Monday, March 03, 2008

Birthday Recap

I borrowed my friend Craig's bike. It's a Dahon - which means it folds up so you can take it on the train. If you have a non-folding kind, you either aren't allowed to bring it on the train or are forced to pay an extra full fare - lame! Dahon bikes fold up and come with a traveling case. They fit nicely in the luggage compartment on the trains and the train officials won't give you any hassle. Unfortunately, I forgot to borrow Craig's bag so had to do with some large garbage bags instead.

We took the high speed train from Taipei Main to Tainan. From there, we caught the free shuttle into town and got off near the university and started biking around town. I enjoyed seeing a new city - the fourth largest in Taiwan. Once we got to the water, we enjoyed the sun setting. Afterwards we happened upon a street market where I got to buy a variety of eggs - I think they were salted duck eggs, but maybe they were century eggs. Anyways, they were really good - with that yolk consistency that I can gobble up - sort of creamy instead of thick and choking as in a plain boiled egg.

We also made a stop based on the line outside a store. The sit in line was all the way to the road and then some. The take out line was much shorter. So we hopped in there before even knowing what they sold. That's the Taiwan way - follow the line. It turned out to be a good choice - they specialized in jelly dou hua, which is a tofu pudding with small tapioca balls. 安平豆花 An Ping Dou Hua on Anping St.

We wandered around looking for a place to eat dinner. This turned out to be quite tough - there were a lot of mediocre looking places - catering to tourists or chain restaurants. Finally, we went back to an alley near our hostel that had some fresh seafood outside. It turned out to be an excellent choice. Inside were lots of local families and they served us the best squid I've ever had. It was roasted just right so as not to be chewy. We also got a special kind of vegetable (shan cai) that was oh so delicious. (If you want to find it, it's on your way south on Nanmen, near 259, down an alley on the left [east], on the north side of the alley. You can't see the dining room from the street, but it's quite large and has about 10 bottle openers on each wall.)

Tainan City Labour Recreation Centre

261 Nanmen Rd (a full block past 259)
886 6215-0174
They only had a 4 bed room for $1200NT when we arrived. They called another local place that had a room for 2 at $800 NT. We went to look for it but couldn't find it so came back. Then the lady offered us a room with just one large bed for $570. The room was HUGE - big bathroom with tub, TV, refrigerator, extra blankets, couch, desk, etc. It had plenty of room to store our bikes. Hot water is only 6pm-midnight. There's an elevator and Chinese newspapers in the lobby.

The next day we rode from Tainan to Kaohsiung. We were mostly on busy roads but eventually got off the highways onto smaller roads and smaller towns which made it more enjoyable. I saw a sign for hand made noodles and we stopped for lunch. I tried a 麻將?麵 ma jiang mian, which was tasty. This was technically brunch, so when we go to the Kaohsiung train station we stopped for lunch. We were biking looking for the tunnel to the other side of the station where the buses are, and happened to hear a lot of noise coming out of a nice, simple looking restaurant. A couple of large round tables were filled with family/friends getting drunk. It looked like just the place to try - filled with locals. They did not disappoint. We asked for their special dishes and got this beef one - oh so tasty, along with a tofu dish and rice. Yum.

The tunnel entrance happened to be hidden by some parked cars just opposite the restaurant, so it was lucky we stopped to eat. We hopped to the other side to get some bus tickets. The first place wanted to charge full fare extra for each bike (even though they fold). So we walked to the next one where they said we could put it in the bus storage for free (as expected).

We got dropped right in the middle of the night market and made our way to the Catholic Church just off the road. Since we had bikes they put us on a first floor room to make it easier for us. $800 for one night. The first room was quite large with 2 double beds and a large bathroom. We decided to stay another night instead of biking with all of our gear - but the second night they moved us across to a smaller room with 4 twin beds and a shower that gave us hot water only once. However, the room suited, as it was right by the night market but without any of the noise.

We spent the next day biking all around the park, including to the southern most tip of Taiwan. There is a park that charges 40 NT entrance fee, but access to the tip is just a bit further up the road down a long bricked path - and free. I went to the park last year with Tuyet when we were on our tour of Kending. You can walk along paved roads lined with grass fields, see an old light house, and then look off cliff edges. However, if you've got a bike, it's better to just bike to the tip and then around the rest of the (free) park. At the top of one particularly grueling hill there was a truck with a load of coconuts. A nice reward for hard work. It wouldn't have been so tough except for the strong winds that Kending is famous for. They come in gusts and nearly blow you off balance unless you're quick to react. Luckily there isn't much traffic, so you don't have to worry about being blown into a car that often.

On the NW side of our ride we stopped at the natural fires. Tuyet and I stopped here last year and had some eggs and di gua. This year there was still a man there selling food illegally, but the stones that had formed a circular pit around the fires were now all in heaps around individual fires. It had quite a different feel, but was still fun to witness. Apparently, there are natural gasses trapped underground that come out bursting into flame.

We made our way back to Taipei by doing the whole thing in reverse save the ride between Tainan and Kaohsiung. You just wave down the bus on the main road in Kenting if the ticket sellers haven't opened yet and pay on the bus. We rode from Kaohsiung Main Station to the High Speed Station (even though there is a shuttle) so that we could pick up breakfast/lunch on the way. And we high sped it back to Taipei to make it in time for disc.

Overall a great weekend! I'm ready to get my own Dahon -- except that there's a wait list and even if I order now may not get one til June! Til then, I'll try to keep borrowing other's.


Gretchen said...

Have you checked out Brompton bieks?
One of my coworkers recently got one and he loves it.

Lin said...

Thanks for the tip! I don't know much about bikes - just did a bit of research and think I like the Dahon over the Brompton options - mostly because of price and quality. I'd really rather test ride them to make a decision since they're pricey. Right now I'm looking at the Cadenza 26" wheel and the Hammerhead 8.0 and Speed Pro TT. I rode a Speed TR (the one in the picture) and a Zero G (no longer sold).