days 4, 5, 6 – from the insipid west coast to the gorgeous east coast.
day 4 – 30 sep (125km jiayi to kaohsiung 高雄)
the bandannas moved down from our heads to our face (to ward off the sun, smog etc). so, we looked like colourful bandits with strange headgear. maybe it was the heat; i couldn’t remember much about the journey except that we were all cycling very fast to escape from the sun. we did have a long break at a nice japanese style garden that even had a tori. and we passed the tropic of cancer line in rueisuei township. the tropic of cancer is an imaginary line 23.5 °C north of the equator where the sun is directly overhead at noon during summer solstice.
it took me a while to comprehend why my cycling mates were so excited to pass a thin red arch that wasn’t much to look at.
but i remembered the lunch well 周氏虾捲 zhou shi xia juan. even though i couldn’t eat xia juan (prawn rolls), most of the other food were delicious. another winner.
before we turned into kaohsiung, we stopped by lover’s wharf @ xingda 興達港情人碼頭. it was just a marina by the sea, with kitschy heart-shaped arches. and i was so wishing the owner of this boat would turn up and put an end to my boredom. :p
day 5 – 1 oct (98km kaohsiung to sichongxi hotsprings 四重溪溫泉)
kaohsiung was devastated by a fatal gas explosion in july; but we couldn’t tell. there was no signs of the earth shattering damage it’d sustained 2 months before. the highway we cycled alongside was bustling – in fact the explosion site was just 2 streets away.
interestingly, kaohsiung was originally named takau isle (bamboo forest) by aboriginal settlers. this was later translated into takao (打狗) by ming explorers. when the japanese took over in 1895, they deemed 打狗 uncouth and changed it to 高雄 (also pronounced takao in japanese).
bidding kaohsiung farewell, we moved on heading towards pingtung. at pingtung, we paused to have some ice cold dessert 潮州冷熱冰 at a popular joint. it was similar to ice kacang except the ‘kacang’ was replaced by yam balls and other taiwanese sweet dumplings. a tad on the sweet side but a icy treat on yet another hot day.
lunch was at an eatery along the highway: ping tung’s most reknowned dish: wan luan pig trotters 萬巒豬腳 . it’s pork knuckle braised in a specially concocted sauce.
post lunch, we sped along the coast until we hit a marina and there we took a long break while the crew checked and tuned all the bikes for what’s to come the next day. as they say, ignorance is bliss; which was why we had a good time relaxing next to the beach.
then, it was into the hills, the sichongxi hotspring area, as we made for the south formosa hotel which was located on top of a steep hill. the night’s dinner was lamb pot (stew) at yet another popular joint – but pungent lamb wasn’t really up my alley. so glad i could supplement dinner with supplies from the convenice store next to the lamb pot place.
day 6 – 2 oct (102km sichongxi to Jhiben 知本)
we finally realised why the crew took pains to service each bike yesterday. from south formosa hotel, it would be 33km of climbing till shouka 壽卡鐵馬驛站 via route 199 (hills and more hills!) and another 17km to lunch point via highway #9. by then we would have ascended 400m at the highest point.
after flag off, we ploughed straight into an adrenaline-pumping climb up the hills.
the first high-point was a huff-and-puff affair as cyclists struggled visibly to reach the peony dam 牡丹水庫 (7 km). this was followed by smaller, meandering hills all the way to 東源水上草原 (16km) and then more meandering but more downhills to shoukatiemayi station 壽卡鐵馬驛站 (10km). my legs were wobbly like jelly by then and there was a big hole in my tights.
lunch was at 大武同發順海產餐廳, not very inspiring in my view (since seafood was not my thing) but provided good sustenance. after lunch, we hit the beautiful east coast and that made us feel all the pain was worthwhile. however, we couldn’t rejoice yet, because there were 3 more tough hills ahead. aw.
when we reached金崙 we knew the hills were done. we took a long rest here before rolling into toyugi hot springs resort 東遊季溫泉渡假村, looking forward to a soak in the hotsprings that night.