TOUR JOURNAL: PRE-TOUR ADVENTURES IN TAIPEI

With the first of our cyclists already in Taipei, we’ve been out and about exploring the best of the vibrant Taiwanese capital city. Here’s what we’ve been up to ahead of the tour – which starts tomorrow!

Chris MJ – Sunday 22nd October – 7.11pm

After a few damp days in Taipei the weather has been very much on our side ever since Julia and Phil (good luck charms?!) arrived on Friday – perfect for exploring this incredible city. Fingers crossed this is a good sign for the next 12 days of the Pedal Taiwan tour!

On Saturday morning we made a beeline for Taipei 101 – the world’s third highest tower at 509m – to visit the #1 must-see attraction in the city. It’s best from the outside (or from the top of the tower, but we’ll save that for the end of the trip) so after a quick whizz through the mall we headed back via the impressive Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, leaving Julia and Phil to explore the rest of the city.

Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial

They took in the Chang Kai-shek Memorial and the narrow lanes, markets and restaurants of Ximen before our third cyclist, Jane, arrived in the afternoon. We all joined up for dinner in Dunhua, starting off the tour with a huge bowl of braised beef noodles, tofu and century eggs – look them up, they taste way better than they look… A couple of beers followed, but the combination of jetlag, tired legs from walking and full stomachs meant an early night for all.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and we ventured out to Beitou and Tamsui on the MRT – an incredibly easy 45 minute journey from our city centre hotel. The town of Beitou was built on hot springs and that was where we headed – perfect pre cycling preparation for our muscles and a steal at NT$40 (about £1) – but before we soaked in the healing waters we went to see them at their fiery best – in Hell Valley.

Hell Valley, Pedal Taiwan

This slightly intimidating-sounding place was a short walk further up the valley from the public baths. Eggy smells, bubbling mud and steaming azure blue water greeted us – apparently the water can hit 90 degrees celsius and was used until the early 90s by residents of Beitou to boil eggs (!) – in what was an awesome surprise. Yes it made us feel a bit light-headed, but it was incredibly picturesque and was well worth visiting.

From Beitou we jumped back on to the MRT to Tamsui, along with what seemed like half of Taipei… But what this meant was the famous Old Street Market was at its buzzing and bustling best. We sampled everything from candied tomatoes (weird) to deep-fried baby soft-shell crab (delicious), and honey green tea (unbelievably sweet) to rice hot dogs (way better than they sound) – a fantastic and very real Taiwanese culinary experience.

Fried shrimp, Tamsui

In the evening our bikes arrived as did our guide James and cyclist #4 Ash. We’ll shortly be joined by Clare and Robin to almost complete the set – June is set to join up with the group in Hualien. But for now its off for (more!) food and an early night. In 15 hours time we’ll be rolling past Taipei 101 as the tour sets off for good…

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