Nov. 9 to Dec. 3, 2015

Michael J. Ferguson

Journal Index


1  Montreal to Amsterdam, to Taipei, Mon. Nov. 9 to Wed. Nov. 11
2  Taoyuan City, Thurs. Nov. 12
3  Taoyuan City, The Search Continues, Fri. Nov. 13
4  Taoyuan City to Taipei, Sat. Nov. 14
5  Taipei, The Final Destination
6  Supply Problems and the Youth Park, Sun. Nov. 15
7  Traffic Oddities and Chaos Mon. Nov. 16
8  Mengjia Longshan Temple, Tues. Nov. 17
9  A River Path, Birds, and Small Streets, Wed. Nov. 18
10  Some Small Markets, Thurs. Nov. 19
11  Xindian and Keelung River Bike Path, Fri. Nov. 20
12  Another Small Market, Sat. Nov. 21
13  Bo-Pi-Liao, 2-28 Memorial Park and the Da'An District, Sun. Nov. 22
14  Taipei 101, Mon. Nov. 23
15  Bao'an and other Temples, Tues. Nov. 24
16  Ximen and some more birds, Wed. Nov. 25
17  Zhongshan Hall, Thurs. Nov. 26
18  Temples and small shopping districts, Fri. Nov. 27
19  Bali and Tamsui, Sat. Nov. 28
20  The Taipei Botanical Garden, Sun, Nov. 29
21  The Days of the Journal, Mon. Nov. 30 and Tues. Dec. 1
22  Taipei to Amsterdam to Montreal, Wed. Dec. 2 and Thurs. Dec. 3

1  Montreal to Amsterdam, to Taipei, Mon. Nov. 9 to Wed. Nov. 11

KLM has WOW fares that it advertises each Wednesday. most of them are for Africa but one of them recently was for Taipei. I decided that the $1119 was too good to pass up, so Taiwan became my next trip.
It was a long flight, with a 13 hour connection in Amsterdam. This was long enough, and Schipol is connected with the Station Centraal by train about every 10 minutes so I decided to buy tickets before I left and spend some time in town. The central district is charming but the weather was not. It was cold and overcast with drizzle and patchy rain. I would like to come back again when it is nicer. The flight to Taipei was about 12 hours and quite uneventful.
I arrived at about 4:30 p.m. and it was dark when I got out of the terminal so I took a taxi to the City Suites Gateway Hotel right by the airport. It would have been difficult to ride anyway, because I had discovered, while rummaging through my carry-on that I had stupidly left my GPS at home. This meant that I didn't even know which direction to ride. I had intended to stay only one night, but the loss of the GPS was a major challenge, and with great difficulty, I was able to increase my stay to 3 nights.

2  Taoyuan City, Thurs. Nov. 12

I tried and failed, for reasons such as the hotel not having Postal Code, to get an internet store to deliver a GPS to the Hotel. Garmin is a Taiwan company so there are many places that sell Garmin GPS. However there were none near the hotel so I created a route using Mapsource and several pdf files, put them on my Kindle. The major problem with the strategy was that I didn't know where I was. My only clues were the twists and turn of the road. My jet-lag did not improve my spirits or energy either. Several times I stopped and was ready to quit. After I entered a busy commercial area, it became really difficult. I thought that I was approaching a major turn so I asked a man where Carrefour was. He did tell me to turn immediately so I continued. After consulting my computer, I felt that I might be on the right road. It dead-ended where it should so I turned to look for the store. There was nothing, and the neighbourhood did not look promising. I saw a man down a small side street and asked him where it was. He had no idea, and since he worked as a parking lot attendant there he knew his neighbourhood. We talked for a while, and I asked him if he could get me a taxi. He was incredulous that I could use one with my bicycle and trailer, but I told him it folded. The taxi came, and in a very short time I was back at the hotel.

3  Taoyuan City, The Search Continues, Fri. Nov. 13

Today I will continue my search, but I will take taxis to find and return from Carrefour. This turned out to be a total waste. Carrefour had only auto GPS. When I returned, I asked the receptionist on the front desk to phone up the six local camping stores that I had found in the web. None had it, and said that ordering would take 3 to 5 days. The hotel is fully booked tomorrow night so I will have to go into Taipei tomorrow. The Garmin Taiwan website said that there was a distributor in Taipei that carried all their products. After several email exchanges I discovered that Garmin did not distribute my Oregon 600 in Taiwan, but their distributor had the newest Etrex 30x.

4  Taoyuan City to Taipei, Sat. Nov. 14

Nothing seems to open before 11:00 a.m.,including the Young Director Corp. which is the Garmin distributor in Taipei so I waited until 10:45 a.m. for my taxi. I had carefully addressed and mapped where I wanted to go and the driver found it easily. Tim Chen, the owner was very nice and had it ready for me. He even gave me the bicycle mount free and put in two batteries. Unfortunately, my driver did not know how to get to the Hua Zhong campsite. After some instructions from Tim, we were on our way. The final closure was a little difficult, but we made it.
I put my tent up in a grassy/tree area behind the trailers. It is not a place that normally has campers, but is close to the WiFi at the reception, and also the washrooms. It will do.
It was very crowded when I arrived, and I was asked if I was looking for the university reunion. It appeared that the National University of Taiwan was having their annual reunion. After some time, I went over to see what was happening. It was almost all over, but everyone still seemed to be having a great time. I was offered food, but didn't really understand the protocol or what was going on. Almost all the booths had been cleaned out. The food was free for the guests. I took two snacks.
I wandered around a bit, but tripped on a stair, fell, and bloodied my knee. This immediately instigated the help and concern of a dozen people, who insisted that I go and get some first aid. It was really quite minor so I insistently refused. However, concerned people followed me around and I finally succumbed. The most persuasive was Aaron Huang who wanted to know all about me and my travels. I showed him my tent, and bicycle and he was quite impressed. His comment though, was, "You sleep every night in that!"

5  Taipei, The Final Destination

My intention on this trip was to take a train from Taipei to Hualien and ride down the east coast. Hualien was also at the entrance of Taroko Gorge, apparently the most spectacular of Taiwan's natural wonders. However, I discovered that the last train to Hualien was before 8:00 a.m. There was no way I could break camp and get to the station on time. This meant that I was going to spend my time exploring in and around Taipei.

6  Supply Problems and the Youth Park, Sun. Nov. 15

Since most stores will probably be closed, I will not be able to get much in the way of supplies. However, a critical purchase is a package of AA batteries. It would be somewhat disconcerting to have my new GPS die and become totally stranded. At a 7-Eleven I tried to get the batteries. Although I made many printed translations of English into Chinese, battery was not among them. After failing to be understood, I opened up the GPS and showed the clerk what I needed. I now have the batteries.
7-Eleven stores are everywhere and the one I stopped at was just opposite a Youth Park. I had no place I really wanted to go so I snacked, had some wine, and watched the badminton and picnics.
I returned to my Hua Zhong Camp via the Riverside Park bike path after stopping to meditate with some banyan trees.

7  Traffic Oddities and Chaos Mon. Nov. 16

One interesting aspect of Taipei traffic is that two wheeled vehicles, such as motor scooters, motorcycles and bicycles are not allowed to make left turns. To turn left, they must cross the intersection and wait in a box until the light changes directions. Motor scooters are everywhere in incredible numbers.
Traffic signals have very long cycles. Frustration is possibly reduced by showing how long you have to wait to turn into a small street from a main one. This actually started showing nothing, but then lighted itself at 99.
Scooters are everywhere, but things are made a little safer because bicycles are allowed on sidewalks, and the scooters dutifully wait for the lights.

8  Mengjia Longshan Temple, Tues. Nov. 17

This morning I stumbled upon the Mengjia Longshan Temple. It is Taipei's and Taiwan's most famous temples. It was indeed popular with families, school groups, and just plain folks. There seemed to be few other tourists like me. It consists of three courts and temples. The outer court was the first gathering centre.
The centre court had a golden incense burner and a table to purchase offerings.
From here, I continued randomly back to camp.

9   A River Path, Birds, and Small Streets, Wed. Nov. 18

Hua Zhong Camp is connected to the bike path on the right bank of the Xindian River. After a few false turns, I found it and started down river with the sun nicely at my back.
One unusual thing was a power tower connecting overhead lines to underground lines.
It was quite uncrowded and pleasant.
I also met Tim Chen, who sold me my new GPS, riding on his way to work. He wanted to know how the GPS was working and then took a picture of me, bicycle, and my airplane legal carry-on trailer. Both the trailer and the handle bar tray intrigued him.
However the highlight of the ride was the birds. Even a professional evidently agrees.
There were several that I had never seen before.
I turned off the path and threaded my way through some typical small streets.
I take advantage frequently of my Helinox chair and stop to rest and observe. On one time I saw this strange retail cluster of shops.
There must be a temple hidden behind. After some difficulty, I was able to cross the street, and go up some stairs to get behind the shops. This was the rear of the temple and not totally inspiring.
A small lane down the street led to a very small back street that had the front of the temple.
The temple was quite small but its alters were as ornate as anywhere.
Then it was back to camp.

10  Some Small Markets, Thurs. Nov. 19

Markets are obviously well known to those that live nearby but are easy to miss while just wandering.

11   Xindian and Keelung River Bike Path, Fri. Nov. 20

The Hua Zhong Camp camp is on the Xindian River and the bike path here goes north to the point at confluence of the Xindian River and the Keelung River, and then turns around down the Keelung River.
Again, especially going north, the birds were the highlight.
Taipei has some elegant bridges. One is the ChongYang.
When I reached the confluence, the mountains on each side were obvious and quite intimidating.
Then I turned and went along the Keelung River. The most interesting bit of architecture was a pipe bridge crossing the river.
The Keelung River cuts across Taipei well north of my camp, so I set the GPS to go to camp. This went well until I had to continue along a non-existent street. For some reason my map had slightly misplaced the Chang Kai Shek memorial. I did a line-of-sight test to get the general direction, rode to a main street, and got the routing again. I didn't go into the memorial but did see some of the periphery.
I then continued, passing the National History Museum.
The rest of the ride was uneventful.

12   Another Small Market, Sat. Nov. 21

Today I decided to explore the area east of WanDa Road that leads into camp. Minfu Rd., the first street really outside the park had an incredibly intense and chaotic market.
Unfortunately, there was light rain for most of the day so I occasionally sought shelter, like many others. While I was in the shelter the Youth Park, a fearless bird flew down right beside it, and stayed, even when I moved up close to get a picture, until a dog chased it away.
I tried to keep on the sidewalks or small streets all the way back.

13  Bo-Pi-Liao, 2-28 Memorial Park and the Da'An District, Sun. Nov. 22

My first objective was the Bo-Pi-Lia renovation, which, when I arrived, discovered was precisely the place that I had previously tried to wheel my bicycle. Bo-Pi-Lia is a renovation of a small area from the time of the Tang Dynasty.
It consists of a small side street angling off from two arcades on the main street. It attracts artists of all ages.
After that I rode to the 2-28 Memorial Park that commemorates an uprising of the Taiwanese against Chang Kai Shek. It is really quite pleasant and crowded on a Sunday afternoon.
I continued down towards the Da'An District, but was stopped again by the Chang Kai Shek memorial. This time I walked my bicycle through it.
The Da'An District is full of shops, and small streets.
The highlight was a concert in the Yonkang Park by the Chien Kuo Senior High School Alumni Wind Ensemble.
On the way back to camp, I stopped at a small park to admire the banyans and watch some Tai Chi instruction.
It was a good day.

14   Taipei 101, Mon. Nov. 23

I started out this morning on the Xindian Bicycle Path up river into the sun. Unfortunately it soon turned off the river and ran through a gritty and depressing industrial area. This is a nicer part of that area.
The birds were scarcer here than down river, but there were some gray herons.
There was also another of Taipei's classy bridges, along with a very utilitarian one.
After a while the sun in my eyes was too much so I turned around. Once you get on the path, it is difficult to get off. I had to ride about half way back to camp to find a place for bicycles to exit. Pedestrians could get out more often by climbing up 30 or stairs to an overpass.
Once I got off, I used my GPS to route me to the Taipei 101, Asia's tallest building. The route was quite distressing and a little scary. I ended up on the Keelung Street Expressway with no way off except at a centre-left exit having to cross two lanes of heavy traffic to do so. That would have been suicidal. At the second chance, the traffic slowed so I as able to get across and off. At that point, I sat down in the shade for about an hour and had lunch.
The rest of the ride to Taipei 101 was uneventful.
A nice piece of architecture nearby was the Metro entrance.
Then I rode back to camp, again into the sun.

15   Bao'an and other Temples, Tues. Nov. 24

Today was a temple day. My objective was the Bao'an Temple complex in the north of Taipei. On my way, using tiny side streets, with even smaller Lanes coming off them I passed several smaller temples, the first two, of which remain nameless.
The third one, the (Mengjia) Qingshan Temple had a sign on another street directing you to it. I don't know the significance of the brackets around (Mengjia). The front facade was not to impressive, but the in side was appropriately lavish. The monks were chanting as I entered.
I continued to Bao'an discovered that this temple had two main sections, separated by a street. The first, across from the main temple also served as a parking lot.
The main temple had several inside courtyards, and several guarding dragons.

16   Ximen and some more birds, Wed. Nov. 25

Today I tried to find Zhongshan Hall but ended up in the Ximen shopping area instead. It looks as if it might be exclusively for pedestrians, but not when I was there. It appears to be a high end area with stores like Boss and Cartier.
I then rode back to the river to watch birds, passing a gazebo in the small Nishi Honganj Square, where a class of school girls were climbing up to inspect it.
This time the Bird Park had about 17 photographers, some with very big lenses.
Along with the ibis, there were mallards, egrets, and a spoonbill.
Then it was back to camp for an afternoon rain shower.

17   Zhongshan Hall, Thurs. Nov. 26

Yesterday I tried to find Zhongshan Hall which was built for the coronation of Emperor Hirohito in 1936 and where a Japanese surrender ceremony was held in 1945. After some difficulty I found it, but was not overly impressed. It may be historic but it is not architecturally exciting.
Just afterwards I passed a traffic circle that much more architectural charm.
The Yung Ni Temple is on a small side street near the Hua Zhong Camp . They have their own website as advertised on the gate and apparently are a little worried about vandalism.
After some more riding I crossed over the Xindian River and rode along the bike path on the left bank.
Then I crossed the Hua Zhong bridge on a narrow sidewalk that left little margin for error. The segregated scooter path looked rather dangerous and was going in the opposite direction.

18  Temples and small shopping districts, Fri. Nov. 27

The past few days have been cold and windy so I decided that I would look for a down jacket at Carrefour. This is not Shanghai where down is plentiful. Carrefour had nothing. So then I rode east passing a small temple on TingZhou Road and stopping for lunch at the Hakka Cultural Center. The Hakka were the original people of this part of Taiwan. Then I ventured into another of the many small shopping streets.
The Treasure Hill Temple was my temple stop of the day.
Then I rode by some houses on Treasure Hill and past a bridge on my way back to camp.

19  Bali and Tamsui, Sat. Nov. 28

Today I crossed all four of the major rivers slicing through Taipei. All of the crossings had bicycle paths but they also had very steep ramps. The first crossing was the Zindian River.
Then it was the Dahan River to get to New Taipei City and the long Taipei Metropolitan Park that cut off a bulge in the Dahan River.
After crossing the Tamsui River, I followed the Bali Left Bank Cycling Path with Tamsui on the other side.
Bali is a short ferry ride from Tamsui, and for some reason, is a popular destination for people staying in Tamsui.
I took the ferry across to Tamsui, and frankly saw little real differences in the waterfronts.
However, the contrast between poverty and prestige was rather obvious.
The bicycle path went back to Taipei on the right bank of the Tamsui
until it hit the north bank of the Keelung River. By this time it was very dark, and my GPS could not do any routing. I was quite lost, but had been told that I had to cross this river. Finally, the path led up to a bridge and I was able to cross. Once I was back into Taipei itself, the routing became functional again and I was able to get back to camp. When I rode in, the people at the gate said, "You are very late tonight!".

20  The Taipei Botanical Garden, Sun, Nov. 29

Today was a lazy day sitting around the Taipei Botanical Garden. mostly watching the people. The central attraction was the lotus pond, with only leaves and no flowers, but there were birds.
An unusual sign was
but there really may have been a danger.
The most unusual tree I saw was a Manilla Tamarind.
There were a few flowers, none with any names.
It was a relaxing day.

21  The Days of the Journal, Mon. Nov. 30 and Tues. Dec. 1

Monday was raining, and on Tues, I decided I didn't need to go anywhere, except to get some water, so I spent the two days working on my journal.

22  Taipei to Amsterdam to Montreal, Wed. Dec. 2 and Thurs. Dec. 3

My flight leaves a few minutes after midnight on Thurs. Dec. 3 so I arrived at about noon on Wed. at Taoyuan Airport. It is over the western hills that surround Taipei, The taxi ride proved to me that the 50km to get there would have almost guaranteed that I would have missed my flight. The first flight was 13 hours from Taipei to Amsterdam. After an 8 hour wait, the second to Montreal lasted almost 8 hours. It was a long, but uneventful flight.


I thought that the air quality was quite good, but apparently the residents don't agree. Many people wore face masks.
Perhaps having lived in Pasadena in 1962/1963 has warped my opinion.
I am also quite happy with the Hua Zhong Camp . The people were very friendly and helpful. My entire 19 day stay cost less than the cheapest night at the City Suites Gateway Hotel by the airport. Although the WiFi only worked right by the office, they added a plug for me so I would not have any problems with my computer running out of power. The camp was right by the Riverside Parks bike path and WanDa Rd. that made for an easy and hectic access to Taipei.
It was a good trip.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 4.03.
On 09 Dec 2015, 04:23.