[Day 5] All The Small Things

Distance Today: 95km
Total Distance: 508km
Maximum Speed: 32kph
Average Speed: 16kph
Time in Saddle: 5hrs 51min
Journey: Tai’ Nan – Da’ Lin (via Provincial Highway No. 1)
Accommodation: Anonymous Apartment
Money Used Today: NT$475
I HAD A WONDERFUL NIGHT on the cozy hotel bed that I can stay in and sleep all day. Unfortunately, the plan was for us to wake up by 7.30am (gosh~ I slept around 2am last night) and be ready before 8am. At least we had a BIG breakfast, complimentary of the hotel, which includes toasts, porridge and plenty of side dishes for all you can eat. Being aware of how the road would be boring and monotonous for the day, it’s good to have such a decent breakfast for starters.

Most cyclists prefer the Highway No. 3 because it runs through virgin forests and remarkably beautiful sights of waterfalls and such, and some opt for the Highway No. 17 because of its endless beaches and historical coastal towns, while we chose No. 1 simply because it was effortless. I’m not complaining or anything, I just felt unfair because we should be seeing much more than just stretches of unswerving roads where even rice fields come scarce. Although there’s occasional beauty on the road, but trust me, they are all temporary.

THE LACK OF NATURAL SHADE allowed the sun to burn my skin directly, even under all those layers of sunscreen I applied. When we stopped at one of the McDonald’s to rub in more sunscreen, I found my skin at least hundred tones darker than it was before. Mine doesn’t hurt, but RU JIANG’s feet looks like it just went for a roast or something. RUO CI and YING ZHENG were the ones without minimum worries because they were wrapped up like samurais, only leaving a slit for the eyes to see. I wouldn’t want to be bundled up like them because I can’t stand the steamy heat; I guess I rather char to death than to be trapped in a pressure cooker.

LUCKILY FOR US the roads are indeed easy on the feet and we arrived in Xin’ Ying at noon for lunch. YING EN and I were vegetarians so we showed up in one vegan restaurant and had a long-awaited vegetable feast (you omnivores out there couldn’t imagine how we survived the carnivorous world huh?). The lady of the restaurant was another great person, offering her iced cold black tea for us, and refilling all our tumblers with water. It’s amazing how many friendly helpful people we met along the way, we’re merely cyclists in search of a dream, yet, we received so many help that I reconsider myself to be too much of a receiver. Once the journey ends, we should be giving more, to repay all the kindness we accepted.

THE MINUTE I SAW THE SIGNBOARD with Chia’ Yi (嘉義) on it, my heart stopped beating for a second, I was so excited that we finally arrived at another county. Chia’ Yi is in West-Central Taiwan, where A’ Li’ Shan lies, a famous mountain escape for locals. But then, we are not bound for the mountains, we are heading towards a small easily forgotten town, Da’ Lin, which we would be staying for the night. We rode past a rainbow like thing signifying the Tropic of Cancer, and even took photos of its nearby bus stop. We explored this small science museum that introduces the Tropic of Cancer and all things astronomical. The restrooms there were clean and comfortable but I can’t remember much about anything else.

Da’ Lin (大林) is indeed a small town, keeping its traditional ways alive. Our first stop when we arrived at Da’ Lin is the Tzu Chi Hospital, which is a branch of the university hospital we are attached in Hua’ Lien. This hospital is way bigger than what I thought it would be for serving such an under populated community. Yet, it was very wise and humane to set up a hospital here because the people from this area lack adequate medical services and a hospital is what they needed most.

WE WENT AROUND THE HOSPITAL with KIAN HWEE as our guide as he has been here for many times. The cafeteria food, I must agree, is unbelievably wonderful, better than ours back in Hua’ Lien. Throughout the hospital, we can see traditional model houses built with all those traditional old items in it. This place serves as a sweet nostalgic road back to the olden days for the elderly patients. We even tried to carry a bridal carriage used in the past to carry a bride to the bridegroom’s residence. I tried to hide under a dried well modeled out from a real one but it seems that my friends found me. YING EN then suggested that we all do ‘leaping’ photos (she always comes up with all sorts of weird ideas) and insisted that we all leap at her count, torturing our aching legs at the same time. The photos turned out alright and I even got one of me meditating and flying in front of a replica of the Hsi’ Luo bridge (西螺大橋), a well-known one among locals.

After the fun trip down memory lane, we left the hospital for something even more relaxing – FOOD. We went to this small roadside stall for some sweet tofu and star fruit juice, and oh, it was so GOOD. We had some connections working here at the Da’ Lin hospital and they helped us find an old traditional house up for rent, with an old granny as its owner. The place sure is a big piece of antique; almost everything was made out of wood. The air conditioning looks like they were from my parents’ era, and we found old utensils that no one uses these days. This may be the oldest house I’ve ever lived in, and that makes me want to explore it more. I went upstairs and befriended a guy living above us, and he showed more antiques (this place is such a collector’s paradise). We took pictures but were cautious enough not to break anything (they might worth a fortune). The old granny was quite a nagger, but she did it for our own safety, always reminding us of how the locks work and that we should be in the house before midnight. I liked her actually, she cares about us, and that to me is just like FAMILY.

AFTER A BIG DAY OF CYCLING, and after seeing the BIG hospital for myself, it was the small things that actually made my day satisfying. Those small traditional replicas made me appreciate culture more; those small kind gestures by our friends in Da’ Lin made our stay much more comfortable; and the small thoughts of mine of how I should treasure my own Chinese heritage made me feel proud. It’s hard to believe how small things can make a big difference, but that is how the system usually works.

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