[Day 9] Everyday is a Winding Road

Distance Today: 97km
Total Distance: 779km
Maximum Speed: 33kph
Average Speed: 18kph
Time in Saddle: 5hrs 30min
Journey: Jhu’Nan – Dan’Shui (via Provincial Highway No. 61 & No. 15)
Accomodation: Fei’Fan Hostel
Money Used Today: NT$477

I have always enjoyed listening to Sheryl Crow’s Everyday Is A Winding Road ever since I know this song. But that didn’t made me ready for the winding stretch of road that we will have to face later today.

I woke up in a very bad mood for cycling because we were still lying down on the big and comfortable audiovisual room of my friend’s. The place felt so laid back no one actually persisted on waking up early today. In the end, we woke up just before 10am and rushed out after gobbling down some leftover Pringles from yesterday.
Our path for the day will lead us on the No. 61 Provincial Highway and pass by Hsin’ Chu county (新竹縣), Tao’ Yuan county (桃園縣) and arrive in Taipei county (台北縣). The highway was a straight and easy one, and it has notably enormous windmills on its sides, making full use of the strong winds of this part of the island. Hsin’ Chu is known as the windy city, and the locals use the natural wind to dry their famous rice vermicelli. Hsin’ Chu is also an important science park of its nation, which people refers to as the Silicon Valley of Taiwan.
The road drove us through many small towns, which seemed too quiet for any inhabitants. Most of the small shop buildings look deserted, and the eerie silence of it makes it feel dead. After experiencing the 8 days of hot blistering sun, we learned how to protect ourselves from getting sunburned the hard way. And since then, we resorted to covering every inch of our bodies (although it makes us feel stuffy) like the Arabians. With all that extra protection, I am positively sure that we will be suspected as criminals as soon as we step into any bank in town.
Right after we had our lunches at a convenience store, we left Highway No. 61 and moved into No. 15. The previous one was wide and clean, and had beaches on our right with separate lanes for us cyclists. As soon as we went into the latter, the air became dusty from the speeding trucks that send dirt up into the air. To make it worse, the road is a narrow and slight uphill one, and no appreciable sceneries can be seen anywhere. If it wasn’t for the somewhat stunning 2km tunnel, this can easily pass as the worst road I have cycled on… EVER! Hmmm… the tunnel, ok… the tunnel, well, is a special one. On one side, it is made from cement and cuts through some hills; but on the other side, it faces the beach, with only a line of pillars separating the tunnel from the sea. The sun setting on the beach, its golden rays peeking between the pillars, offers a splendid view to all those passing through.
We struggled our way pass the dirty road beside the Lin’ Kou harbor (林口港) and arrived at Ba’ Li wharf (八里碼頭) just in time before sunset. A river separates Ba’ Li with its opposite bank, Tam’ Shui (淡水). There are two major ways of crossing the river, the first is to drive across the famous Guan’ Du bridge (關渡橋), and the other is to take a ferry which is only a 10 minutes ride. We took the ferry, a convenient ride for only NT$20 per person and NT$25 for our bikes. Witnessing the orange sun sinking towards the river horizon, while feeling the humid breeze on my face lifted me from the entire bad mood I had from the unpleasant path we took.

Both Tam’ Shui and Ba’ Li wharfs are filled with tourist shops selling food and many souvenirs and gifts. Many people flock around the wharf to wait for the sunset every evening, and the stall owners bring their goods for sale in the night markets nearby. It was here that we met up with two other foreign students from our school, tall funny Malaysian Shin’ Yee and dance diva Filipino Julie. The two girls are completing their practical at the Da’ Ai Television Broadcasting Station. We had much relaxed fun just by loafing around the river bank, searching for good food and chatting about the highs and lows of our trip. We had a special dessert found here, which is a gigantic ice cream cone which towers over your head that can be yours with a cheap price of NT$15. The other snacks sold in the night markets are just typical Taiwanese food that comes in smaller portions and higher prices.

Being a tourist laden attraction, we were spoilt for accommodation choices. Fortunately, a friend of mine suggested a cheap student hostel which we liked very much. The Fei’ Fan Hostel (非凡學舍) is clean and complete with free towels and complimentary bath set. There is also free internet access and a washing machine. To make it even better, the owner even offered his own kitchen for us to park our bikes, relieving us from the fear of losing our bikes, which I must say, is unbelievably essential for our winding roads ahea30d.

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