day 2 – 28 Sep (111km hsinchu to lukang 鹿港)
believe me, it was tough rolling out of our warm beds to put on those damp (damn!) jerseys that still smelt of shower gel. at that moment, i wasn’t sure if i should rejoice (oh, what an adventure!) or regret (why am i doing this?). 8 more days to go. the count down had begun.
and our dear trip leader didn’t make us feel better. i forgot which was dished out first – the good news (only flats) or bad news (120km! go! go! go!). anyway, both didn’t sound particularly promising. 120km on flats. that could be the worst.
but it turned out better than expected.
we took the coastal route all the way from hsinchu to lukang. it was pleasant and scenic so it didn’t really feel like 110km to 120km. and we had many rest stops along the way.
in fact, too many rest stops.
this time, we bumped into another cycling group, a 50 strong contingent of charity cyclists, who were also riding round island. some of the cyclists were over 70 years old! salute!
i think maybe we all felt a bit daunted by the distance so we cycled really fast in the morning. that’s why, in the pm, the pace became more relaxed (since we covered a lot of distance earlier). we took a long break at the giant hq (but it was a sunday so it was closed), then another at a temple (a gold gilded one this time). we reached lukang before 5pm which was quite a good time.
we’d come to lukang last year so we thought to visit some of our favourite stalls there. but were told to head back to hotel before 8pm because there would be a secret procession (to appease some spirits) that night and it was bad luck to be caught in its midst.
we dutifully acquiesced.
the truth was – we were too tired to walk around town anyway.
day 3 – 29 Sep (76km lukang to jiayi 嘉義 )
as a reward (or respite?) from the long ride yesterday, we were allowed to set off 1 hour later than usual. rejoice! waking up at 630am felt more natural than at 530am.
only because we needed to cover just 83km today.
lukang was a town steeped in history and home to many well preserved buildings from bygone eras. our first stop was the longshan temple (鹿港龍山寺), one of the oldest temples (ming-era) in taiwan.
we visited longshan temple the previous year, so all i took were pictures of people.
our next stop was the xiluo bridge 西螺大橋 which connected 2 counties separated by a river. this almost-2km-long bridge was once upon a time, the second longest bridge after the san francisco golden gate bridge. and just as red.
lunch was at this quaint little place 琴蓮碗粿 (qin lian wan guo) at 西螺延平老街 (yan ping lao jie) well-known for its steamed rice cakes and glutinous rice. one of the best meals of this trip -simple, hearty and tasty. 西螺延平老街 was also famous for its dark soy sauce.
interestingly, taiwan was adorned with street art, everywhere we turn. sometimes, in the most unlikely place.
after lunch, we had another long break at an arts museum with a well coiffed garden. it was hard to leave the place. everywhere was quiet and soothing. just perfect for bumming around.
jiayi was completely different. the epicentre of all those 800-hour-long formosa-tv-produced taiwanese-hokkien television dramas was a scene from traffic hell. we had to contend with a thousand traffic lights and ten thousand errant vehicles trying their best efforts to run us down. luckily everyone made it in one piece.
in spite of it, we still reached the jiayi hotel at around 4pm.
that night, they put us up at a very neat boutique hotel. which had a bar area on the 6th floor. we, of course, had to make full use of it.