17 April 2009
The third day, we started our cycle around the island tour in the drizzle. The preferred/recommended route was supposed to be cycling to Bali Old Street at the left bank of Tamsui River and then take the ferry from the Bali Ferryboat Wharf to the Tamsui Old Street. But we couldn’t. Why? Not my fault. We had a GPS with the proper check points set but it was not mounted on my bike. I just followed John. We made it to a wharf but there was no ferry. We thought that those ferries might only be in services on particular days. But that is not true. The ferries run daily. We just went to the wrong wharf. Anyway, we managed to bike to Tamsui around lunchtime as the drizzle became showers. We scurried into a seafood restaurant for shelter and for lunch. In order to boost up my morale, I ordered one of my favourite dishes, sautéed crab. It was expensive and tasteless. Oh no! I forgot to pick the crab by myself from the tank. They must have cooked a dying one for me. Sigh……!
After our disappointing lunch, at least the rain stopped. And as we reached the outskirts of the city on the Provincial Highway No. 2, swarms of scooters and speeding cars disappeared. (Actually, Taipei is a great place to cycle if one can find the bikeways on the riverbanks.) There were some cafes and interesting spots. We just stopped briefly because we did not know where to stay for that night.
Then we reached the northern tip of the island, Fugueijiao Lighthouse (富貴角燈塔), when the sun was setting. I love lighthouses. They are altruistic, beautiful, committed and lonely. In the past, there were lighthouse keepers who would play chess with their colleagues on shore by flashing morse codes to the clouds. Read this story, The Fastnet Lighthouse on the Economist. The life of Fugueijiao Lighthouse keepers (if any) should be easier. The lighthouse sits next to a fishing port and some tourist spots and within an hour’s drive from the city.
I didn’t care that it’s going to be dark soon. I wanted to take a good look at the lighthouse. We followed the pleasant foot path to the lighthouse and then the pristine buildings appeared with a perfect angle for taking pictures. The lighthouse is a 14.3m octagonal structure with black stripes, which is supposed to improve the visibility in the thick fog. I could only look at it from outside the gate because it was not open to public until 2015. It opens Tuesday to Sunday, 09:00 – 18:00 (summer), 09:00 – 17:00 (winter).
Leaving Fugueijiao, we found ourselves cycling in total darkness. It was perfectly safe but we still had not found a place to sleep yet. After 14km of pedalling on the dark coastal highway, I saw a shimmering light. It wasn’t Hotel California; it’s a coffee shop looking like a traditional building on the Greek island Santorini. We loaded up chunks of calories-rich cheese cakes and coffee into our stomachs there and then a kind staff member offered to help us finding a place to stay. She called a homestay owner nearby and told us to meet him at the next 7-eleven. The owner, riding a scooter, led us to his place. That’s the first night of our cycling tour. We had a good chat and played snooker with the owner before having a sound sleep in a clean bedroom big enough to house 6 people.