Thursday, December 21, 2017

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 5: Cycling In Taichung - A Rainbow Village

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 5: Cycling In Taichung - A Rainbow Village
Taiwan Day 5: Wednesday, 18th October - Cycle Explore Taichung
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan:
Taichung Chance Hotel (巧合大飯店)>Minsheng Rice Cakes (嘉義民生米糕)>Rainbow Village (彩虹眷村)>HSR Taichung Station>by cab>Wufeng Lin Garden (霧峰林家宅園)>Taichung Park (臺中公園)>Yizhong Night Market (一中街夜市)>Taichung Chance Hotel.

Cycling Distance - ?60.65km.     Level: Easy
Cycling Time : 9:10 am to 9:30pm.
Time Taken :  12hrs 20mins (inclusive of stops for breakfast, light lunch, snacks, dinner; visits to the several places of interest and many, many photo opps).

This is page 4 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.

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 very flat with hardly any climbs. Taichung is a large city but traffic here although moderately heavy was manageable, and the drivers here seems more considerate of cyclists. Click here to download a PDF guide on Cycling Around Taiwan.

3. Weather
    The weather was fairly hot, averaging at 28°C during the day (with some cloud cover) and 23°C at night. The wind was fairly light at 15kph.
    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
Taichung Rainbow Village (GPS: 24.13362, 120.60991).
Wufeng Lin Family Garden (GPS: 24.06312, 120.70093).
Taichung Park (GPS: 24.14483, 120.68446).
Yizhong Street Night Market (GPS: 24.14916, 120.68497).
Yimin Mall (GPS: 24.15344, 120.68676).

5. Food
- Breakfast: rice with minced pork & fishball at Minsheng Rice Cakes (GPS: 24.13521, 120.6806).
- Lunch: Take-away pastry from Nixau Bakery (历稣窑面包) (GPS: 24.13515, 120.68052) with Iced desserts at daOnegong Bingsu (大碗公霧峰店) (GPS: 24.06363, 120.70051).
- Afternoon Tea: Pan-Ffried Leek Buns (Shui Jian Bao) from road-side stall (GPS: 24.06457, 120.69882) next to 7-11 outlet.
- Dinner: El-fresco assorted Taiwan street food with pan-fried fish from a stall at the Yimin Mall (GPS: 24.15344, 120.68676near the Yizhong Street Night Market.
- Supper: Take-away tai yang bing (太陽餅, Sun Cakes) bought from a shop near the Taichung TRA Railway Station.

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. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

By skipping a night at Tongxiao (通霄鎮) the previous day, we gained a full day to explore Taichung (臺中), and started with a ride on the relatively flat city roads to visit the Rainbow Village (彩虹眷村). After that we wanted to head for the Wufeng Lin Family Garden via the Taichung TRA Railway Station, but ended at the HSR (High Speed Rail) Station instead. So we boarded a van taxi to head for the garden to save time. From there it was onwards to the Taichung Park (臺中公園) and a night market. A small part of the route was on Taiwan National Cycling Route #1.


Cycling route: Taichung Chance Hotel (巧合大飯店)>Minsheng Rice Cakes (嘉義民生米糕)>Rainbow Village (彩虹眷村)>HSR Taichung Station>by cab>Wufeng Lin Garden (霧峰林家宅園)>Taichung Park (臺中公園)>Yizhong Night Market (一中街夜市)>Taichung Chance Hotel.
This is any easy route to take a short tour of Taichung City's several places of interests. There is a break in the cycling journey when we took a van-taxi from the HSR (High Speed Rail) Station to the Wufeng Lin Family Garden.

Wanting to try other than hotel food, we kicked off the day by looking for some local food for breakfast. The skies were and clear, promising a good day for cycling.

Eureka! Sin's sharp eyes and keen nose led us to the Minsheng Rice Cakes shop. Our buddy can smell out good food, and this place had one very good steamed glutinous rice served with a topping of minced pork and side dishes of an hard-boiled egg with a fish ball. A tasty soup comes with the set too. Stir the minced pork into the rice, and it was a good combo taste of the slight saltiness of the meat together with the fragrance of the rice.

We also popped in to the Nixau Bakery (历稣窑面包) next door, to buy some take-away pastry just in case we did not have time to hunt for lunch. The lady owner was very warm, and her pâtisserie had a wide ranged of French pastry; we each bought several types.

Our first destination was a colorful village, along the way we rode across a river with deep blue waters and lush green banks. There were also several islets within the river. It's really admirable the way the local authorities here have managed to keep the water clean and clear of debris.

We took a wrong turn, fortunately the Taichung Rainbow Village was nearby and with a U-turn we managed to see its conspicuous bright colors from afar. The parked tourists bus did also give an indication that this was the right place.

The Rainbow Village of Taichung, is a remarkable work of one man, and surprisingly a man who started life not as an artist but as a soldier. These houses were earmarked to be demolished to make way for new, taller development. Until this old gentleman decided to make the walls, floors and eves of the old buildings his canvas.
These simple houses were located in what is called "veteran villages", small enclaves built to house the veteran Kuomintang soldiers after the retreat from Mainland China to Formosa. But as time went by (especially these past two decades) these villages slowly disappeared to make way for newer, taller buildings as cities spread outwards. In this particular veteran village, the houses were already mostly vacated and being torn down.
That is until old Mr. Huang Yung-fu, the last remaining veteran resident, decided to start painting the the walls of the buildings. Was it out of idleness, boredom or loneliness that got him started? Whichever the case is, the end result was something vibrant, bright and loudly shouting for attention! The loud colors and his unique style of painting did get attention though. Local people started coming to admire his work and soon word spread of this unique little place that even foreign visitors dropped by.
With the place gaining popularity, plans to demolish the place were dropped!
Mr. Huang (or Grandpa Rainbow as he is affectionately know) has transformed the houses with vivid colors spanning the whole spectrum of the rainbow, hence the name Rainbow Village (in Mandarin - Caihongjuan Village (彩虹眷村)).
His painting style seem very rudimentary; each element if viewed individually looks rather simplified, but look at a whole wall or floor and the artwork becomes very vibrant. There must be some stories in these paintings, perhaps one day Grandpa Rainbow will tell them.

The tiny village is one of the favorite for visitors from near and far, us included! Many take the opportunity to pose with the house, they did make a good background for our photos.

There are even photo frames for us to insert ourselves into, a good reminder that we have been here.

Erm... our bicycles liked the place too and got caught up in the act of posing.

Also we were lucky to catch Mr. Huang Yung-fu sitting at a corner of the souvenir shop. He's is over ninety years old but still spritely and happy to have a photo taken with us. He also gave us some prints of his paintings.
(... read more of Taichung's Rainbow Village)

Time to maneuver across the city streets and head for our next destination. Traffic was still light but the afternoon was getting hotter, yet we were still happy as larks with Sin turning around to give me a wide grin.
Somehow in trying to reach the mansion via the the Wufeng Lin Family Garden via the Taichung TRA Railway Station, we ended at the HSR (High Speed Rail) Station instead. So we boarded a van taxi to head for the garden to save time.

1:15 pm - We arrived at the mansion but found out that one can enter the place only with a local guide, and that guided tours are held on the hour. The next one will be at two.
Might as well make good use of the time and have our pastry lunch. We dropped by daOnegong Bingsu (大碗公霧峰店), ordered some green tea bingsu and also the above iced dessert, one of a mix of large sago beads, silky soft chinchau, red beans together with small cuts of sweet potato and yam. This was almost like the bubur cha cha of Malaysia.

An external view of the mansion. We got our entry tickets at 250 NTD per pax and requested for an English speaking guide. 

The girls, acting like welcoming hand-maidens as I walked in in a stern lordly way.

The first courtyard. General Lin-wencha (1828-1864) was a Fujian army commander. He started building of the firs Fujian-style official residence in 1858. His descendants further enlarge the mansion until it had an area of eleven thousand square meters, making it the largest traditional residence in Taiwan.

The second compound, one which is turfed and had a few trees.

Our tour ended with a tea-drinking session; after which there was a video presentation of the history of the Lins and their residence. No, the girl opposite did not see the ghost of this mansion, she was just camera shy.

Me, sitting at a a door leading to a private section, and facing the second indoor compound garden. What was I contemplating on, the history of the place and Taiwan? Yes, that and also on how enjoyable our tour has been and how more so in the days to come.

Waving goodbye to the residence.
(For more photos of the Lin Family Garden & Mansion, Click here)

3:30pm - We rode off passing by this multi-storey temples. I like the temples of Taiwan. They are quite elaborate with fine and colorful sculptures. If there is not enough land, then they build it upwards like this one.

Mid-way we screeched to a stopp.... at a road side stall this lady was making Pan-Fried Leek Buns (Shui Jian Bao), filling the the flattened dough with leek or turnip together with a mince-pork, dried shrimp mix.

The pan-frying is done by an assistant, they are fried until the tops are slightly burnt and crispy while the sides are still soft and chewy. The round ones are filled with leek, while the square ones with turnip.

5:00pm - We arrived at the Taichung Park. It was not a very big park and a brisk walk around takes about twenty minutes. Stopped to take some more photos, this one at a traditional entrance archway leading to a raised section of the park.

In the park were also statues of horses rendered in classical Chinese style; Goofy my iron horse seemed paled in comparison with the bulky horses.

At another corner, a large goat statue with a couple of her kids.

From the park, we made our way to the Yizhong Street Night Market. This is an open market laid out on a street slightly more than 1/2 a kilometer long and lined on both sides with many road-side stalls selling mostly food stuff at on section. The place was very crowded, to play it safe we came down to push. 

Beyond this is the Yimin Mall, which in away was an extension of the night market. It has an atrium lined with shop-lots instead of stall. It was not crowded, less quiet and best of all with tables to sit and eat at comfortably.

Our dinner from a couple of shops. A mix of rice sets, barbecued stuff and soup. We also ordered fish from the barbecue shop.

We had not forgotten Mr. Hwang, the train conductor from the previous day. and his advice not to miss Taichung's renown cakes - tai yang bing (太陽餅, Sun Cakes). On our return journey, we made a loop to the Taichung TRA Railway Station to hunt for these biscuit where there were several shops selling them and got a box to try. These were multi-layered skin biscuits in filled with caramel, taste quite alright and somewhat similar to pong piah found in Malaysia.

It was a very satisfactory day, getting to know Taichung slightly better, enjoyed the places and the food,


(For more photos of the Day 5, Click Here)
This is page 4 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.


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