Take me out to the ball game!

Baseball’s a popular sport in Taiwan, and on Thursday we got out to see a CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League) game! There are four teams which rotate play through 12 stadiums across the island. The number of games at each stadium is weighted by population, and Hsinchu’s stadium has 10 scheduled games (out of 240 total) this season. I was really excited for this game, as there won’t be another in town until the end of July.

More after the jump…

Shrimp Fishing!

When you drive around the Hsinchu area, it is not uncommon to see many people sitting in lawn chairs around shallow, aerated concrete ponds. As it turns out, they are shrimp fishing, a popular pastime here!

I’ve been intrigued by it for a while, and a friend just had his birthday party at a shrimp fishing place that is near his house. I should tell you now, we don’t live that close to the coast. It turns out that urban shrimp fishing adds convenience to the joy of fishing… by bringing it right to your doorstep!

It is pretty simple to do. First you rent a rod by the hour, with bait provided. The proprietor at our pond was even kind enough to check that the hooks and float were set to the right length. That’s all that you really need! Stick a small piece of bait on your hook and then be patient. You simply watch your float, and as soon as it moves unusually, you tug the shrimp out of the water and stick it in your net. Here we are giving it a try:

Fishing for shrimp. Photo credit: Cynthia Lapierre.

We were told the shrimp weren’t too active because of the cool weather, but each of us landed to manage a few! The best part is that when you are done they’re salted, barbecued and served with soy sauce and wasabi. Yum!

Sampling the catch! Photo credit: Cynthia Lapierre.

Want to see shrimp fishing in action? The BBC did a story about it in November, which you can watch here.

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.

Friday Night in Downtown Hsinchu City

Outside of the train station in Hsinchu there is a great public area, where there are often performances going on. Two weekends ago we drove past a very professional looking choir in tuxedos and evening gowns. This past weekend we decided to drop by, grab baked potatoes with all the fixings (cheese sauce, broccoli, bacon, ham and the ubiquitous canned corn) from a nearby street food stall for dinner, and watch whatever was on that night. We arrived to a big gathering with many young student dance groups. After the dancing ended, balloons were handed out to the crowd for this….

There’s always something interesting going on in Hsinchu City!