Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 1 - Welcome to Taiwan!

Pic - CW

Worth clicking on the pic to read the marketing hype...

Pic - Joeel Lee

Pic - CW

There is sometimes a price to be paid when flying budget and I often wonder if it’s worth all the trouble for early morning flights. I struggled out of bed at 345am and if that’s bad enough, at least 3 of the guys spent the night at Changi airport to make sure they won't miss the flight.

Pic - E Lim

All the grumpiness disappeared when all 20 of us finally gathered with great anticipation and trepidations. Our ride leader George, is a military man, and he had plan the ultimate climb – 3275m to Wulin mountain pass in Central Taiwan. This is a hair-pin filled road that was first constructed by the Japanese as a walking trail in 1914, and later paved in 1935. It is now a superb and scenic road that cuts through the mountain range of Taiwan from West to East, ending at the seaside town of Hualien.

Pic - CW

We were greeted with cold weather upon touched down at Taipei, felt like 10c. It took a while to organize such a big group but we eventually got into our heated chartered bus.

Pic - Nick Tan

Our precious bicycles rode along in a truck. The first stop was in a cluster of restaurants along the highway and it was a pleasant surprise to find a very satisfying lunch of rice or noodles going at US$1.50 and this is in a very conducive and clean environment.

2 hours later, we reached the beautiful Sun Moon Lake. This is one of the many attractions in Taiwan and we gawked at the splendor of the place. 

It is voted by CNN as top 10 bike destinations recently, 32km of beautiful cycle paths! But what got some of us gawking even more was the Giant Bicycle Hotel. Like bees to honey, we had had to walk in and at the lobby was none other than a huge Giant showroom. Of all the people we bumped into, the good folks of Rebound Centre Singapore were there on their business-hunting trip. The world is indeed getting to be a very small place. It was nice to meet Sulaiman plus Missus, and his faithful side-kick John. They have made Japan and Taiwan their fav destinations recently.

We arrived at Puli, a small town at 5pm and we stayed at the simple Jin Shan hotel that reeked nostalgia. Tired from 12 hours of travelling, we were unable to rest immediately even though we wanted to. Our truck was waiting for us at the hotel and wanted us to unload. We assembled our bikes on the foot path under the street light. 

Pic - Joeel Lee

This was so that our boxes could be re-loaded into the truck and this opportunity really tested each of our skill in putting our bikes together under time pressure and in darkness. It was also wonderful to meet up with Roland and May, who arrived earlier.

Dinner was at a street corner and we tried all sorts of Taiwanese delicacies. Smelly Tofu was a must try and surprisingly, it went very well with me. 

We had steamed dumplings, fried rice and noodles, clam soup, veggies, deep fried white bait fish, bbq meats and a few others. It was a case of pointing out what you want and it would be freshly cooked.

Pic by Joeel Lee

No, I didn't order all that but went around friends' tables on a sample tour which they kindly obliged. There's always space for dessert and we popped into a shop selling tofu based sweets. It was delightfully  stressful trying to choose from the many varieties offered.

With such a packed day, it was easy to fall asleep. We had been travelling since dawn but it felt so good to be in Taiwan finally. The riding begins tomorrow and we can't wait!


omegaforest said...

That's my Sifu Geeli who slept overnite! Guess he saving all the energy for Day 2!

Aditya E. Prabawa said...

Hi, do you have any contact information for Jin Shan Hotel?