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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bicycle riding from Toyohara to Kōri 后豊サイクリングコース

One thing I really wish I could have in Taiwan is a free weekday. There are many great places to visit on this island, but having only weekends free (or just Sundays and national holidays in my case) means having to plan when and where to go with care, in order to avoid the hordes who also have only the weekends and national holidays to themselves. An open weekday would mean being able to visit somewhere without having to put up with traffic jams, tour buses, souvenir and food vendors, karaoke カラオケ clubs and inflated prices for accommodation.

Having a free weekday morning is the next best thing, so today Pamela, Amber and I rented a bike and went on a 9-kilometer (5.6-mile), 95-minute round-trip ride from Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原 to Houli 后里 on the aptly-named Houfeng (Houfong) bicycle trail. With only a handful of cyclists out on the bike path, we enjoyed a very pleasant ride.

Our rented wheels for the morning. Obviously it was too small for my 6'3" (189.5 centimeter) frame, and I must have looked a silly sight with my knees sticking out far to the sides. But that's one of the nice things about ordinary weekdays - there aren't many people around to see how ridiculous you look!

The bike path stays away from busy roads, and goes some through typical Taiwanese countryside scenery - namely, small farms and factories. Along the way we passed by a modern, Japanese-style house - held in contempt by the Japanese (who long to have North American-type homes), but desired by the Taiwanese, most of whom live in ugly concrete boxes. All things are relative, I guess. We continued on the trail (which follows the course of an abandoned rail line), crossing over the Tachia (Dajia) River 大甲川 on an old railway bridge. On the other side was a long, dark tunnel that led to Houli.

Reaching the end of the trail in Houli, we parked the bike and stretched our legs for a bit. Houli is noted in the Taichung (Taijhong) 台中 area for its horse ranch, which I can say isn't worth the drive out. Notice the "KLG" sign and its obvious similarities to KFC ケンタッキーフライドチキン? Welcome to Taiwan, the island of liberal trademark protection laws!


On the way back to Fengyuan, the 6% gradient got to my 40 year-old knees, so Amber and Pamela took a stroll uphill while I pushed. Amber loves dogs, and always gets very excited when she sees one, like this friendly husky ハスキー.

Back into the tunnel again, which has displays built into nooks in the wall showing photographs of the railway in use. I presume the gentleman was both the builder of the railway, and Japanese to boot.


A last look back at the trail we had just ridden on, and then it was time to return the bicycle, and to let Amber make friends with the proprietress. For me, this was followed in turn by lunch, and then it was off to work in the afternoon.

There is a much longer bike trail that runs from Fengyuan to Tungshih (Dongshih) 東勢鎮, but we will probably wait until Amber is bigger before attempting the ride to Tōseichin. I would, however, like to return before that time to at least walk the different paths. After all, on a weekday I wouldn't need to worry about being run over by a cyclist.

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