8:10 am, Friday, Jan 27th, 2017
Off on my second bike trip to visit Taiwan’s east coast. The Taitung area, to be more specific. A lady recently asked me if I was planning to bike all around Taiwan. In Mandarin Chinese it’s called huándǎo 環島. Was quick to reply that cycling around could be interesting, but my current dream is to huán hǎi 環海, or sail around the world on a sailboat. Wasn’t so sure if the term huán hǎi was commonly used in Chinese, but she understood anyhow. The short conversation I had with her was more precisely:
Which means translates as:
“Traveling around the island is a bit boring, I want to travel the seas and oceans.”
The feeling I have lately is somewhat inspired by a line in an Arcade Fire song.
“I have the notion of crossing the Atlantic Ocean”.
Only difference is that I want to add a bike to the formula. A bike and an old school Nordic Folk boat.
So anyhow, here I am off on another short trip. Sticking to the coastal areas. The pure oxygen and clean air must be fantastic inland in the mountains, but still think the air quality on the eastern coast is fresh enough. Much fresher than the industrial west coast. Tainan has been having higher than normal PMI levels lately. The Taiwanese weather and air quality app. That I use, gives a pretty good picture of what’s happening.
Train ride was the same as last new year. Ticket purchase with a bike always throws the ticket clerks off. What? You are bringing a bike? Let me look up the regulations and ticket prices on the system. 20 or 30 minutes later, the clerk tallied up the price for a no-seater ticket. Same as my last trip. Non luxury caboose. When I say non luxury this is it. Still like it, since I’m all alone at the back of the train. Can move around freely and check out the sites from the back door space.
Feel asleep about halfway through the 7 or 8 hour train ride. Some other foreigner was quickly assisted by the well organized train crew. The rush of wind that came in when they slid open the doors, awoke me. The rest of the ride got a bit raunchy. The train staff had left the back door to the caboose opened to provide some air, since I was seated not to far from roaring diesel engines. About thirty minutes through this, the engine maintenance engineer escorted me to some free seats, two coaches up. Sat nice and comfy in a reclining seat.
All of a sudden the grey skies had turned to a glistening blue and the vegetation was beautifully lush. This part of the trip is all about going through tunnels. That’s what the east coast is to me. Train ride through tunnels built on these mountains, that where probably once part of the ocean bed. Watching documentaries about the Mariana Trench and others kind of opens your eyes to how geography happens in this part of the world. How the numerous islands in the area, including Japan, Philippines and Taiwan were formed in the geological past, just boggles my mind. Understanding how the Mariana Trench was formed is an even bigger mystery.
It’s depth is almost the same as it’s relative distance to Taiwan – a bit over 10 km.
Back to the Taitung trip. Two spots I plan to visit this time around. First attraction is Xiǎoyě liǔ 小野柳, which I had passed by without really noticing on my first trip. It’s a nicely manicured coastal garden with lots of nice trees and crafty and artistic rock arrangements and paths. There’s a nicely designed wooden path that leads to the coast where you can see some interesting sand rock formations. Worth checking out.
Biked in that direction, but met up with another cyclist while riding in that direction. He was also visiting the east coast to get some fresh air. He works in Kaohsiung, not so far from Tainan. I should try to hook up with him again for a meet up ride, where he cycles from Kaohsiung to Tainan, and I do the opposite. Meet halfway so to speak. He’s quite dedicated to cycling but also runs and swims. That makes him a triathlete! We cycled at a quick pace for about 30 km. We exchanged FB info and I decided to go for a dip in the ocean nearby. He kept on cycling towards Hualien. The picture with the scarf is me after that quick and long bike ride.
Life in Dulan was almost the same as last time. Got the chance to check out some concerts and play some music with locals and foreigners. That’s probably the highlight of my trip. Just having a beer with musicians and chatting it up. Met a French guy who plays various styles. He’s written quite a few of his own rock songs, but also enjoys playing Django Reinhardt songs. He calls the Gypsy styled swing, “manouche”. Plan on traveling to France to join his band and work on a music project. He lives in Provence, and we will practice for a month or so and then set off on a tour down south in Spain, or perhaps Belgium. Depends on if his friend who owns a van will join us on trips. Might also be a chance to work on more French to English translation projects.