Taipei, oh Taipei why are you so wet ?

Posted: April 11, 2015 in MTB Touring Taiwan 2012
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Friday March 9, 2012

Maybe I should just say a word of thanks for the blue sky and blue ocean days we had in the previous days. All 22 of us should. 23 including the driver. Having rain in the mountains would be more depressing than in the big city where many Plan B’s can be activated. These other plans encompass what tourists do when there’s no cycling to be done, the twin horrors of eating and shopping. While one’s gotta eat, in Taiwan eating is a national pastime and boy did we partake.
I for one am not against shopping, but back home I absolutely abhor it. Maybe because it’s a time waster and maybe because I’d go into a store looking for what I want and get it instantly. Shopping for stuff that I haven’t seen on the screen or in the newspapers isn’t shopping, it’s searching for stuff that might exist in a particular shop but probably doesn’t, so that will involve more walking. But here in Taiwan as a tourist and with my lovely wife by my side, I guess one has to be less anal about one’s once highly held principles and just go with the flow of things.
I even bought 2 bike magazines, something I’ve not done in years, and I swear the bikini clad cyclists on the cover did not influence me one bit.Taiwan does still make about 5 million bikes per year down from 10 million in the past, but the good thing is that Taiwanese are discovering bike touring in their own homeland and some of those 5 million bikes are being used in their country of birth. This accounts for a good number of bike shops in town, and in those shops I will out shop my wife, tremendously.
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the Taipei 101 building in another weather zone

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the ‘Golden Riverside’ bike paths with nary a bicycle on it

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the wet weather is making me crabby

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We visit Jioufen, a former gold mining town in the hills. It’s touristy, it’s crowded, it’s wet and cold but it has a 7-11. What I would give to ride up that hill in drier weather

Jioufen was a sleepy fishing village until the early 1900′s when gold was discovered in its hills. It reached its peak of mining activity during the Japanese occupation around the time of WWII and actually had captured Allied soldiers working its mines.

Influenced by the Japanese, many tea houses and inns sprang up and flourished in the town until the closure of the mines in the early 70′s.

Jioufen received a new wave of attention after a few popular movies were filmed there in the early 1990′s. The tea houses were then restored and tourism has reinvigorated the local economy with hundreds of tourist shops, handicrafts, and artists’ studios. A number of pricey guest houses dot the ‘village’ for those into sunrises and sunsets, and maybe a bike ride into the hills.

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You will never go hungry in the back streets of Jioufen or for that matter, most of Taiwan

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She’s shaving a block of hardened palm sugar and peanuts. It’s generously sprinkled into a spring roll topped with 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream. The queue was long…

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‘Without 5 Chinese grams of gold, don’t think about marriage’ …… Sage advice

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Rain soaked suburbs of Jioufen

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At the Orbea concept shop

With the wet weather and heavy traffic, our side trip extended into the night where we drowned our sorrows in some big bike shops and more eating. I had spoken with that cyclist in the yellow rain jacket as he was scoffing his 3rd bowl of noodles in Jioufen. What do you know, hours later, in Taipei he’s browsing in a bike shop. He said the ride up and down the hills was horrific, fogged out and wet, but as a tourist from Hong Kong, he made the most of it and was glad to be back in town without any mishap.

He wasn’t in a hurry to look for a place to stay yet. I like his priorities.

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they’re still around but this time in 3 D

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a shoe shop with more than shoes

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and from Korea, vertical dumb bells are the rage

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Danshui’s ‘old streets’ are the real deal if like me, one is averse to multi floored malls

It seems that staying 3 nights in Danshui proved to be a stellar choice. A nice riverside setting, in a quieter northern suburb of Taipei that was easily accessible by train to everywhere else. Like Jioufen, the older parts of Tamshui have been gentrified into closed streets on the weekend, where even local Taiwanese find it an attraction to be here. Then there are the bike paths on both banks of the river, which some brave souls decided to ride in the rain. These extend into the hills too, but given the slippery conditions and bleak skies, I decided to pass. Nothing could compare with the almost perfect weather just days ago. That and the Green Power Cycle Shop.

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 The Green Power Cycle shop in Tanshui, by the riverside, it’s only security guard out for a stroll. It has since closed down, (in 2014) partly due to the city’s bike share scheme…..sobs…
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15 customers, 1 sales ‘kid/mechanic’

While casually walking back to our hotel from the subway station, we (me and wifey only) noticed a bike rental place among a row of drab shop houses. Everything looked drab and cold in this perpetual drizzle. I guess 10 deg C would look much better in bright sunshine but alas, that’s meant for another time.

A cursory glance indoors revealed, hmm, take a wild guess, not too many bicycles and lots of accessories. I seriously don’t need another bike, but looking through the small stuff revealed 2 price tags each. Aha, sale ! and a pretty good one. 30 to 50 to 70 % off on some tags.

I had to do a double, double take on the Ortliebs, down from NT$4100 to just NT$1100. US$35.00 for my new Classic Handlebar bag, amongst other stuff. The large back rollers were priced at an incredible NT$2200 or US$75.00. Thinking that these were fakes from China, I checked the accompanying hardware, the much maligned wire attachment system, printouts and small catalogue. They were too real to be copies.

After the news spread that very night, everyone’s last day plans changed and guess where they went bright and early the next morning?

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 Luckily for him some others are in the Giant shop 2 minutes away

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Yes it’s big enough for your precious bike too

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You’ve been warned

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Time to check out and I see 3 brand new boxes here

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encouraging

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The rain lets up during our final 6 hours in Taipei

It’s time too wrap up this journal, with apologies for the long delay. I guess the hallmark of a good trip is when 6 people gather for lunch at 11.30 am and finish off at 4 pm just talking about it and the gathering was supposed to be about the next trip. While there’s some doubt as to who reached the Wuling summit first, maybe just maybe we might add some wives to the discussion, so as to diffuse any male egos claiming to be the first!

Would I do anything differently the next time round ? That’s a question that cannot be answered, mostly because as I am a Taiwan virgin / newbie, all the planning was done by selfless Goerge and his wife plus a handful of others. It would be much better to spend more nights in the mountains, that’s for sure.

Now that we’ve gone up that high road and massive downhill credit card style, what else is there to top that ? Doing it with luggage ? That will hurt. Going the reverse way ? That will hurt big time.

Rumour has it that we’ll head south to the beaches and face the headwinds, languish in their delectable seafood, fruit orchards and hospitality of the southerners.

Thank you friends and fellow cyclists. Thank you Taiwan, it was a very nice mishap free ‘deflowering’ for me and Coleen.

“JIA YOU !!!” X 1000 !

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There’s always another time……….like next year !
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