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..

Beautiful Slovenia

 

IMG_6955 IMG_7018 IMG_7142 IMG_7121 IMG_7111 IMG_7068 IMG_6992IMG_7156Slovenia is a country blessed with so much natural beauty. Lakes with crystal clear waters, majestic mountains and picturesque countrysides are just some of the gems to be discovered in Slovenia. We visited Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj and cannot get enough of the spectacular views surrounding these two unique lakes. In some ways Slovenia reminded us of the South Island of New Zealand.

Traveling for so long can sometimes numb your sensations to all the beauty and exciting things around you. We find that mixing things up does a lot of good to refresh our senses and get us all stimulated again. Right before Slovenia we had been city hopping (from Prague to Budapest to Vienna) so taking it slow and immersing ourselves in nature was just what we needed.

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!

Château de Chenonceau

IMG_5782 IMG_5808IMG_5753 IMG_5769 IMG_5772-tile IMG_5777 IMG_5823 IMG_5779Château de Chenonceau was my favourite château of all the ones we’ve seen during our Loire Valley cycling adventure. The romantic chandeliers, chessboard floors, gardens and of course, the river running through its arches makes this château a winner. I could admire it from afar and stay bewitched by its beauty for a long time.

The story behind this château was equally intriguing. It was a château owned by several powerful women in France during the times of the monarchs. These women made the château into what it is today.