Thursday, April 19, 2018

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 20: Taipei To Tamsui - Cycling In Tamsui

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day Day 20: Taipei To Tamsui - Cycling In Tamsui
Taiwan Day 20 : Thursday, 2nd November - Taipei to Tamsui
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan, From Taipei (臺北市) to and around Tamsui (淡水, Danshui):
Ximending (西門町)>Ximen Station (西門站)>by MRT>Zhongshang Station (中山站)>by MRT>Shilin Station (士林站)>National Palace Museum>Shilin Station (士林站)>by MRT>Tamsui Station (淡水站)>Tamsui Customs Wharf (淡水海關碼頭)>Tamsui Station (淡水站)>by MRT>Zhongshang Station (中山站)>by MRT>Ximen Station (西門站)>Ximending (西門町).
Cycle Distance = 11.97km     |     Train Distance =44.93km      |     Total Distance = 56.90km 
Level: Easy
Time : 8:30am to 8:20 pm
Time Taken : 11 hrs. 50 mins. (including waiting for trains, train rides, visiting museum, enoying Tamsui riverside, stops for, breakfast, lunch, dinner and many photo opps at parks, etc.).

This is page 18 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D19 Taipei            |            Go to Other Days       |      Go to D21-22 Taipei 3 >

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  
We did a minimum cycling as we wanted to spend more time appreciate the National Palace Museum exhibits, and also to relax at promenade along the Tamsui (淡水) river mouth.
From our hotel, after a short loop for breakfast we took the Taipei Metro Green Line from Ximen Station (西門站) to the Zhongshang Station (中山站) to change over to the Metro Red Line to head for the Shilin Station (士林站). From there we cycled to and fro the National Palace Museum. After that we boarded the Metro Red Line again for Tamsui Station (淡水站), there we cycled around a bit.
Traffic at the locality of the museum for a bit heavy but there were mostly cycling lanes to go on. At Tamsui, we cycled along the Tamsui river side cycle path.

3. Weather
     At Taipei (臺北市), day temperature ranged from 22°C to 25°C with clear skies. Wind speed averaged 22kph.
    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 statues near the Red House (西門紅樓) (GPS: 25.04201, 121.50685) in Xinmending.
- The National Palace Museum (國立故宮博物院) (GPS: 25.10235, 121.54849).
- Tamsui Old Street (淡水老街) (GPS: 25.17079, 121.43899).
- Art Wall (GPS: 25.17056, 121.43919) at Tamsui Old Street.
Tamsui Golden Shore Bike Path starting from Tamsui MRT Station and leading to the Tamsui Customs Wharf (淡水海關碼頭) (GPS: 25.17448, 121.43175).
- Night scene at Hobe Fishing Harbor (滬尾漁港) (GPS: 25.17306, 121.43518).
- The Tamsui Fisherman's Wharf (水漁人碼頭) (GPS: 25.18303, 121.41071).

5. Food
- Breakfast: flat noodles with side dishes at Ximen Noodle Shop (西門麵店) (GPS: 25.04170, 121.50571)at Ximending. They sell very good lemon jelly drinks here too.
- Lunch: Salty steam rice and beef noodles at Xiaonan Zhengji Tainan Salty Rice (小南鄭記台南碗粿) (GPS: 25.09444, 121.526) at Shilin (士林).
- Tea time: renown Tamsui Cheese Sponge Cake from the Original Cake Bakery (緣味古早味現烤蛋糕) shop  (GPS: 25.17045, 121.43915at Tamsui Old Street.
- Dinner: rice with dishes at North Kenting Beer House (北墾丁啤酒屋) (GPS: 25.17101, 121.43777) at the Tamsui Riverside.
Note - we also bought the following:
 - some pastry from the Red Riding Hood Bakery (小紅帽) (GPS: 25.09455, 121.52596at Shilin just in case we got hungry at the museum.
- renown crispy Zamen sweet meat that came in several flavours from the G12 Sweet-meat Shop (淡水老店包子) (GPS: 25.17046, 121.43933shop at Tamsui Old Street.

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 bringing 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.
    Click here for the Taipei Metro Fares & Travel TimeThe train fares the following routes on the Taipei Metro are as follows:
    Ximen Station (西門站) to Shilin Station (士林站) [with change for Green Line train to the Red Line train at Zhongshang Station (中山站)] - NTD25.
    Shilin Station (士林站) to Tamsui Station (淡水站) - NTD40.
    Tamsui Station to Ximen Station - NTD50.
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.


Yesterday was a busy day, we had arrived back at Taipei from Taroko and in the evening had joined some local cyclists for a cycling loop at the Tamsui River Bikeway. Caught up in the activities of the long day, it was only in the evening that it hit us that we had completed our cycling tour around Taiwan. Yes we had done it, and for the next couple of days we will take it easy and explore more of Taipei; starting with a trip to the coastal town of Tamsui


RouteXimending (西門町)>Ximen Station (西門站)>by MRT>Zhongshang Station (中山站)>by MRT>Shilin Station (士林站)>National Palace Museum>Shilin Station (士林站)>by MRT>Tamsui Station (淡水站)>Tamsui Customs Wharf (淡水海關碼頭)>Tamsui Station (淡水站)>by MRT>Zhongshang Station (中山站)>by MRT>Ximen Station (西門站)>Ximending (西門町).
Cycle Distance = 11.97km     |     Train Distance =44.93km      |     Total Distance = 56.90km 
Level: Easy
This is a route with minimum cycling and more train rides so that there will be more time at the National Palace Museum and Tamsui.

After almost three weeks in Taiwan, would we be getting sick of the local food? But Taipei surprised us with it's wide range of good food; from upmarket ones in mall outlets to the little but good ones at the alleys. We started the day with a short loop to hunt for food and found a good place in Ximen Noodle Shop.
They served a variety of good noodles (of the flatter type, something akin to flat wonton noodles) and side dishes like this tofu with salted vegetables. Not to be missed is also their Lemon Jelly Drink which was a very helpful refreshing start for the morning.

En route to Ximen Station to catch a train, we found some nice street art in the form of statues strategically placed at several spots. In our rush the previous days here we had somehow missed them. This one of a couple taking selfies was very appropriate for tourist like us to emulate their poses.

Another one of a fiber-glass mutated cow was seen next to the Red House. A plaque at the bottom states: "Imagine monstrousness intruding into your mind, external changes evolving. To what extent can a person reform another? Mutation is precisely the beginning of new ecology, wherever it goes, various transformation are taking place. Before you are even conscious of these changes, they have already encroached into the depths of your heart". Well that's food for thought. But the poor cow had its horns torn of by vandals... that's food for thought too.

Anne here with a glum disappointed look - the lift down to the MRT platforms only allows a maximum of two bicycles. But that's only for full-sized bike; somehow the six of us managed to squeezed ourselves and our bikes into the lift - that's the wonder of the compact fold of the Brompton!

Disembarking at Shilin, we dropped by to another RED place, this cute little bakery called Red Riding Hood, to get some pastries to eat just in case we get hungry while at the National Palace Museum - feeding the eyes and mind with beautiful art is great, but the stomach needs sustenance too. Pity, we did not get to see Little Red Riding Hood; that would have been something else!

We did a short detour to look for a local pharmacy. Ann was having a cough with a mild sore throat and wanted to get some medication. During a previous trip to Taiwan she had got some Chinese medication called the LP (Liu Perng) Licorice Herbal Candy; it soothes the throat and cures the cough. We managed to get some, and sure enough after sucking on one of these, she stopped coughing.
Note: Pre-packed Chinese medication in tablet or powder form like these are obtained from pharmacies AND NOT from Chinese Medicinal Halls like in South-east Asian countries.

At the National Palace Museum, by coincidence we met up with fellow tour cyclists, Alan & Aroha and took a memorable group photo with them (see top-most photo).
In the museum, most of the exhibits on display to the public are located at Exhibition Hall 1; the steps leading up to this hall had a scenery from China's medieval period, one of officials in period costumes having a sumptuous feast.

Inside, artwork from different period or dynasties of China's past were on display in various galleries, each with several rooms and sorted out according to type of artwork.
The above is from the Painting & Calligraphy Section showing a monochrome painting of a countryside scene. Except for paintings in monochrome, photography is not allowed in most rooms of this section.

The artwork are divided into different galleries according to type of art or theme of the artwork and sometimes along historical lines.
The above is from the Gallery #101 called the Compassion and Wisdom Gallery; it showcases many Buddhists statues - this one is a gilt bronze statue of a Manjusri Bodhisattva from the Ming Dynasty period (1368-1644 AD).
Manjusri is a bodhisattva associated with prajñā (insight) in Mahayana Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism, he is also a yidam. His name means "Gentle Glory" in Sanskrit. Mañjuśrī is also known by the fuller name of Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta, literally meaning "Mañjuśrī, Still a Youth" or, less literally, "Prince Mañjuśrī". Scholars have identified Mañjuśrī as the oldest and most significant bodhisattva in Mahāyāna literature.

A peach-shaped pitcher with bird and flower motifs in Wucai (五彩) polychrome decor from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) displayed at Gallery #201 - Magic of the Kneaded Clay Ceramic Collection.
Wucai (五彩, "Five colours") is a style of Chinese porcelain. It normally uses white for the porcelain, blue for the design outline, and red, green, and yellow for the designs.It has its origins in DoucaiFamille verte (康熙五彩, Kangxi wucai, also 素三彩, Susancai), adopted in the Kangxi period (1662–1722), uses green and iron red with other overglaze colours developed from wucaiIn Japan it is pronounced gosai and was initially imported. Kinrande is a form that developed out of this during the Ming dynasty.

Pillow in the shape of a recumbent child displayed at Gallery #201 - Magic of the Kneaded Clay Ceramic Collection. - a Ding type ware from the period of the Northern Song to Jin Dynasty (12th-13th Century).
Ding wareTing ware (Chinese定瓷pinyinDìngcí) or Dingyao were Chinese ceramics, mostly porcelain, produced in the prefecture of Dingzhou (formerly romanized as "Ting-chou") in Hebei in northern China. The main kilns were at Jiancicun or Jianci in Quyang County. They were produced between the Tang and Yuan dynasties of imperial China, though their finest period was in the 11th century, under the Northern Song. The kilns "were in almost constant operation from the early eighth until the mid-fourteenth century."

Pottery horse with painted colours from the Tang Dynasty (618-907 B.C.) displayed at Gallery #205 - Neolithic Age to the Five Dynasties Period.

Below are two exhibits seen at Gallery #302 - A Gathering of Treasures, they are termed treasures because of their exquisite and realistic artwork. My photos of these did not turn up well, so the photos below are from posters in the gallery:
Jadeite Cabbage from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD).
This carving of a Bokchoy (Chinese Cabbage) is the most popular piece in the museum. The craftsmanship followed the the natural colours of the jadeite to turn the green part into the leafy area and the white one into the stem. At the top of the leaves are a katydid and a locust, which turn this carving into a lively rustic scene.

Meat-shaped Stone carved from Banded Jasper from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD).
Banded jasper naturally appears with layers and the artist have utilized this to suggest layers of fat and meat in a piece of sumptuous, mouth-watering Dongpo pork belly. He had remarkably created many dimples on the top surface to mimic the hair follicles of pork skin.
(..... see more of the National Palace Museum)

After a lengthy time (lengthy but seemingly inadequate) in admiring the many exhibits at the museum we rode back to Shilin Station. As we rode out, my buddies bright colours formed a piece of art against the drab gray wall.

The pastry from Red Riding Hood were just good enough to last the few hours we were at the museum. Back at Shilin, it was food hunting time again and Sin's nose sniffed out the good food at the Xiaonan Zhengji Tainan Salty Rice shop .
We had some beef and beef tendon noodles which came with a very rich soup, tender meat and soft chewy tendons.
But the killer was their specialty - Tainan Salty Rice Pudding. It's a pudding made from ground rice flour cooked with a tasty stew. Highly recommended and not to be missed.

When we got back to our bicycles, which we had parked below a wide staircase leading up to the Shilin Station, I saw this dark pink "Warning Notice" tied to my handle bar. It was placed there by the TRTC (Taipei Rapid Transport Corporation) the authority that operates the Metro Services. Luckily they just issued a warning and did not confiscate my bike; a lesson learnt here - do not simply park your bike, even where one think it does not obstruct traffic.

We boarded the MRT again this time riding from Shilin to Tamsui. From the station we rode along cycling paths then went pass several nice parks; this was the tail end of the Tamsui River Bikeway which leads all the way from Downtown Taipei.

At Tamsui, the path passes by the Danshuijieyun Park (淡水捷運公園) (GPS: 25.16729, 121.44518). I like the benches here, they were wooden ones supported by colourful bottoms with nice Chinese graphic artwork. Hahaha... I am still getting an "art hangover" from the museum visit!
To one side were roads lined with busy shops and on the other side was the lively river promenade where people were fishing to the accompaniment of some street musicians.

 Within the river mouth/sea, a lone fisherman stood out, silently contrasted against the water and the cityscape behind.

We turned inland for a quick stop at Tamsui Old Street; the happening place within the locality. Many busy shops lined this street, and along the street was an art wall with photos from the city's past pasted on to a telecommunication junction box.

A closer look at the art wall; the colourful paintings glazed onto tiles of the wall made our bike stand out artistically.
(..... see more of the Art Wall of Tamsui Old Street)

On the opposite side of the street was the Original Cake Bakery. It had an open kitchen section where a worker could be seen taking out the trays of cooked cheese sponge cake out, turning the whole tray upside down, giving it a shake to make it easy to remove the cake from the tray. Another worker with a long steel ruler cuts the cake into standard sizes to be sold.

These renown Tamsui Cheese Sponge Cake were !YummY!, with thin crunchy tops & bottoms, and in between two tiers of creamy cheese slowly overflowing out.

The sun setted and the area exploded with myriads of colourful lights. On the opposite left bank of the river was Bali (八里, not to be confused with Bali, Indonesia) it was similarly colourfully bright.

While the rest decided to stop over at the North Kenting Beer House to have drinks while admiring the riverside and its activities, Ann and me cycled further along the Tamsui Golden Shore Bike Path. The section here is a shared path with pedestrians, crossing over several small bridge and leads through many restored buildings from Tamsui colonial period as a busy port.

Even along this quieter stretch there were some activities; this young man carrying his son on a rattan back-pack baby carrier, was singing his heart out to earn the extra buck for his family.

Further on, at Hobe Fishing Harbor, sampan fishing boats were moored to the walls while above many were singing away at the drinking and eats joints there.

6:30pm - we reached the Tamsui Customs Wharf, even though the museum had closed for the day, there were interesting things on display here. There was an old up-ended boat where visitors could go in and see its timber construction.

Nearby where sampans, glowing brightly in blue light on circles of mirroring stones, making it seems as if they were floating on a phosphorescent blue sea. Not to far away was a large scale model of the Transformers Autobot Bumblebee also bathed in rotating colours of bright lights.

We rode back to meet our buddies and had a good dinner at North Kenting Beer House. The centre piece of our meal was this Sweet 'n Sour fish, it's like a cousin of the tilapia but had sweeter meat.
With that we called it a day and took the train back to Ximending.

(That's Wǎn'ān, that "Good night" in Chinese)

(For more photos of the Day 20, Click Here)
This is page 18 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D19 Taipei            |            Go to Other Days       |      Go to D21-22 Taipei 3 >


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