Taiwan Trip 2024

We waited with a little trepidation for the taxi to arrive at 6pm.  It was a little early, but as it turned into the street, my heart fell - a 5-seater station wagon  was clearly not going to fit four bikes and four people. We had allowed enough time to arrive at the airport three hours early, and I had to remind myself that left plenty of time to drive Jonno and Georgia to the train station whilst Simon and the taxi driver squeezed the bikes and bags into the limited space available.

After a good night’s sleep we were all ready to go early.  Jonno led the way and we were soon at Ximen metro station.  We were discussing the queue markers on the platform when a Taiwanese man helpfully pointed us to the right location.  I thanked him in my best Mandarin and he was effusive in his praise and thought I could actually speak Chinese.  Clearly my pronunciation had improved after many efforts by G to coach me to say thank you correctly.

After a good night’s sleep, we were down for breakfast just after 7am.  There were various dishes available but the fried eggs on white bread toast were the winner.  We took our AeroPress coffee down in the thermos so could enjoy a nice coffee with hot milk. We had a long, uphill cycle today so needed to be well fueled.

It was a leisurely start with breakfast served at 8am. We took our thermos of aeropress coffee down to the dining room and enjoyed our morning coffee with a breakfast of sandwiches, rice roll and toast.  The rice roll was a combination of black rice, egg and pork floss - I’m not sure that any of us managed to eat it all. We chatted to two Australian ladies also travelling around Taiwan but on public transport.

We enjoyed our morning coffee sitting in the sun on our little balcony - which actually had a table and chairs.  It was going to be our warmest day yet.  Si, G and I headed off just after 9am, whist Jonno was still in bed, with plans to leave later.  Our first stop was Wuchang temple, that stood near the epicentre of the 921 Earthquake.  The collapsed temple has been preserved as a reminder of the events of that terrible day, and a new temple has been built next door. 

After successfully booking our tickets to Alishan online, we didn’t have to rush to queue for the bus. We still allowed plenty of time, stocking up with lunch provisions at the 7-11 next to the bus stop.

I had found a new bike path when searching for bike routes in Tainan and Si adjusted our route accordingly so that we could avoid busy roads.  Si, G and I left just before 9, leaving Jonno to check out at his leisure. It was a slow trip through the city with lots of traffic lights but eventually we reached the quieter rural roads.

It was a very overcast morning and even rained a little whilst we were having breakfast. Fortunately it didn’t amount to much and it was cool and cloudy when G, Si and I departed a little after 9am. We left Jonno in bed to check out at his leisure.

Si and I headed down to breakfast around 8am, leaving the kids in bed.  Breakfast was an interesting mix of dishes, from pork in white wine to nuggets and chips.  We tried a few different dishes including a boiled egg before filling up on toast with peanut butter and jam.  Good, healthy cycling food.  G joined us before we had finished.  After a leisurely breakfast, we completed our packing and bid farewell to Jonno with instructions to check out.

No problem getting a Jonno out of bed early this morning.  In our travels yesterday, he had found a place to rent free-diving gear and was up and out first thing to get it.  As Si and I were having breakfast I spotted someone cycling past with panniers. I commented on this unusual sight and then realised it was actually G, up and out getting her rental gear.  G advised that the place we had planned to rent from didn’t rent wetsuits and went in search of somewhere that did.  G soon messaged to advise where to go and Jonno let us know that he was at Shanfu Fishing Harbour.

We allowed plenty of time for the 9am ferry and the bikes were quickly loaded on board.  Back on the mainland we set off along the coast, past heaps of fish farms.   Jonno cycled with us briefly then made his own way at a much faster speed. There was a bike path along Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area but before long we were back on the main road.  We detoured off on occasion with the sea mostly in view.

It was already warm when G, Si and I left a little after 9am. Si and I had been up early sorting washing, purifying water and other chores. We finally finished our fourth bag of granola that we had bought from home, so had purchased some slightly, sweeter and less substantial granola from the supermarket the night before.

Breakfast was served at 8am and was a tasty mix of pink bread, scrambled eggs, vegetables, fruit and yoghurt.  Jonno only ate the bread so we had seconds on the fruit and yoghurt.

I took advantage of the 7:30am opening to use the hot springs before breakfast.  I was the only person there and the young female staff person seemed to be keeping a close eye on me to make sure I followed all the correct procedures.

There was a full buffet breakfast that spanned three sides of the restaurant.  Despite the temptation to have fries for breakfast, we stuck with eggs, toast and fruit as well as some croissants that heated up nicely with two rounds through the toaster.  Jonno didn’t bother to get out of bed for breakfast.

A well deserved rest day that started with a leisurely breakfast served in the hotel.  We are the only people staying so have the place to ourselves, with the owners only there to check us in and then returning briefly to make our breakfast.  As Jonno doesn’t eat breakfast, we divvied his up between us with Simon eating most of his egg toast, whilst I ate his fruit.  We arranged for only three breakfasts tomorrow.

Some additional guests arrived late in the evening so we no longer were the sole occupants of the hotel when we came down for breakfast.  More egg toast though some peanut butter toast as well and a chicken nugget instead of a little sausage. This time we didn’t have to eat Jonno’s breakfast.

Despite all the coffee paraphernalia in the Airbnb, we opted to use the simpler, reliable AeroPress.  Once again we left Jonno in bed and sent him the check out instructions.

It was a slightly warmer, clearer day and we had magnificent views across the rice paddies to the surrounding mountains, just slightly draped in cloud.  We came across the remains of a concrete bridge and debated whether it had been destroyed by floods or earthquake.

It was raining when we woke so we took our time having breakfast and packing.  As we came down to load our bikes, the family group was also getting ready to leave.  Turns out they were from Singapore and travelling with a six and eight year old.  We chatted about travelling by bicycle and shared our plans for the coming days. One of them kindly translated to the host that our absent family member was still in bed and would check out later and hand in the key.  She was relieved to know that the bike hadn’t been abandoned

There was blue skies when we awoke - perfect for a day climbing through Taroko gorge and exploring some of the many walks.  Given the anticipated road closures, with scheduled openings on the hour, Si, G and I were out by around 7:45am.  We confirmed the closure location with the hotel owner, so we knew our 9am destination.  As we were heading out of the 7-11 with our lunch supplies, we spotted the non-conversant Australian cyclists from dinner as they raced towards the gorge. 

We were all on the same train so left together just after 9:30. It was nice to have a slower start to the day.  There was no one at the ticket barrier to let us through so we opened it ourselves so we had enough room for the bikes. Soon after an attendant came out to check our tickets and point us in the right direction.

We started climbing almost immediately and initially the gradient was-easily manageable but it soon became more challenging. Part way up, Si let me know that we could have taken an alternative tunnel route and avoided the hill but we were now committed enough to keep going. 

No one had much enthusiasm for exploring Keelung and I wasn’t prepared to fight the traffic to find the colourful houses or fishing port.  After a leisurely hotel breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast (where the butter came in a can), Si and I wandered across the road to the Maritime Plaza and Guomen Square to check out the port and the famous Keelung sign.