I woke in a rundown hotel room not far from the train station in Fengyuan (豐原). Sunlight trickled in through discolored drapes to fill the space with a murky glow. My muscles were knotted and my lower back ached, a consequence of sleeping on the rock-hard mattress and a tough, lumpy pillow after yesterday’s long ride. The passage of night left me feeling a vague sense of unease, almost as if there were something not quite right about the world I returned to. I lingered in bed, letting the moment pass.
Shaking off the discomfort, I gathered up my belongings, packed the panniers on my bicycle, and hauled everything down musty red-carpeted stairs to the lobby below. I passed the key back to the old woman behind the counter and took to the street in search of breakfast. My goals for the day: cycle the Houfeng and Dongfeng bikeways, explore an abandoned theme park in the hills above Taichung, and make it to Fengjia night market to meet a friend by nightfall.
Encore Garden is an abandoned theme park in the hills above Taichung city in Taiwan. I learned about this urban explorer’s dream after reading up on Katolis World, another abandoned amusement park demolished a few years ago, and finding a link to this blog. As part of my epic bicycle tour of Taiwan I stopped off to see whether I could sneak in and capture the essence of this forgotten and neglected place. Here is what I found…
After taking it easy the day before I set out to ride south to Taichung (臺中), about 100 km away. There were several sights I wanted to see on the approach to Taichung city itself so I wasn’t entirely sure I would make it all the way there with daylight to spare. In fact, I was quite sure I would not—I had been up late again, wrestling with insomnia, and was not ready to go until the early afternoon.
After my first day on the road I slept poorly, in fragments. I was roused in the early morning after two hours of rest to snack and have coffee before returning to bed. I did not awaken until after noon—at which point I decided to stay an extra night to catch up on work, blogging, photo post-processing, and to rest. I treated it as an opportunity to take a closer look at Zhubei, where I was staying, and to make a side trip to explore Hsinchu (新竹), the city across the river.
This is an account of the first day of my bicycle tour around Taiwan. I began at the paifang outside Liberty Square in Taipei and ended up in Zhubei, a newly built city just outside of Hsinchu, covering a distance of approximately 80 km.
Leaving the city in the stagnant heat of the late afternoon was largely uneventful. Mostly I tried to make good time since I was covering familiar ground. I have adapted to the pulse and rhythm of traffic in the big city by now—I forged ahead with preternatural ease, aggressively owning the road whenever necessary, cutting over to the sidewalks whenever prudent. I headed west through Wanhua and ascended the right scooter and bicycle ramp to the bridge over the river into Banqiao (板桥), navigating by instinct.
When I first moved to Taiwan four months ago I dreamed of cycling all around the island. Now I am on the road, living out this dream, moving forward into an uncertain future. I never expected to be touring so soon after arriving in Taiwan but the timing feels right and everything came together exactly as it would have to for such a journey to be possible.
Phobium’s Oort Cloud is an album full of deep space music. My goal was to create something with a cosmic feel that was also sparse and dark. I started in Illustrator , playing around with various ways to represent the orbits of heavenly bodies. These vector graphics were eventually exported to Photoshop for further manipulation. I opted for a simple typeface, Hero, and no use of logos or other forms of visual interference.
Today my phone service was abruptly cut off, almost as if I hadn’t topped up my balance two nights previously. A quick visit to the mobile shop revealed nothing obviously amiss, though there was indeed no credit in my account, nor any record of my previous visit. It was as if I hadn’t come in and dropped 1,100 NT on my phone service. I was left with no other option than to return home and rifle through receipts to find proof of payment.
Upon my return I had to wait another half hour or so. Once I sat down the source of the dysfunction became apparent: someone had mistakenly applied the credit to another phone number entirely, a simple case of the numeral “2″ transforming into a “4″. Human error, then, had given rise to this vexatious situation.
While waiting for the appropriate bits to be pushed around I pulled out my wallet and thumbed through the receipts I had collected that day. I noticed something peculiar upon inspecting a receipt from a bike shop I had visited earlier. The total was slightly more than I recall paying. In fact, as near as I could tell, the operator had slipped and entered an extra “4″ at the end of the total, thereby inflating the total by one order of magnitude, setting me back about USD$500!
As realization dawned upon me my phone was returned and I dashed out the door, hoping that the bike shop hadn’t shuttered its doors by ten at night. Taiwanese businesses tend to open late so I wasn’t too worried as I raced down Xinyi.
At any rate, the bike shop had already cancelled the transaction. How nice of them! I suppose that if I hadn’t come back to sort things out they might have had no way to charge me at all.
Well, I suppose this serves me right for whistling at night during ghost month. Why else would I be afflicted by a plague of fours?