Cycling Weekend: Neiwan

With good weather forecast for the weekend and no hot water at home, we decided now was the time to go on our first overnight bike trip here in Taiwan. There’s something really satisfying about travelling away from home under your own power. We chose to head over to the relatively nearby mountain town of Neiwan, home of lots of delicious food, hot spring spas, a suspension bridge and go-karting. It is a very popular day-trip location, yet it has a number of places to stay, so we thought we’d take our chances and see about finding a place for the night once we arrived in town. We had no trouble finding a spot, and ended up staying in a wonderful little B&B type place that overlooked the town.

It took a couple of hours of nice (generally uphill) riding to get into the little mountain town. There were some stretches of road that were a little busy, but it was definitely a popular route for local roadies – we saw many happy cyclists along the way.

arriving in Neiwan

The boardwalk is the first thing we saw when we arrived in Neiwan.

Once in Neiwan we rode around for a while looking for the B&B that we wanted to try first. It took a while to find the way, but we made it, and they had room! We showered up, changed into street clothes and hit the Old Street for lunch. We had some brightly coloured rice buns, pork skewers, glutinous rice tamales and some local oranges. Yum! We also bought some spicy peanuts, sesame cookies and a bottle of local honey to take home. After checking out the bridges and the boardwalk, we looked in on the local hot spring spa, thinking a hot bath would be a great way to relax our legs. However, it was a popular spot, with all the private rooms booked for a couple of hours past our arrival time. We decided to get dinner back at the restaurant that was part of our B&B and see if we still felt like the spa after dinner. In the end, I was pretty tired, so we had a couple of beers and enjoyed the scenery from the suspension bridge, and then hit the hay. There is an old theatre-turned-restaurant in town, and it is apparently a beautiful spot for cherry blossoms in the spring, so I’m sure we’ll be back again!

lunch in Neiwan

Rice buns: just some of the delicious food we had for lunch!

The next day we traveled upstream a little further, before taking an alternate route back to Hsinchu via Beipu. We took far quieter roads, but had a couple of big (category 4) climbs and I was completely cooked by the time we set foot in our apartment. The ride today was the longest I’ve done since we lived in Ontario, and I’m looking forward to logging many more kms and going on a few more overnight trips.

Looking forward to 2013

Well, we are firmly into 2013 now, and after quite some thought, I have decided to record some aspirations for the new year. I say aspirations because I would like to set some weekly goals, however I know already that these goals will at times not be met (for example, during our travels at Chinese New Year).  That’s ok, I just want to have something recorded I can work toward achieving to the best of my ability. 

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Happy New Year!

新年快樂 (Xīn Nián Kuài Lè)!  Happy New Year! 

I had gotten myself into quite a bind about how to spend New Year’s Eve here in Taiwan.  Part of me wanted to go to Taipei to see the fireworks at Taipei101.  The pictures and videos I have seen in years past have been amazing, and to date I have never seen fireworks launched off the sides of a building before.  However, with such spectacle comes crowds, an overloaded public transit system and expensive hotel rooms.  Friends suggested we go into the mountains for a view from above, but Mike and I just were not sure.  In the end we procrastinated until the only rooms left in the city were many hundreds of dollars a night, which was beyond our budget.  We thought about taking a taxi or the train up for the evening and then going home in the wee hours, but it had too much potential to go sour.  Plus, we had another, fantastic offer, right in Hsinchu City!  We decided to catch the celebration at Taipei101 on the news and see what our own town had up its sleeve.

Our fellow Canadian friend, Cynthia, just happens to live right downtown, where Hsinchu’s New Year celebrations were set up.  There was a huge stage with live music, a night market and lots of commotion in the hours prior to the stroke of midnight.  She has access to her roof, so we gathered with a bunch of other foreigners up there with a bag full of bottle rockets and some Gold Medal Taiwan beer to toast the New Year.  We had been told that Hsinchu’s fireworks display is none-too-shabby, and when the clock struck midnight, there were explosions EVERYWHERE!  The city provided a very nicely choreographed display of some huge fireworks, set off from 3 different locations behind the stage, and everyone else had brought some too.  Our building was literally surrounded by booms, sparkle and the smell of gunpowder.  The city display went on for about 10 minutes, and those lit off by other revellers continued late into the night.  What an awesome way to ring in the New Year!