Here’s the long take on our 9-day cycling journey around Taiwan in Sep/Oct 2014.
It was not quite the full round but almost. We were supposed to cover 912km, but our speedometers indicated otherwise. Amongst us (& the meters), there were variances too. So, I’d put the distance at between 880-900km.
If you’d noticed, there’s a gap between Hualien and Yilan. That’s when we rode the train with our bikes instead. And yes, that part was excluded from the stats.
Day 1/27 Sep 14 – Taipei to Hsinchu 新竹: 83km
We were told to rendezvous with our trip leader at a car park in Xindian (新店), a district of New Taipei City at 8am.
Even though we had recced that side of the river the day before, we set off from New California Hotel a little after 7am – just in case.
The organiser had already laid out 43 bikes neatly on the empty car park lots. We were each given a water bottle, a jersey (pink for the gals, blue for the guys) as well as 2 labels bearing our names – one for the helmet and 1 for the water bottle; the bicycle was already labelled. The group leader’s name and mobile was also printed on the label.
Besides avoiding mix-ups (since the bikes/bottles/helmets were identical), it helped the trip leader identify who’s who.
After getting acquainted with the bikes (tuning, adjustments etc), the trip staff and some warm-ups, we started straight-away. Headlong into busy traffic.
20km down, we came to the first highlight of the day: A late Qing-era temple 新竹城隍廟 in Hsinchu. We nibbled on this popular horn-shaped croissants and were given some time-off to explore the temple and the adjacents streets 新竹城隍老街.
The next highlight was the 2 slopes before lunch. That had us panting and working our legs -hard.
Somewhere along the way, we met a 100+strong cycling contingent – the NTU EMBA round island cycling expedition (NTU: National Taipei University). Apparently, they were also going to detour to the Penghu Islands. We were quite amazed that cycling was so huge in Taiwan and even more amazed that here was a group way bigger than ours.
The third highlight/lowlight was the long uphill ride after lunch (by then, the heat was exacting its toll on us). We were relieved we finally cleared it and the road was flat all the way into the next town – Hsinchu.
Dinner was OTOT – own time own target – at the Hsinchu night market. The market was famous for 2 things: Hsinchu bee hoon and meat dumplings. Both lived up to expectations (no photos cause we were too busy eating!)
We decided to retire for the night early as we were pretty bushed. But not before snacking on chicken chop and more stinky tofu on the walk back. and of course, the ubiquitous bubble tea.