We make holes in teeth!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Taiwan Day 38 - Dim Sum in Taipei

This morning I woke up and realized I had nothing to eat, so I ate some Pepperidge Farm Chesssmen cookies and a protein bar for breakfast. That's go to be a bad sign. I know the rules say I'm not supposed to bring food into a guests house. But I need to stop eating so many cookies. Though some of these buns are probably the nutritional equivalent of sugar cookies.

With the lunch plans at noon that gave me about 3 hours to ride because we needed to do a few things before we left. I've said it a few times, I'm pretty tired. I've ridden my legs into the ground but I need to get my time in now. It ended up being 73 degrees and sunny today, so I need to take advantage of it. Coupled with the fact our house currently looks like this and I have to get out there when I can:

Rolling down the hill this morning I have to admit that I think this thing may disintegrate at any moment. I really just need to make a few more rides then I can hide it in a corner and deal with it when we come back, maybe next summer or the one after that. The rims of the wheels must be about ready to buckle and collapse from the constant grinding away of the surface. I think that's what I would replace for the next trip. That and maybe the frame and all the components.

Went up to the close hill with views in both directions and the wild dogs were out in full force this morning. I wonder if people are being extra generous this week and they're just everywhere because of it. Where I might normally see 5, I saw probably a dozen today. Until I got to the bike path this was the theme of the ride. Lots of dogs.

The view was ok. The haze was pretty solid so you couldn't really see a whole lot. Here's my token iPhone pic from the river paths:

That was my ride, up & over the hill, down the river paths around a small island, then back home up and over the hill again because I didn't feel like dealing with too much traffic and that's the best way to avoid it. The day was nice, I was tired, and that was the best way to enjoy it and get back home. Many people were out today, people up at the peak looking out, people climbing that hill on their bikes and on foot, and many people out on the river paths. It was a good day to be out.

Back at the house I eat another protein bar, a steam bun, soft guava, and a coffee for recovery. I'm not eating enough of the guavas, which isn't smart since I love them and I just can't get them in the states. Well, you may be able to get the hard ones which I also really like. But the soft ones you can't. When I get home I'm going to eat nothing but fruit & veggies for 2 weeks straight. My diet here has gone to crap.

After much discussion about what we should bring for the lunch cousins, we set sail and quickly hit the Starbucks to pick up some gift boxes for the 4 cousins that are going to be there. Key number there is 4, some of which are vegetarian which is what the discussion was about. The vegetarians here tend to be Buddhist vegetarians, which means that in addition to the standard of not eating cow, pig, and monkey, they also don't eat any dairy, eggs, garlic, leek, scallions, and so on. They key here was dairy and/or eggs, which is in like everything.

So anyway, we stopped to get 4 of these things in a tin with gift bags, and made it to lunch at 12 but the parking lot was full so we ended up being 10 minutes late. When we walked in and sat down, the first thing Nat says to me is, "There's 6, not 4."


We kinda got lucky though, as there just happened to be a Starbucks right outside the door of the hotel where we were eating. So I went out with Julia under the pretense that we were going to do some speedballs and get her lunch (which we did, a glazed donut), and at the same time I grabbed 2 more tins to make 6. I'm sure some of them caught the make-up, but it was the best we could do.

It was a long lunch, and by the time we got out it was about 2:30. All Julia had to eat was a glazed donut (and a bottle of anything, to go, naturally). So we took a pit stop at the McDonald's to grab some fries and a coffee. Here she is posing for a pic with her new kicks. I love these shoes:

After McD's we started towards the car and saw Hooters, where I had to try and do Terren justice with a pic. I took 3 in all but this one is the winner:

Right next door to the girl was a wine shop, where we stopped in to get some wine for Calvin and Grace since I've been drinking all theirs. One advantage we have here is that, while most people speak some English, most people can't understand it well enough to follow what we're saying. So Nat would talk to him and she would talk to me. At some point, he chimed in, and said a few words in English, and Nat called his bluff. Turns out Dude Man worked in Manhattan for 17 years.

Julia was bored but she did pose for a pic. Still loving the kicks:

We then found some shopping, where we stumbled upon the Taipei City Mall which is underground. I got more looks than usual, which is odd for Taipei, so I have to imagine that this particular area is not a real common place for white people to hang out. On that note, I did see a white dude with a kid outside when we were going to Starbucks and the look on his face was priceless. I nodded to him and he looked away. I'm still puzzled by this white-hate by other white people. Sorry man, none of us are really that special. Well I am because I ride a bike faster than you. As a side note, I'm not doing this recap under the influence of beer. Really.

We did find a bong shop back out in the daylight. When I walked in I got a sly smile and a knowing nod from the girl working there. Those days are 15 years gone for me but I still enjoy going into these places and checking them out. Yes, my mom reads this blog.

We met up with Calvin & Company real quick but many of the shops were closed so we grabbed a scallion pancake (decent, not great) and hit up the mall real quick one more time then took off. Calvin gave me directions on how to get out so we didn't ride around in circles all night.

On the way back we stopped to get some chicken and Grace cooked 2 veggies and the pork/bamboo/egg leftovers. They were still awesome. We need to get the recipe for this.

Ok I'm too far behind to proofread this. So I'm just posting it.

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.


Friday, February 04, 2011

Taiwan Day 37 - Traffic Madness

Woke up early with the idea to get some sort of riding in, very tired as I have been for the past few days. All the riding is finally catching up to me and the busy days add on to that. Nat woke up too, she had trouble sleeping. So I got up, went to 7-11 for coffee, and grabbed a few cheap buns from there. Had breakfast together and then we both hemmed and hawed around the house, not really knowing what to do. Nat eventually laid down and watched TV and I decided not to ride, simply because I was too damn tired.

When Julia woke up she ran in and joined mom, who decided that sleeping more was a better idea:

We had talked about starting the day early, which also played a little part in my staying in but truth is I probably need to sleep more. But the best laid plans end up bearing no fruit, as we didn't even manage to get out of the house by 10:00 and when we did our second breakfast pit stop, the rice ball shop, was closed anyway for the holiday. We'll have to make sure we get that when we come down the last time for our final sweep through the apartment.

So we walked around a little bit and dipped into the traditional market which is sort of like that video I posted but in a building, and a bit less crowded as it was not Chinese new year's eve. Much meat and so on, and of course the big vat of chicken testicles, which seem to be all too common here:

After, we stopped at a soup bun stand and get a small pack of buns and a cold soymilk for second breakfast. The soymilk was really good. Following that small sub-meal, we started packing things up to bring to Taipei. Our stay down in Luodong has pretty much run its course, so it was time to start moving our load of junk north, one step closer to the airport. You'd be amazed at the amount of shit you can amass in 5 weeks. We still have 1 to go.

We left the apartment around noon. Keep that number in mind. First stop was Nat's cousin who is also the owner of the McCruiser. As a hobby he tells people's fortunes, and here he is telling me about myself:

He said a bunch of things about my personality which were true, though the rational side of my brain wonders if they would be true for most people. He didn't say anything of particular interest other than a) I needed to be very careful of heart disease and b) my career will do very well from age 42-51, at which point he says I'll be able to retire. Oh and he mentioned something about growing a horn out of my forehead and learning how to fly, but I'll give him a pass on that one.

From there we went to Ilan, just 5 miles up the road and tried to find the other mall in town. After riding around for too long, we finally found it, then had to leave immediately and go walk to find food, as there was none there. Julia had KFC (thank god for Western influence here or this kid would never eat) and we had some beef paste-sauce over rice, which we ate at the dirtiest stand I've ever eaten at. It was ok.

We then started to go towards the highway but the traffic was backed up pretty badly, so I hopped out and over to one of the roads I took to Taipei that avoids the main drag. We took it all the way to the hills and hit even more traffic at the highway entrance. A sign said something about falling rock, and we could see that traffic going into the 13 km tunnel was barely moving, so the traffic was at least that long, and likely more, since rocks tend to fall outside the tunnel and not in it.

We hiked it up and over the mountains on the road that I rode to Taipei on. Way back when Nat was a kid they used to drive this in order to get to Taipei, since there was no coastal route nor a tunnel that went through the mountain. It was a cool drive, but if I had to do that sort of thing every day I'd go crazy. Thankfully, on the other side of the first mountain the traffic was fine and we were able to jump back on and not go the whole distance on the slow road.

Unfortunately, I took a wrong turn off the highway for no good reason and we decided to go to Taipei and the electronics district to try and find me a digital camera that might last a little better in my jersey pocket. After 453 turns, we finally found the store that Calvin recommended but unfortunately it was closed for the holiday. Suck.

But again, I took more pics of 101, with a tiny crescent moon in this one:

Luckily, there is a whole district and where 1 store is close, 50 more are open:

Before shopping we grabbed a scallion pancake then headed down into the basement. The egg in it was runny and it was damn good. I like this style:

We dropped into this basement-like area with all sorts of electronics and we couldn't find any digital cameras, so we stopped at some random stand and much to our surprise the guy sitting down and working there was white. Nat asked him if he spoke English and he said he did, but with a British accent so I didn't catch what he said exactly. I think this was a first here, seeing a white guy working at a store. I'm sure they are plentiful but I've just never seen one. He told us to go upstairs and just pick randomly.

We did, and the guy there pretty much told us to go back to the states to buy it because it's too expensive here. Fair enough, though I wanted a camera for my rides the rest of the trip. I guess that more or less means people will have to settle for a single iPhone pic of my biking every day. Oh well, what can you do? We grabbed some food at a stand on the way out, which was fried crab and a hunk of blood cake that was also fried. It was tasty stuff. Julia scored some mozzarella sticks too, and she was stoked.

Trying to leave was pure insanity, and we just couldn't find a way onto route 1. You have to realize that all the highways are raised here, and you can be on the ground and have 2 sets of raised highways above you, neither of which are remotely accessible. This is what happened to us yesterday and at some point, Julia says, "Wht are we going around in circles?" Sure enough, we were in front of the original electronics store that was closed to begin with, probably a half hour after we left.

We finally got back to Linkou at 8:15, 8 and one-quarter hours after we left the apartment. It took 3 trips for me to get all our junk from the basement up to the 5th floor. We really need to consolidate, or set fire to, some of this stuff.

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.


Taiwan Day 36 - Yangmingshan & Back to Luodong

Woke up to the alarm, I'm tired. I'd rather sleep but the 10 day weather forecast for NJ now includes days that we will have to experience. So if I don't get up and do something, I'm not going to be able to bottle up these days and take them back with me. So I forced myself out of bed, had a coffee and the rest of the bread we got at the bakery the other day, and headed out the door by 6:30.

Before I left, I did manage to squeeze my fat self into a medium jersey, but only technically. It's entirely possible that I'm violating some sort of visual code of ethics doing this to people. Still, I can hang my hat onto the fact that I an still actually wear a medium. Going to need to trim the food intake when we get back a bit.

I headed down the hill to see if I could put together the best way to get to the red bridge and across the river for a future assault on Yangmingshan. This is the mountain that overlooks Taipei, and on a clear day offers awesome views like this:

The bike route tool I use said it would take 3:48 one way to get up there, which seemed steep but it's usually pretty accurate. So I decided to get close and do the math so I can maybe plan on it one day next week. I was able to get across the bridge in less that 30 minutes, which was super fast, and before long I was at the base of the hill and climbing up the back side, which seems to be the preferred route for bikers as the other side is the drive side up from Taipei.

So I started to go up, and I figure, "Ok, let's see what happens." I got there really fast, and I know my target is 3500 feet. By about 1:15 I'm at 1000 and since I know my climb rate, I'm looking at that saying I can get there at maybe 2:20. Then going down is faster and I have enough time to make it. Maybe.

Of course, this is where the climbing is, and the reader at this point expects me to run out of time. So we have bikers, slick roads, a handful of cars, some views down to the valley in the north, and of course a few monkeys yelling at me as I go by. These were fat ones and I suspect that cars stop to feed them, since there's plenty of traffic being that this is a national park so close to Taipei. On the way down some guy was banging a stick in the area, probably to scare them away as they likely tend to be a menace.

As I got closer my eta was getting lower and lower, and at about 2500 feet I plunged into the heavy fog and saw that I'd easily make it, assuming the road topped off and didn't roll at the end. The last 700 feet were in an absolute dense fog with visibility not even 50 yards, and it was pretty damn steep at the end. But I made it and was rewarded with this fantastic view:

Since there wasn't much to gawk at, I turned around and coasted down the hill and froze my bits off, as usual. The tops of these hills are often 1000% humidity, if not outright rain, and cold. So my being dressed for 65 degrees didn't work that well with the temps up there. Before I came out of the fog I was shivering from the cold.

On the way down I was passed by a guy on a Cannondale, clipless pedals, hammering his way down. I was stoked, and jumped on his wheel and started to hammer with him. This is by far the fastest I've gone on any downhill and since we were out of the clouds, the roads were dry and much safer here. We had gone off the 101 extension and it was wider all the way down to the river. It was a good roll and fun to ride with someone for a bit.

At the river he went straight and I left, and shortly after I saw my first whitey on a bike. As I was coming up on him I noticed the shaved legs and full-bore kit. I passed and said "hey" and I think he tried to jump on but I left him for dead instantly. I was feeling great on the ride and the warm temps at the bottom energized me. I was flying at this point and shortly after he was long gone behind.

I got back from the round trip in 3:40, in all 8 minutes less than the one way total was supposed to be. Calvin & Grace had gone to see her grandfather, who is 99 and has been gravely ill for a week. He would pass away later in the day, having made his last goal of seeing in the Chinese new year. Being 99 affords one this sort of lax attitude on the world, I suppose.

We geared up and hit the road around noon, hitting some traffic but in all sailing smoothly down to Luodong where we first grabbed some lunch of intestine noodle soup and then a pork soup of some sort. Both were good, and they are what I would call staples of the diet here. This may be the last time we get them. I wish we could get stuff like that in the states but for some reason the stuff there pretty much sucks.

After lunch we went upstairs to start the "hong bao" process with Nat's relatives. The words "hong bao" translate exactly as red envelope, and wikipedia as usual does a better job describing it that I would. There's a game involved though, as people will try and give stuff to the younger generation, in this case Julia. But as many have said, there is no such thing as a free lunch. And any acceptance of anything will later mean that you are indebted to that person in some future way. So there's often a struggle to refuse the envelope in some cases. Of course, Julia gets upset if we try to give her's back, so we lose these games every time.

Here is Nat's cousin and wife, who came over for the holiday. They currently live in China:

The day was awesome, about 70 and partly sunny most of the day. The "partly sunny" means "partly cloudy" and even though there is no rain, visibility is pretty poor overall. Some of the half-rain days are actually more clear in spots. But of course no rain and some sun with 70 degrees is nice. I can't wait for spring proper, which seems far away when I look at the NJ weather right now.

We try to go up towards the Meihua lake/temple area to get some soft guava and hit the Mt. Liu peanut candy shop, but the traffic is so bad we turn off and head towards Nat's other aunt to deliver another of the new year's gifts. We have 6 total relatives we need to see in the holiday, which is just about a week long. We stop off at Nat's aunt as the 2nd stop. This time there is no hong bao game. You really never know when it's going to strike.

Over to Nat's uncle's house for stop #3, and we play our cards wrong and show up too close to dinner. As we walk in we see that they've already started making food, and to refuse would be a serious insult. We were pretty excited to go to the night market, but the spread before us is a ton of fresh seafood, as he lives on the port. So how can you refuse this spread? It's just really good:

The sashimi is crazy fresh, and the stewed pork/egg thing is excellent as well. Steamed fish is good, and the roe cake is one of my favorites. There's also a mixes dish of upside down car fish (yeah I don't know if that's the scientific name or not) that Nat really digs.

After dinner we have some tea, then Nat's uncle breaks out some old pics of them as kids. Nat on the left, Calvin on the right:

Meanwhile Julia breaks out the game face on some apples:

Back to the apartment the traffic is still nuts, so instead of driving right to the the 4th relative stop we park the car, go to the apartment, and walk over. Nat sees her cousin there which she hasn't seen in 30 years. We also don't have the hong bao game, which we did at her uncle's house. So it was 2 out of 4 where we had to play, and lose, the game. Tomorrow we'll hit up the 5th one and I guess, maybe the last of the required relatives.

We walk back to the apartment a different way and go through the night market so I can grab my favorite dessert, the taro ice cream burrito with peanut candy shavings and cilantro. The number of people here is staggering, and they've erected extra tents in the park to handle all the extra vendors that have come in for the week. It's nothing short of a full on frenzy almost all day. Too bad we're not going to be able to experience much of it as we would shortly run into further apartment problems.

On top of the washing machine being a POS, the dryer sort of working, and the dehumidifier trying to set the house on fire, the hot water heater stopped working at some point over the last few days. So now aside from not really being able to wash and dry clothes, we can't wash ourselves. We can, however, dry ourselves as the towels still function perfectly well.

Aside from this, I do like being down here more, as we're in the field more and get to see & do more diverse things. Calvin's area is primarily residential, and thus a lot of people split town for the week and many of the shops are closed for the new year. Here, everything is open and they actually bring in extra shops. Unfortunately, this apartment is trying to be rid of us so our stay here is going to be a 1 night only affair, and we'll be on our way back to Taipei Saturday afternoon.

Pic of the day, shaking things up a bit:

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Taiwan Day 35 - Chinese New Year's Day

Tis the year of the rabbit, or the Rabbi, depending on your culture.

After 4 days of riding my legs off, I decided to skip today and sleep in. Usually I wake up at 5:30 or so, but today I scraped myself out of bed at 8:30 and found some bread in the fridge for breakfast. The morning was nothing at all - bread, coffee, steam bun, then sit around and do nothing.

Late morning Nat and Calvin started making some homemade dumplings, while Grace had been cooking for the last hour making some food for the day. This culture is massively based on eating out. But new year's day is the 1 day a year people actually stay in and eat. I guess people need to prove that they can still cook. That, and everything is closed so they have no choice.

They sent me out to the corner store for oil and eggs, and as soon as I walked out the door I was floored with how warm it was. I had seen the sun peek it's head out maybe an hour earlier, but the sky was a solid light gray when I went out. Not clear, but certainly on the lighter side of gray. My initial thought was to wish I had gone for a ride, but with sun forecast the next 4 days, I need to save myself. I had a headache all morning, which may be from the huge amount of biking, the wine last night, or the lack of coffee this morning. Probably all of the above.

After I went to the store I walked around a bit to enjoy the warm air. This neighborhood is atypical for Taiwan. The buildings are sealed off, almost like hotels. You enter either from the parking garage below, or the front door which has a desk and 1-3 people working it at all times. The typical neighborhood is more of a free-for-all, houses built together, people going in and out all the time. I guess this is a sort of next step in the evolution of community here. As a visitor, I don't like it. For someone who lives here, I understand that perspective.

First for Terren at the corner store:

When I got back the food orgy had started. First was some boiled dumplings, which I ate with some (mostly soy) dipping sauce. Then came the stewed bamboo which I love, that was part of an eggs & pork dish that would later be for dinner. Following that we had fried dumplings, then fried taro balls with egg yolk in the middle, and finally some fried "year cake" which is a sweet sticky rice cake you eat for dessert. I ate far, far too much.

Calvin the fry master:

The results, solid unhealthy food:

The TV was showing some of the temples that open their doors at certain times of the day, with people lined up trying to get in first. It's supposed to be more lucky for you the sooner you do it. So naturally, first is best. And it only follows that there is an absolutely mad rush to be the very first one. So it's a sort of "running of the bulls" situation you see there. At one temple, one dude hid under a table and when they "opened the doors" he jumped out and beat everyone in line. Gotta say this was damn good entertainment.

We planned on going back to Luodong today, but apparently the traffic is really bad on new year's day so we're here another day. We took a foray out to the mall/department store/etc and getting out of town was, in fact, pretty crazy. My observation was that there really weren't any more people on the road than normal. But everyone was in their car as opposed to the scooter they normally ride. So there was more traffic on the road.

We hit up the department store near where Calvin used to live and it turns out that I was literally right there the other day when I was first getting lost looking for 106, and again yesterday when I was going right instead of left. Behind the back shot for Terren here. Honing my skills.

We picked up a new wok to replace the one we bought here 10 years ago. Of course it's made in Switzerland, just like the first one. Go figure. These trips end up being big time endeavors. We started talking about going at 3:00 and didn't actually get to the store until about 5:00. The process of talking about going, getting ready to go, and getting out the door can be a significant undertaking some days. For some reason it's impossible to just stand up and walk out the door at the drop of a hat.

Back at the apartment, dinner is more home cooking from Grace. Greens, squash, and the pork/egg/bamboo thing from this morning. Love the pork & bamboo thing, big props to that. Then I drank some beer.

Pretty much a do-nothing day again today. Tomorrow the elusive string of sunny days is supposed to begin. Bike in the morning and return to Luodong at some point after that. Then I guess see some relatives and so on. Nat's parents already started asking when we're going back to see them.

I found out what Dennis Rodman is doing these days. Apparently working at a mall in Sanchong:

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.


Taiwan Day 34 - Chinese New Year's Eve

So let's kick off the day with the traditional Chinese new year celebration which is...a bike ride!

Ok, maybe not. Actually, let's kick it off with the video of the market from yesterday.

It was cooler in real life

Terren says he likes the videos. Props yo, I'll keep them coming. In a few days it may be nothing more than me drinking bottles of wine. But I'm fairly sure that will be entertaining in some fashion.

My sun lasted 1 day, and the rain was back again today. I headed out the door around 7:30 or so, thinking maybe 4 hours today. I took a different route down to the river, which was faster and dumped me onto the bikeway in about 30 minutes. Nothing amazing, I just rode my bike. Eat me:

Up the river, cross the bridge, down the river, and take a right. Yeah, save for the fact I was supposed to take a left. Sometimes the path gives you 3-4 options all at once. I took what I thought was the right one, and with no sun your sense of direction doesn't really have any effect. It's solid gray in all directions.

No big deal, but then Nat texts me saying that we actually have plans in mind. Ok, no problem, I'll be home in 1-1.5. Shortly after I see a sign for Xindian and think, "Um...fuck."

You see, Xindian is almost at the top of the river trails, at the base of the hills which climb up and over back to Luodong. Crap, I turn around, and start to press myself to get back. The bikeway sucks for this, and my pace is incredibly bad. What's more, I really don't know the best way to get back up the hill and back to the apartment.

Eventually I say screw it and get off the bikeway, which is like this hidden fantasy world which has nothing at all to do with reality. I wasn't getting any closer to home, so I hopped off and just did the "go that way" method using the GPS compass to make sure I went west. Despite some really old streets which drew some looks like, "WTF are you doing here?" I eventually made it back to the base of the hill I came down and back to the apartment in time to get out. 3 hours and 48 minutes later, I rolled back in.

Quick shower and we're out the door to meet Calvin & family in Yingge, the pottery village. We get close then wing it, which of course gets us lost since we don't know where we're actually trying to go. We eventually work it out and make it to the shop where they know the owners and who give them good deals on the stuff. We head out for lunch first, pork noodle soup for me:

Back to the shop and we end up buying glass dragons, tea cups and a teapot, a thermos that we've seen a few times, and some incense. We had gone with the idea to buy some stuff for people, but we end up buying just stuff for ourselves. However, we did not buy this:

After 300 hours of Grace and the woman talking while Nat, Calvin, and I ate snacks and tapped our feet, we left. Grabbed a quick coffee and hit the road back to Calvin's. We were there maybe an hour and change then had to get dressed up like a Texas monkey and head to dinner at the American Club, which is what Calvin does on Chinese NYE.

Dinner was a buffet and Julia ate 4 small tubs of spreadable butter, strawberries, and dessert. I ate enough then started taking some pics for Terren. She is Jewish:

I expected more white people but it was mostly Asians. The white people there all look at the other white people like you're an offense to their security. Losers. On the way out, we took pictures of each other and had some dude take a pic of all of us:

After we left we went to look for something and I took another pic for Terren. She is not Jewish:

I'm on my 3rd glass of wine in the last 30 minutes so sue me. There's 1 more, not great quality, in the picture set, which as usual you can find in the link below.

Tomorrow I think I have to take a day off the bike, so I hope it pisses rain all day. I'm so exhausted I may sleep until noon. But it's how I keep my sanity and what gives me the rope to eat like a moose on speed. Ok, off to get my 4th glass.

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Taiwan Day 33 - A Much Needed Day

The day started with a work phone call at 6:00 am. Not the way you usually want to start your day but it was for my yearly review. Everything went well which is a good thing, but there's some expectation that I will, in fact, be back in 2 weeks. So I passed on Nat's suggestion to ask if they minded if I stay a few more weeks. That means the trip is really only going to be 44 days. No worries mom, we'll be back soon.

I headed out the door at about 8:00 am and was shocked to feel that the temps had risen about 10 degrees from the day before. And not long into the ride, I actually saw that elusive thing which is so, so nice, but oh, so rare. It was the clear blue sky:

This was great, a much needed change up from the crap I've been riding in and it made me long for the spring. It's incredible to me how much your mood correlates to the weather, especially when you take into account what my hobby of choice is. I headed down the hill on the same way I came up the day before, but I took a left instead of going down into the busy town. The road was quiet, and I kept heading towards the peak that was in front of me. Eventually I found a park area, and tried to ride up the path that goes to the peak. Unfortunately it appeared to be a hiking trail only.

I dumped back down the other side, and had views of the ocean most of the way down. A bit hazy but better than rain - you get the idea:

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful but enjoyable. I went to the river, then crossed the bridge to the other side, and back up north to a town called Danshui, which is a touristy town that we've been to many years ago. I tooled around there for a bit and found the beach, which was appropriate for the ride today. This was before I crossed the river. That mountain on the other side is on my hit list but I need a full day for that:

And for those of you who want to meditate on this, it was almost warm enough to jump in today:

The look and sound of the beach

The way back was more or less the same, though I did the road a bit more than the bikeway because the path was chock full of boardwalks and fishermen. There are some downsides to the road sometimes though:

Scooter madness!

I went home the way I came because I wanted to climb up that big hill and come up a nice peaceful way instead of the 2 other ways which are truck routes. There were several bikers going up when I was coming down, so I knew it must be the preferred route for the area bikers. It was a nice ride among a lot of old grave sites that littered the hillside.

When I got back to the apartment there was some breakfast leftovers waiting for me. Calvin must be trying to butter me up, or fatten me up. There was some soymilk, a leek & rice noodle pocket, some dumplings, and some egg/dough bites that I like. Good stuff, great way to end a great ride:

In the house for a little bit, getting cleaned up and hanging out and so on. Before long it was lunch time and the place we went to was closed, so we went to another place down the street which was a newer age organic Taiwanese style place. I have to say, it was really good, and just like the ride today, it hit the spot in a place I really needed. I love the food here, but after a while it's kinda like a different hat on the same thing you've had before. This was a really new, hip hat which was good. I really enjoyed it. I'd say most people would be able to take this stuff. I got the beef:

After lunch we tooled around town a bit, first to get some flowers and such for the new year, then a fish store, a playground, and finally back home. Julia was like, "WTF is this thing then?"

Back at the apartment I had some work to do for the team, which took a bunch of time. In the meantime, Grace made dinner which was some pork with ginger, green veggies, squash with 1000 year egg, and some soup, plus some pork sausage which was made elsewhere. It was a solid meal and good to get something homemade after eating just about every single meal out for the past 33 days.

Calvin and I had gone to an old-style market earlier and I took a video, which was pretty cool. Not like anything you see in the US that's for sure. Well at least not in NJ. Unfortunately the video did not load overnight so I'll post it up tomorrow if it ever finishes.

Today was a good day. Need more of these. is saying we may have 4 days in a row of sun, starting Friday. I don't know what to say. The kids could care less about the weather as long as they have their video games:

As usual, all the pics of the food and such can be seen at following link:

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Taiwan Day 32 - Along the River

This morning is frigid cold in the apartment. I wake up at 6:00 to 61 degrees, 80% humidity. This is in the house, not outside. Outside is 50 or 55 or something. But in the house it's freezing, and no matter what I do I can't get warm. Nat had warned me that this humidity makes the chill seem to cut through you, and I'm now understanding what she means. This is starting to take a mental toll. Tropical island my ass. When Calvin woke up he told me I should turn the heater on in the office. I love heat right now.

I hem and haw around the house, thinking that if it's this cold inside, then riding a bike outside is going to be brutal. But as soon as I get dressed in my bike clothes, I warm up. On the road I feel fine, not cold at all. I just go, no real plan on the ride other than to check out the river bike paths again. I reverse what I did coming up, and before long I'm on the path looking out across the river at this:

The first 45 minutes of the ride is a repeat of what I did the other day, then I go to explore more paths south of where I crossed over. The bike path seems to be everywhere at times, going both right, left and straight. And sometimes looping back on itself and suddenly reversing itself to do a 180 from the direction you were just going.

I make my way south, and the path ranges from boardwalks to cobblestones to wide smooth paths. But the route I take is a rapid fire stream of road and parking lot crossings, with these metal tongs placed close together to keep the scooters out. So you get up to speed, slow down, speed up, and on and on. Eventually the path narrows a bit and it seems less populated, and I start to approach the mountains south of the city, heading towards YingGe, a place we'll likely visit in a few days to buy some ceramics of some sort.

Look! Another bridge!

I like that they add flair to the city in random spots like that. The bikeway is well done, but I have to be honest, it's kinda mind-numbing at the same time. Turn, turn, split in 3, boardwalk, random split, road crossing, stairs, and on and on and on. I stuck it out for 2 hours when it was time to turn around and head home. On the way down I saw this, which I certainly don't see everyday:

RC Aiplanes

On the way back one of the guys had something like an air force jet, which sounded real as anything. It screamed through the air and sure seemed to be jet powered, not propeller. It landed just as I was coming through, and it sat on the "runway" and sounded exactly like a jet, just a fraction of the size. I also saw some RC cars and took video, but frankly it's boring.

On the way back I hopped off the path to try and pick up 106 to take a different way home and never saw a sign for 106. So I just on the road and was more than happy to wing it among the cars, trucks, and scooters. The bikeway gets to be too much if you're going more than 12 mph. I imagine I'll use it again, but I need to find the better parts and avoid the stairs and crap like that.

Eventually I had to admit that I was possibly getting myself into trouble, as I was somehow at the verge of an on-ramp which I think led to a highway. So I looked at the GPS and jumped back on the bikeway to get my bearings. Shortly after I found 108, which went up the hill more directly than the big loop around the north.

The start was jam packed with traffic, but after that it went up the hill a bit less steeply than the other road. Traffic was still a little raw on top (lousy road, little to no shoulders, a lot of trucks) but it did get me where I needed to go.

It didn't rain all day, though the whole ride was done under gray skies. I feel like this was a dreadfully boring adventure.

After I got home I ate a bunch then did some work and made some coffee. Nobody was here so it was relatively quiet, though all I felt like doing was laying down and taking a nap. I had been out almost 3.5 hours and I was tired. Maybe around 4:30 they came back, and the calming reassurance of noise returned.

Dinner was at a place that Calvin and I stopped in to get some chicken for dinner the other night, a solid Taiwanese sit-down restaurant. Before dinner, Julia was happy enough. This is blurry but she has such a nice smile, so I kept it:

But it didn't last, as she didn't like the food and was complaining about...well, just about everything. Once she started playing games on Nat's phone she forgot all about it though. Dinner was noodles, chicken, cabbage, tofu with 1000 year egg, a sweetbread thing, eggplant and intestine, and finally soup. You can check the pic pink at the bottom for a description of all the foods. But the tofu thing was my favorite:

This was on display. I didn't eat it though. It looks, well a bit raw:

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.



Accommodation in aviemore