Exploring Taitung on Two Wheels

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Taitung is a great city to explore on a bicycle. It is relatively flat, there are designated bike paths that take you through the city and there are many varied spots to explore that are within easy reach.

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We started off at the old sugar factory that has been abandoned and is slowly being transformed into an art space with great potential. We enjoyed speeding down the vast empty spaces and discovered some really quirky cool spots for photos.

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We continued along the designated bike path that was once a railway track, and it offered us a glimpse of locals’ backyards. We cycled past thriving vegetable patches and little backyard gardens. It was a very quaint little community with a bit of a Japanese feel to it.

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The bike path then takes us through some streets and a park filled with hot air balloon lanterns, the mascot of Taitung (Taitung is famous for its annual hot air balloon festivals, hence the mini hot air balloon mascot).

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The path continues onto the shore, and we find ourselves breathing in the salt-laden air of the beach. It was a good place to take a break, and there were several snack shops in the area selling local Taiwanese delicacies. I spotted a dilapidated white house that looked like a drawing from a children’s book and it left me wondering about its inhabitants.

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The bike loop finishes in a large park which we spent several hours cycling around on a different day, and like so many other times before, we truly learnt and saw the city in so many ways that a tour bus or car cannot offer.

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Top 6 Cycling Experiences

Exploring a new place on two wheels can be very rewarding. I’m not much of a cyclist but I’ve discovered the immense pleasure of cycling leisurely along a flat road with the wind in your face and an endless view to die for. It makes the uphill slog and leg exercise worthwhile.

Here are my six best cycling experiences, accumulated from our travels around Europe and Asia, and in no particular order.

1. Lucca, Italy IMG_1211 IMG_1218

Lucca is a beautiful medieval city in Tuscany with intact city walls that circle the old town. Cycling the city walls is a perfect way to get to know the charming old town. My favourite bits are exploring the old town through the many narrow back lanes and hopping on and off our bikes for a quick gelato break. Oh, and the bikes we hired were so cute I wish I could take them home with me!

2. Yangshuo, China IMG_0204 IMG_9407

Yangshuo is famous for its distinct limestone karst terrain that covers a huge area best explored by bicycle. We would wake up very early in the mornings and cycle to neighbouring villages, passing rice paddies and locals going about their daily lives. In the afternoon as it got hotter we would retreat back to our rooms and venture out again in the evenings to explore other areas. It was so simple and idyllic that it became a routine for us during our time there.

3. Loire Valley, France IMG_5627 IMG_5581

Exploring the Loire Valley of France was a challenging 4 day adventure of cycling from one chateau to another with one too many wrong turns, uphills and glorious sunflower fields to distract us. Of course, we could have easily visited all four castles by train or car but the satisfaction and pride from completing 160km for a newbie cyclist like myself is something worth boasting about 😉

4. Lake Bled, Slovenia IMG_6923 IMG_6942

Bled is such an underrated place that I wish more people would know about. Cycling around the most exquisite turquoise waters of Lake Bled was the highlight of our time in Slovenia. Your eyes are constantly drawn to the stunning lake which occasionally throws you off your cycling course! We could stop any time at our whim and fancy, take a few pictures and have a sandwich by the lake with our feet dangling over the waters and ducks waiting to catch any bits of our crumbs.

5. Paris, France IMG_1628 IMG_1646

Paris remains one of my favourite cities in the world and when it’s not freezing cold, cycling on the busy streets, by the Seine or along Canal St Martin is an amazing way to soak in the city. Chic cafes and stylish Parisians line the sidewalks and you get a glimpse of La Tour Eiffel every now and then. The velib system is also easy to use and so cheap to get around town.

6. Tulip fields in Netherlands IMG_0228 IMG_0274

Cycling amongst blooming tulip fields in Holland in search of more blooming tulip fields felt like a kid unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. We would be cycling along a stretch of striking red tulips and then spot a streak of purple tulips ahead that we would race down the flat road to get to that field. It was a fun experience of finding tulip field after tulip field, with each discovery getting better and better.

These places really do exist in real life…

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I’ve been procrastinating this post for a while now. It’s not that I dread writing about it, rather it’s a challenge to try and describe in words my most favourite part of China. Not to mention selecting only a handful of the hundreds of photos we took in this region.

Often we see pictures on the internet and wonder if such beautiful places really do exist in this world, and that’s what went through my head as I sieved through our endless pictures of Yangshuo and Xinping in the region of Guangxi. These places are very real and none of the pictures have been photoshopped or edited.

This region is most famous for its limestone karst scenery. They are literally everywhere. I first laid eyes on limestone karsts in Vietnam and fell in love with it. But this tops it without a doubt. You can scale any peak in this region and see hundreds of limestone karsts as far as the eye can see. These peaks resemble hunched giants, quiet, unassuming but impossible not to notice. And sunsets in this region are truly breathtaking. Layer upon layer of shadowy peaks bathed in golden light.

I remember as a kid drawing multiple mountain peaks in an upside down ‘U’ or ‘V’  for art class, and realised as I grew older that my drawings were too far fetched and that such peaks probably don’t exist in real life. But seeing these limestone peaks before my very eyes proves that our imagination may not have been too far from reality. These things really do exist in real life..

The Gardens of Villandry

 

IMG_5870 IMG_5859 IMG_5855IMG_5903 IMG_5888 IMG_5884We wrapped up our Loire Valley cycling adventure with Château de Villandry, renowned for its stunning gardens. I honestly don’t think any other garden can top what I’ve seen in Villandry. The gardens triumph over the actual château and is obviously the main draw card for visitors coming to Villandry.

This will be my last post on France for the next wee while until we return. At the time of writing we are in Vienna and have visited 2 other cities in between which I’ll post about soon. I’m trying to strike a balance between updating consistently and yet not distracting myself from my real travels and exploration. Time is of essence especially when we are trying to hold onto as much of summer as possible which seems to be so fleeting in this continent! Thanks for following along on our adventures. Your likes and comments have not gone unnoticed and I’m glad that someone out there (other than our family) is vaguely interested in what we’re up to 😉

Ps: If you’d like to know where we are in the world in real time you might like to check out my instagram!

Cycling the Loire Valley

IMG_5656 IMG_5646 IMG_5627 IMG_5620 IMG_5617 IMG_5572 IMG_5558 IMG_5505 IMG_5458 IMG_5698We spent 4 days touring the Loire Valley of France by bicycle. The Loire Valley is famous for its châteaux and easy cycling routes so we figured this will be an interesting way to explore the area. We saw the majestic Chambord (latter pictures) and classy Cheverny (top picture) on our first day. We also cycled passed some of the most beautiful sunflower fields I’ve ever seen.

Day 1 of cycling was a little shock to our system as we overestimated our ability and got a little lost in the process. But as you do for all things, we did not give up and pushed on for the remaining days and I’m glad to say that 160km and 5 shades of tan later, we successfully conquered Loire Valley on two wheels! Yeehah! More posts to come on the châteaux we visited in Loire Valley.

Cycling in Paris

IMG_1625 IMG_1627 IMG_1628 IMG_1634 IMG_1646-horz IMG_1696If I had to pick one highlight of my time in Paris so far it has to be cycling around the city. I love exploring a city on two wheels especially if it is bike-friendly. The Paris velib system is the trump card for us. At a cost of practically next to nothing we can hire these bikes for a day or a week and cycle around the city, park them at the numerous velib stations dotted around the city for a break and hop back on when we want to go home.

We have since hired these bicycles several times after discovering the simplicity of how it works but our first bike adventure took us along the Seine towards Musée d’Orsay where the newly built Les Berges caught my eye. It was so much fun cycling along the Les Berges that I’m keen to go back again. We followed the Seine all the way to Île aux Cygnes (known for the Parisian Statue of Liberty, and nothing else), passing the bridge made famous by the movie ‘Inception’. As always, we were treated to amazing views of the Eiffel wherever we cycled.

My husband cleverly made this video of our bike adventures if you’ll like to see more. I think you can see how carefree and happy we felt on the bicycles. He makes a lot more videos of our daily adventures on his blog if you are interested.