Rob Hicks: cycling in Taiwan (part two)

I am now well and truly into the trip, and what a few days its been. On the first real day, we were up nice and early and made the short journey to Pingling to cycle around their famous tea plantations.

We were all issued with our bikes. To be honest, they weren’t the greatest, you can if you want hire out high-end road bikes, but for the nature of our trip coupled with the varying levels of fitness among the group, these ones seemed to do the trick.

For those of you who care, our bikes were called Giant Adventure 300’s or something similar to that.

In fact, Giant is a Taiwanese manufacturer and is one of the world’s largest bicycle manufacturers; everywhere you look you will see Giant bikes!  

Oh yeah, before I forget, I have managed to find out my Chinese name, I now go by the name of Luo, Yi Sih, and will not answer to anything else.  

Our first ride wasn’t too long, (around 20km), but it was quite demanding. There were some very steep climbs followed by some immensely exciting descents, flying down rugged, rural roads surrounded by huge trees and mountain tops.  These descents couldn’t come quick enough, as it’s a great way of cooling yourself down; you think it’s hot in the UK at the moment? It’s over 40 degrees out here!

It is worth mentioning that although you are riding through beautiful sceneries and rugged terrain, the roads themselves are smooth, very smooth in fact. There are no potholes, no road debris, most of the roads are unused, traffic is sparse, and if you still don’t feel confident going on the roads, you can ride on the cycle lanes, which offer far more protection.

We soon stopped for lunch, which was interesting to say the least. Shih – Fang teahouse was the destination and the food in general was very tasty. Although I couldn’t quite prepare myself for the vast amount of green tea they were going to hurl upon us. Green tea noodles, fried rice soaked in green tea, chicken, pork, fish all doused in green tea, followed by a cup of lovely, refreshing green sodding tea!

Thankfully early evening arrived, and our private two-floored coach took us to our next hotel, the Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi. A lovely hotel, situated in the hills of Yihan where there are numerous hot springs.

After going for a dip, I then visited a small pool area, with a sign saying Doctor Fish. I noticed everyone around me sitting on the side with their feet dipped in, strangely, no one was swimming. Intrigued by what was going on, I decided to join them. Within a second of plopping my feet in the water, hundreds of tiny fishes pounced on my feet. I screamed once again (for a second time on this trip). What on earth is going on? After talking to a few people, and then talking to a few more just so I fully understood, I was informed that no, this wasn’t a mistake and that these fish were supposed to be here. They also have a job to do. You see, as they don’t get fed, they instead feast on the dead skin on people’s feet for food! Have you ever heard anything more disgusting? And what more, people seem to like it!

With this valuable information now haunting me for life, I whipped my feet out in a blink of an eye, and headed off to dinner.

Steak tonight, medium rare, and thankfully no green tea to be seen.