Riding is becoming very popular in Taiwan and there are many outlets along the rivers that rent out bikes. They can be seen easily and I don't think the rental is too expensive. I know there is a bike rental place near Bitan in Hsin Tien and another close to Fu-He bridge. Riding next to the rivers in Taipei is a great way to get outdoors and away from the traffic.
Rain Riding to Fulong and Back
I went off for another long ride from my home in Taipei to Fulong, up to Keelung and back to Taipei. The day looked a bit grey when I started but I thought it would be ok. It wasn't. As soon as I had ridden 20km it started to rain hard. I got drenched. But what the heck. I rode on anyway and had an awesome ride and met many awesome and wonderful people alomg the way. It was a long ride (around 130km) and I was exhausted by the end but it was just awesome and I am glad I did it. Not sure if I can do it again any time soon but it was well worth the effort. Even though I was drenched by the end of the ride, it was an awesome trip and I am glad I did it. It ended better than my last ride and I was able to finish. A ride I will never forget.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2010/11/rain-riding-to-fulong-and-back.html
Cycle Trip to Tamsui, Via Keelung
I am starting to ride more and more around the greater Taipei area and really starting to enjoy the scenery Taiwan has to offer. I recently tried to ride in a big circle from home, to Keelung, then to Tamsui and then back along the river home. Unfortunately fate conspired against me and I had to stop in Tamsui after my gear assembly broke off. Added to that the weather was against me for a good part of the way. Despite that, the ride itself was fantastic. I think it was really great just getting out there on the bike and the route was fairly easy to follow and pretty difficult to get lost. There was only one moment when I wasn't quite sure of where to go but apart from that I was fine. For those who don't want to do the whole stretch from Taipei to Keelung, I would recommend the ride from Keelung to Tamsui. That is a really beautiful part of the world. And if you have enough legs, back along the river to Taipei. All in all, great views, and some easy riding if the weather is with you and the bike mechanics don't fail you.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2010/05/cycle-trip-to-tamsui-via-keelung.html
Towards Tamsui - The Other Side of the River
This is another very beautiful cycle ride. We started at the bottom of (off Keelung Road) Fu-He bridge on the Taipei side of the river and rode towards Tamsui. There are clearly delineated cycle paths and there are many activities on the side of the river. We saw remote control planes, tennis courts, basketball courts and array of other sporting activities. If you don't feel like riding all the way up to Tamsui, pack a small picnic and head out as far as you are able or willing to cycle. Find a nice spot under a tree and bask in the sun enjoying your picnic. We did that. We packed cold meats and bread and made great sandwiches. Our friend Peter also brought his daughter and she had a great time running around in the extra long grass.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/04/other-side-of-river.html
Cycle Trip to Bitan (Hsin Tien)
Ride along Keelung Road, cross the Fu-He bridge towards Yong-He and come off on the other side of the bridge. Then head South. This cycle trip is a wonderful adventure. The first part is a little rustic and you will have to cross the river a few kilometers up the river. Once across though you will find well manicured lawns, baseball diamonds and interesting farms along the side of the cycle path. This road is a little long but it is a great ride. Once you get into Hsin-Tien you can find a restaurant, get some refreshments and walk around the town for a while. We found a great little breakfast shop and had a great ride there and back. On the way back we stopped to roll around in the grass. Note that you can hire bicycles in Hsin-Tien and ride in the opposite direction to what we rode.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/04/cycle-trip-to-bitan-hsin-tien.html
Day Trips Outside Taipei
Sometimes Taipei becomes too much for some people. The congestion, the crowds, the traffic, the constant hum of the city. Take a day trip to one of the locations near Taipei! There are many natural areas near Taipei and places to relax and get back to nature. Be warned however, that on weekends and public holidays most of these places are crowded too.
A Riverside Walk in Pinglin (坪林)
Pinglin (坪林) is a small town south of Taipei that is most famous for its tea production. The town itself has a Tea Museum. Pinglin (坪林) is nestled in the mountains and the tourist department there have initiated a tourist promotion scheme by providing free shuttle buses to take people to places of interest. A really beautiful and wonderful place. As soon as we arrived in Pinglin (坪林) we were bundled onto a bus and taken to the Jingualiao River (金瓜寮溪). There is also a shuttle bus that takes people to the mountains. We will have to try that out. Anyway, we were taken to the Fish Watching Fern Walk that ran next to the river and was truly picturesque and beautiful. Despite the hot weather, the shade beneath the trees was cool and the river water refreshing. If you do go, go there with a picnic and be ready to swim. The water is clean enough to swim in and there were a few people doing that.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2011/06/riverside-walk-in-pinglin.html
Jing Shan Beach (金山海灘) and Dented Shins
Jing Shan Beach (金山海灘) is a beautiful beach on the North coast of Taiwan. Our friend Mark invited us to go boogie boarding with him. one Saturday morning. He has a car so decided to drive us there. We had a great time. The boogie boardds were cheap and the weather was amazing. There were also a lot of waves and driftwood (yes driftwood) bashing into our shins, but it was fun. If you don't have a car you can always get there by taking a train to Keelung and then getting a bus. Either that or you can head off to Tamsui on the MRT and then take another bus from there. It will take a while to get there but if you are going to swim for a couple of hours, its not too bad. Anyway, we had a lot of fun and decided the time was well spent and we really are looking forward to going back again soon. If you are tired of the humdrum of Taipei, its not a bad place to go. There were also a lot of cyclists up there and one of our friends told us they had taken there bikes on the train to Keelung and then cycled from there, along the coast, to Tamsui and back to Taipei. It sounds like a great ride too.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2009/09/jing-shan-beach-and-dented-shins.html
Formosa Fun Park - Japanese Hot Springs
Taiwan is famous for hot-springs. Wulai and Hsin-Peitou are two of the more popular destinations close to Taipei however, I never knew there were hot springs next to the Formosa Fun park in Bali, opposite Tamsui. Well, I don't know if they are natural hot springs but it is a themed hotel/entertainment place where guests get to wear kimonos and walk around an old Japanese styled village. They also have a hotel rooms where you can stay for the night. We went there with the family and had such a great time. If you feel like getting out an relaxing, this might be the place however, it may get crowded at times due to its easy access so may not always be ideal. We did think it was a great place to take kids as they had a lot of things for the kids to do in the evening, more so than other hot spring resorts we have visited. There are also restaurants and the like available in the hotel (although the food is not the best) but, just down the road is the Bali night market where you get great views of Tamsui by night.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2009/04/formosa-fun-park-japanese-hot-springs.html
A Day in Keelung (Hoping Island Park)
Wanting to get out of Taipei. How about taking the bus or train to Keelung and heading out to the Hoping (Peace) Island park on the northern part of the island. Tremendous opportunity to see some interesting rock structures and also a great place to view the ocean. Be warned there is some trash lying around and do remember to take your own food and refreshments. The restaurants there could be cleaner. But the trip is worth it. Finish the day with a short tour of the Yangming Maritime Museum. If you don't have a pressing need to get back to Taipei, you can always enjoy some of the many famous nightmarkets in Keelung or enjoy a Starbucks cofee with a view of the bay.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/06/day-in-keelung.html
Ilan for a Day - Queenie's Ilan Trip
If you can rent a car and drive down to Ilan for a day, it is worth the trip. The new highway cuts out much of the driving time and the road is safer than before. It is best to go to Ilan by car. It provides more flexibility. However, if you don't want to drive, try and rent a taxi for a day (I assume its possible although never tried it). Queenie spent a day in Ilan county, going to some beaches and spending time in her friend's rice paddy. They also went to one of the famous night markets in Ilan and had a wonderful time. The beaches are beautiful and the county quiet. Check in a tourist guide to see some of the spots in Ilan you can visit. The trip will be worth it. If you do have time, drive there along the North-East highway, the mountains and seaviews are spectacular.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/02/queenies-ilan-trip.html
Wulai - A Day in the Clouds
Wulai is to the South of Taipei. Great opportunity to see the mountains and the river gorges that define so much of Taiwan's topography. If you have time there are plenty of hot-springs and many luxury hotels that you can stay in for the night boiling in spring water directly from the mountain. You can also travel on the cable car to the top of the mountain and enjoy a proper Chinese lunch. Also enjoy the swimming pool and enjoy the quiet of nature. For those who are more physical there is always the obstacle course at the top of the mountain to get your blood going. My dad (65 years old) and I did it together. I was impressed with his stamina.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2007/10/dad-in-east-2-day-in-clouds.html
As in most cities, there are some events that come around annually. Some of the more famous ones are cultural events like the dragon boat festival and the lantern festival after Chinese New Year. Others are less famous, for example the Chirstmas Tree lighting ceremony outside the Far East Hotel. Here we share some of the regular events that we have attended in the past.
The Far Eastern Hotel on Tunhwa South Road always lights up a huge Christmas tree every year. The event is usually a festive occasion that goes on for about an hour with performances from schools and colleges. The Chairman of the Far Eastern Group usually gives a welcome speech to everyone and there is always a father Christmas on hand to throw candy to the kids. Sometimes the Father Christmas is lame, but the event makes it feel the festive season has started in Taipei. The Far Eastern Hotel usually lights up many of the trees in the middle of Tunhwa South Road and during the festive season the lights are a beautiful addition to the Taipei cityscape. The ceremony usually takes place on the first Friday night in December, but check your hotel or tourist advisor for details. Or just phone the Far Eastern Hotel.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2007/12/christmas-has-started-in-taipei.html
Eating is a very important part of most cultures and taken very seriously in Taipei. There are a myriad of restaurants ranging from NTD60 (US$2.00) bowls of noodles to NTD2000 (US$90) steaks. Taipei has cuisine from all over the world and the food is really great. Here is a smattering of some of the restaurants we have visited.
Saturday Morning Donuts
Taipei has many foreign foreign fast food chain stores. McDonald's is on nearly every corner and there are a few Burger Kings around. It shouldn't be too great a surprise to see another American fast food chain Mister Donut out here. Well apparently there are a few Mister Donuts in Taipei. One branch is fairly close to my office. I have taken a few donuts home before for my wife, niece and other members of the family. Everyone liked the donuts so one Saturday morning, while we were babysitting our niece, we took her too Mister Donut. They do have a great selection of donuts and it is a great place to take a child, although we wouldn't recommend you do it very often.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/12/saturday-morning-donuts.html
Greek food is awesome. We used to visit Mykonos on a regular basis a few years ago but they moved without leaving any notices and so we were really pleased to find their new location (even if it is after a few years). Mykonos serves traditional Greek fare. Of course the cheese platters are great, the Greek salad a must and the meat dishes are also awesome. The decor in the restaurant is also very Greek and they have made a great effort to make the restaurant look as it should. The staff are super friendly and always very helpful. Indoor and outdoor seating is available and this restaurant is highly recommended.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/07/mykonos-taste-of-greece-in-taipei.html
A Barbecue on the Silk Road in Taipei
Xinjiang is the Western-most province of China and they are famed for their BBQ lamb. The Silk Road is a Xinjiang style, all-you-can-eat BBQ. At the time of writing the per person cost was around NTD500 (excluding drinks). This restaurant is worth the visit. The decor is all traditional Uighar decor, the staff do know a little about the culture of Xinjiang, the spices on the food are delicious and the atmosphere in the restaurant with the traditional music playing is very special indeed. We have been there a couple of times and really enjoyed the ambiance, food and fellowship with our friends. It is certainly not a venue for a romantic date with your wife or girlfriend but a tremendous place for a group dinner or lunch.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/03/barbecue-on-silk-road-in-taipei.html
Pies in Taipei
Want a home cooked meat-pie, the Pot-Pie Cafe on Fuhsing South Road offers a wonderful array of meat pies including Cottage Pie, Shepherds Pie and Chicken and Mushroom pie. The also serve a great fish and chips and have a wonderful English breakfast. There deserts are also fantastic I would recommend the apple crumble but the brownies are not bad either. If you are English you will feel right at home! The decor is very English with pictures of famous British personalities and a picture of the Houses of Parliament. The owner Simon is also friendly, speaks English and enjoys meeting people from all over the world.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/01/restaurants-pies-in-taipei.html
The Red Kitchen - A Great Steak House
A family run, family oriented Steak House near the corner of Fuhsing South Road and Hoping East Road provides excellent service, excellent steaks and a fairly decent salad bar thrown in. All in all a great place to eat, chat, and while away a few hours. Note that beer is served in a traditional Taiwanese style, small glasses with blocks of ice. We think the best food on the menu is the roasted chicken leg. This usually comes perfectly done. The chicken is really tender and fall off the bone. The miniature steaks aren't bad and the T-bone steak is a big mouthful. You will not leave this restaurant hungry, I assure you. At the end of the meal enjoy the fruit and the deserts that come with the salad bar. There are also free non-alcoholic drinks.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2007/12/red-kitchen-great-steak-house.html
There are many great places in Taiwan where people can escape. These include the other cities like Kaohsiung, Hualien or Taichung or the outlying Islands like Green Island and Penghu. We have been fortunate to have been to many of the cities and towns outside of Taipei and hope to spend more weekends away in the countryside. Here are some of the places we have been.
Weekend in Luo Dong (羅東), Ilan
Ilan is a short distance from Taipei and the new tunnel through the mountain makes it an easy place to get to for a weekend getaway. We haven't been there for a while and we just needed a weekend to decompress so Queenie organized a weekend away for the both of us. She booked a wonderful hotel called The Shangri La on the mountains above the town of Luo Dong. Although on the first day we ventured to Suao and Luo Dong, we spent most of the weekend just milling around the hotel and walking in the forests and trees on the mountain. It was a wonderful getaway and something we really needed. We had a great walk up the mountain on the Sunday morning and deeply regret we didn't do that walk earlier so we could have had some time to relax. Ah well, we still had fun and promised each other we would return in 40 years time to celebrate what would be close to our 0ur 50th anniversary.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2009/09/weeken-in-luo-dong-ilan.html
Kaohsiung December 08
Kaohsiung is Taiwan's second city. We have been there a couple of times now and always enjoy getting away to the south. The new High Speed Rail makes getting there a simple affair. I actually went all the way from my office in Taipei to my hotel in Kaohsiung on the Taipei MRT, the High Speed Rail and then the Kaohsiung MRT. Not a single taxi or bus was needed. The trip itself was interesting and fun. We spent some time on a small island in the Kaohsiung bay, went for a walk through the city and along Love River, had dinner in Fisherman's wharf. Visited the Birtish Consulate, went to a beautiful tea shop on the side of the rugged coast and then visited the Lotus Lake. We really had a wonderful time. We were kind of disappointed with the hotel but it was in a great location and close to the MRT. We will probably go to Kaohsiung once a year as we really do enjoy visiting the city and it is now very accessible. Anyway, if you do have sometime, Kaohsiung is recommended. From there it is also easy to get to other great places in Taiwan like Kenting and Taidong. So it is worth the trip.
Story Link: http://www.durbanbay.blogspot.com/2008/12/kaohsiung-december-08.html