Nearly all activities on our trip were for both of us. But in Taiwan I had a couple fun side trips without Elizabeth. One was on a bicycle and the other was on foot.
Sun Moon Lake Bicycle Ride
Sun Moon Lake is famous for its beautiful vistas and is a popular spot for honeymooners in Taiwan. It is also on the tour bus circuit for mainland-Chinese visiting the island. Honestly we thought it was overrated. To be fair, it was not a clear day for us, and I suppose it would be a nice place to go for a weekend getaway. But it was not close to as stunningly beautiful as Alishan.
One notable thing to do at Sun Moon Lake is to bicycle. There is a mix of roads and bike paths around the lake, which is about 30 km. Elizabeth doesn’t like bicycling as much as I do and was in the mood for a relaxing day sitting by the lake, so I rented a bike (a basic Giant road bike) and went for a ride. Due to time constraints I didn’t go around the lake — I just went out and back along the northern side of the lake. In the end, I went a total of 22 km so maybe I should have done the loop. In any event, it was fun and beautiful. I loved the separated bike paths, and the roads were not too bad.
The only trick was that nobody warned me of the bike path closure just east of the Wen Wu Temple. The best way to deal with this westbound (counter-clockwise to the lake) is to bike up the hill, carry your bike down the stairs, and bike on the path after that. Going the other way, I biked up the hill because I (unintentionally) ended up separated from the bike path. I’m not sure if I’d recommend taking the path knowing you have to carry a bike up a long staircase.
There were cherry blossoms at the parking lot for the gondola:
At the town on the far side, I stopped for lunch: bubble tea and deep fried mushrooms.
Then I went back.
People and guidebooks seem to think Sun Moon Lake is a must-see sight (the People’s Republic of China even has a picture of it in their passport — which caused much fuss in cross-strait relations). I’m not sure I agree, but if you do go, bicycling around the lake is the way to go.
Running the 8.5 km Race with the Sanzhi Marathon
I like running, especially with groups. I had fun at Parkrun in St. Petersburg and Moscow, but there are no Parkruns in Taiwan. So I signed up for a race instead. I thought about running the half marathon, but without advance training and the right equipment to work out my knees, I decided on the 8.5 km race. I had to get to Taipei Main Station to catch a bus at 4:30 a.m., so Elizabeth reasonably declined to join me (she’s also avoiding running as we gear up for the PCT because she has had some foot pain after runs).
It rained a little before and during the race, but still very beautiful. I even stopped by the booth for one of the sponsors, Dr. Bronner’s soaps (a product I already use).
I started near the back for my race, and made it forward to a group running a decent pace. The half marathon had only left 10 minutes earlier so I ended up running around the people walking or slow running that race. The group I planned to run with fell apart as one person fell off the pace and one person either (a) was actually running the half marathon or (b) took a wrong turn. I ended up pacing off of one runner for most of the race. I didn’t know if we were in the lead or not — I had started at the back so there could be someone ahead and out of sight.
Two people passed us, though I later learned they were not running the race (I think they were pacing for marathoners and were just scoping out part of the end of the course).
The run was beautiful, especially the second half, down a country road with cherry blossoms, then along the coast.
A few minutes after I finished, someone found me and told me that I had won the men’s race. I then figured out that the people who passed me didn’t finish. I was told to wait around for pictures. It turns out that Dr. Bronner’s and Hoegaarden beer (another product I happily consume) sponsored the 8.5 km distance. I won a free bottle of Dr. Bronner’s green tea flavored soap and two bottles of beer. And I had pictures taken. Unfortunately I didn’t think to get out my phone until the end of the picture taking, so I just have one picture with the Hoegaarden booth.
I’ve run a bunch of places in the world, but usually running is predictable. If I run with others, I tend to finish in the middle (or when I am running Fog City Run, near the back). So this was quite unexpected. And really, my time wasn’t that good. But it was a fun way to cap the year’s runs while traveling.
I owe big thanks to two people. First, when I got lost looking for the marathon’s office (to pick up my bib and packet), May Li from CP Travel Service next door helped me find the office. Not being able to read signs in Chinese, her help was invaluable. Second, the Sanzhi Marathon organizers helped me sign up via Facebook chat, in English, after the sign-up deadline. They were very helpful when I was often confused (not understanding the instructions over the loudspeakers and all).
Too bad Elizabeth decided to sleep in.
[This blog post describes my experience running and bicycling in Taiwan, March 20 and 25, 2017.]