is the best viewpoint at this place and the wind is strongest up here, so hold on to your hats!



We went zooming down heading for our next destination, the Taiyen Tongxiao Salt Factory (通霄精塩廠). We had thought that this was a traditional factory, harvesting salt from the sea the old way. Instead we saw a modern factory that sucks in sea water from an intake turbine a few hundred meters out in the sea. There's a museum here that exhibits how the salt are harvested and also displays salt crystals.


We did not go into the factory; outside other than the museum there is a small park. There were small pools here with warm saline water, and we soon joined other tourists to soak our feet in the water, letting it wash the grime and dirt from our tired feet (see top-most photo). Fortunately for the other tourists, we were using the lowest pool and the grime from our smelly cycling feet did not contaminate their water 😱.


2:30pm - Late lunch was at a place called QQ Restaurant (大碗公) on the outskirts of Tongxiao, it's quite a big place with an open-air carpark and probably catered for tourists visiting the viewpoint and the salt factory. The food was quite good but a tad expensive (tourist pricing?); I especially liked the mooi choy stir-fried with pork belly and the steamed fish belly.


What's this at a corner of the shop? Gernomous winter melons; the ones we usually see in Malaysia are round and about a fifth the size of these!


As we approached Tongxiao, we detoured left away from the main road. Sin was looking for the Tongxiao Coastline Bicycle Trail; we found it after going through an underpass and up a steep ramp. A bit of more pushing here.


It was worthwhile pushing as soon we were happy like larks cycling along the trail (which is actually on some rural roads) which was almost devoid of traffic.


4:00pm - Some serious discussion here with a local lady. We were suppose to stay in Tongxiao, but the couple of hotels/motels here looked a bit run down and without lifts. We were asking this lady if there were others. Too bad, she confirmed that there were none. "What about homestays?" "None also!"


So we decided to skip staying at Tongxiao and instead board a train for Taichung, over sixty kilometers away. Only problem was the next train was at 7:30pm; it was a wait of more than three hours. We whiled away our time with some coffee at the nearby Family Mart, took a long snooze on the benches outside the station.
And leaving our footprints at this Tong Siao floor sign 😍😎😍.



On board the train, Mr. Hwang the conductor was a chatty man. In between his duties he kept coming back to chat with us, he spoke passable English and was trying to practice it by conversing with us. We were most happy to oblige, and he gave us a tip: "Don't miss the tai yang bing (太陽餅, Sun Cakes) for which Taichung is renown!"


Arriving at Taichung, it was a-hotel-hunting time; by chance we chanced upon the Chance Hotel, located fairly close to the train station. It was way pass nine when we checked in; but we will be staying here for two nights, by skipping a night at Tongxiao we will have an extra day to explore this city. Goodie-good!

It's been a long day:
GOOD NIGHT!
(Yaaaawwwwwn....)

(For more photos of the Day 4, Click Here)
This is page 3 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D3 Hsinchu           |      Go to Other Days   |    Go to D5 Around Taichung >

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