Last day in Taiwan, USA bound

We spent this morning touring Chiayi, accompanied by our tourist bureau sponsors. We visited the train museum, a red cypress sculpture museum, a replica Japanese dormitory, among other things. Because we were VIPs, we received a gift bag, met some transportation officials, and rode on a very special train hand-carved of red cypress wood. This train is not rideable by the public so this was a big honor indeed.

After that we had a burger lunch. This was not just any burger rather it was an all organic farm to table experience, which is also a Sacramento theme. All the produce is from local farms and the farmers are known by name. The Freen (fresh and green) Burger is one of many businesses opened by young Taiwanese who go back to their home towns to honor history and infuse new ideas.

After that we took the bullet train to Taipei; it travels at speeds up to 300 km/hr. Super clean, just like the rest of the country.

After arriving at 15:26, we had time for a VERY brief tour of Taipei because we had to head to airport at 20:30. Check out the photos!!

To summarize the trip, it was FANTASTIC! The country is so beautiful – it is compact yet offers so many different climates – mountains, beach, jungle, metropolitan city, charming towns. And we can’t say enough about the people, from Peter our tour guide to encounters with people on the street, everyone was incredibly nice, sweet, and helpful. If you are looking for a new destination that has it all, including some good cyclin hills, then go to Taiwan!!! It won’t disappoint!!

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From Alishan to Dongshi to Chiayi

Yesterday we traveled from Alishan to DongShi for the last evening of our trip. We drove through the highlands of Alishan, which is famous for its exclusive red tea. In Dongshi we were honored as VIPs at the 23.5 Tropic of Cancer festival! BTW, our tour program’s theme was the Tropic of Cancer so it all came together yesterday!

Dongshi is a fishing village and is source of most of the country’s oysters. We saw informal oyster shucking “stations” on the city streets. Baskets of empty oyster shells lines the city streets.

We ate lunch at a place called “spraying water chicken food”. This restaurant is a popular place in the town of Chiayi and is a regional specialty. For lunch we enjoyed such goodies as pig intestines, turkey heart soup, and sautéed oysters in brown sauce!!

We stayed at the Nice Prince Hotel in Chiayi, which was very (as the name suggests) nice!! See the pic of Mr. Chen, our driver, who is posing in front of the hotel. He was great!! The hotel room well equipped with the usual bible etc, but it also had a fire emergency poncho/hood and a flashlight – the Taiwanese are very safety minded!!

One of our favorite things about it was the BAR!! We enjoyed our last tour dinner with Candy, our tourist bureau sponsor and shared some of our ideas on how to market Taiwan to cyclists.

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Alishan Park

Another delicious multi-course dinner, this one in the dining room of the Alishan House hotel!! Note the taro sculpture garnish on the shrimp dish.

This morning we got up at 3:20 to take the train to the top of the mountain to see the sunrise…how beautiful!! As expected, the place was loaded with folks that had the same idea. It was quite chilly up there, maybe 45 degrees F. I rented a coat for around $3.00 but you can see that it was not necessary because could have just worn room robes!!!

The vendors were up early on the mountain. In fact, we enjoyed a bit of warm “Mr. Brown”. Any guesses on what this is (don’t be gross!)?

No breakfast is complete without a helping of pig head skin salad!! Culinary experts say it is in a tasty high spice dressing and the flesh is very chewy!!

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Beautiful area and accommodations in Alishan

We arrived this afternoon to Alishan national forest; the place is beautiful and a well-loved holiday destination of mainland Chinese. Thankfully, big tourist buses are prohibited in the park which provides some respite from the masses.
Our lodgings are lovely; see pics of suite…I am pretty sure that my room is nicer than Butch’s!!!
After we checked in we went for a walk in the forest to see the big trees. Although they look like redwoods they are actually cypress trees.
We saw a Buddist monastery (nunnery) in the forest and a prayer ceremony was in progress. Note the picture of the women; one of them does not have a shaved head and this is because she has not been fully ordained yet.

We have really been surprised and delighted by the beauty of Taiwan. Prior to visiting all that came to mind was electronics, big cities, and bike frame manufacturing. Now we know there’s so much more!!
PS: The bar at our luxurious hotel, the Alishan House, is closed for renovation!! We are barely making it!!!
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Sun Moon Lake to Alishan Forest

After a restful sleep at the Hotel Del Lago, we got on the road at 8. First stop was a beautiful Buddist temple. Butch and I both rang the gong after making a wish.
There was a big earthquake in 1999 that severely damaged the temple – see the pic, it has since been rebuilt.
Then we drove around Sun moon Lake, drove through Yu Shan forest, and also Jade Mountain national park. Spectacular!!! At the top of Jade Mtn, we got out if the van and got on our bicycles!! We saw monkeys on the way – we were warned to stay a good distance away or they will jump on you for snackies!! We rode all the way down to Alishan National Park/Forest. Very lovely ride in a forest that is very much like the redwoods, about 20 km. See the picture of our delightful tour bike guides. More later on the beauty of the area.

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Another fantastic day

Today we drove over a windy mountainous road from Taroko Gorge on the East side of the island to the west side. The highest peak’s elevation was around 10000 feet. We didn’t cycle it, but would definitely give it a go on the next trip. We saw a total of 3 cyclists attempting the mountain, all riding solo.
Great lunch today – we had Chinese food (ha ha, actually here they just call it food). It was a little spicy, ala Yunnan province style . The highlight was the deep fried worms…they were actually pretty good, if a hint bland. Enjoy the photos!!

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Another fine day in Taiwan

Today we started riding at 9 am from our hotel on our Giant brand hybrid bikes, 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity!!! Taiwan is very biker friendly with an extensive network of biking trails, (like the American river trail, no cars allowed) and even the major highways have designated bike and scooter lanes.
Rode 30k, but due to the humidity it felt like much longer. We rode past a very charming minimal security prison. The “guests” keep the grounds well tended; note the topiary picture!!
After the ride, we drove to the Taroga Gorge, the top tourist attraction in Taiwan.
The gorge has Stunning marble walls that jut high into the sky. We went for a short walk and they had us wear hard hats just in case of rock slide. The highway thru the gorge was hand hewn in 1915 during the Japanese occupation and 225 people died during its construction.
The hotel at which we’re staying, the silk palace, is quite nice and we are told it is the only 5 star place in the area. The only complaint (but its a biggie!!) is that it does not have a bar???!!!20130618-190324.jpg20130618-190406.jpg20130618-190425.jpg20130618-190443.jpg20130618-190518.jpg20130618-190500.jpg

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Good day of riding with an abundance of tasty snacks!!

Monday was a very full day, but exciting!! We arrived into TPE bright and early and then at noon we flew out from the domestic terminal to Hualin, a city of 100k on the eastern side of the island.
From there we ate and ate the most delicious seafood and then rode and rode! Although it was only 60 km it felt like 100! Oh, did i mention that it was raining??? After the ride, we ate and ate another fabulous dinner.

The dumplings here are out of this world – little velvety pillows of oral pleasure!!!

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Cool lodgings

After a day of gorging and riding we were so looking forward to a nice bed. Bed, you ask?? Well, you walk into the room and see there are cushions and bamboo mats on the floor…. Evidently this area of the country experienced a strong Japanese influence… No bed but a very nice Japanese style suite…complete with sleeping pad and tiny soaking tub.
Taiwan is known for its beautiful orchids, which were discovered here. The hotel grounds were lush and spacious, with loads of orchids.

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Arrived safe and sound, not to mention well-rested!!

Great non-stop flight from SFO to TPE. Our trip sponsors provided access to the China Airlines lounge, which was a luxurious way to start out!! The lounge had great snackies including chips, apples, and Cup-O-Noodles…oh, and it also had alcoholic beverages :)

We received VIP pickup service on arrival. See picture of Butch and driver.
The TPE airport is elegant, spacious, and spotless and leaves a first impression that there are more good things and beautiful places on the way.

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