Hiking with Tom – Wutai – 22nd December.

The Christmas period is over and I’ve finally got chance to bring you a somewhat brief report on my trip to Wutai 2 weeks ago.

The year started with hiking and would end with it, and something a little different. I’d been really enthusiastic about the mountains until late February then it started to heat up, the baseball started and my enthusiasm quickly evaporated. Aside from a few short walks, i.e. Jiantan in May, I’d really done nothing on the hiking front. This winter has ended up focused on cycling but for one day only, things would change. I know realise upon reading this back how nice it would be to head out to the hills again!

The Southern Taiwan Hiking group put out a post asking if anyone was interested in a trip to Wutai in Pingtung. It involved a hike, a hot spring and aboriginal meal, three things that really interested me. I’d known Wutai as being an aboriginal village deep up in the Pingtung mountains and it was inaccessible by public transport, I signed up. Despite not liking group activities this was a unique chance to do see Wutai, eat aboriginal food and visit a hot spring.

It was an early start which felt even earlier for me after I’d had about 45 minutes of sleep! I had to meet up in Kaohsiung which meant taking a train but I’d not wanted to leave my bicycle in Tainan City Centre all day. The first bus wasn’t until 6:15am which wouldn’t allow me to get to Kaohsiung until gone 8. I compromised and decided to cycle to Bao-an, one stop down the line and 6.5km away. It meant I could leave later at 6:15 and easily make the 6:50am train.

I got to Bao-an and bike parking wasn’t ideal. I ended up surrounding my bike amongst a load of rusty others and hoped Bao-an was as safe as it felt. I left my bike behind and took the train down to Minzu station

I tried to find a 7 Eleven nearby but couldn’t and worried about the 8am meet up time so had to go without. This didn’t end up mattering as I found the van wasn’t leaving until gone 8:30am. I did get my coffee and my food after all! It was 9am before the van finally started heading towards Wutai, picking up a straddler near the martial arts stadium.

Coming off Highway 3 and onto Highway 24 I recognized where we were, on the same road as I’d taken on a tourist bus to the Aboriginal Culture Center in Sandimen. The mountains got closer and soon we were heading up the spectacular mountain road to Wutai checkpoint.

The scenery got better and better as we got further up the mountain, the drive alone being worth the trip.

The drive soon came to an end, and it was just as well, I’d been travelling for well over 4 hours and just wanted to ‘get going’. What I didn’t quite know what was the hike would entail and as we descended down a rocky embankment to a river I quickly realised I’d wore the wrong things.

We had to cross a river which was over boot level deep. Never mind, once isn’t so bad I thought, then I was told we’d be crossing many many more times. It left me pretty downhearted and feeling silly for wearing boots. With wet feet and most others in waterproof shoes I knew it was going to be a long walk. Added to my wet feet I had thick socks on which absolutely ensured I’d be uncomfortable for the duration.

The second river crossing was nearing waist deep and at this point I abandoned my frustrated demeanour in favour of a “let’s just enjoy it” attitude despite my reservations crossing the river. Going waist high in water was strangely fun but crossings themselves left me a bit worried, not necessarily the depth but the fact I’m usually clumsy especially when it comes to rocks and slippery rocks even more so. It didn’t take long for me to gain some confidence and this became an enjoyable hike within about 20 minutes.

The 2nd, waist high crossing.

One aspect that may have helped was the incredible scenery walking up the valley. I was simply in awe and I guess it took my mind from the wet feet and fast flowing current.

The worst crossing was the 7th, and even after taking the initiative with the pace (no surprises given my length) I stopped. The water was fast moving and it looked deep. It was a tricky crossing which required some teamwork but after that, it was fairly easy until the final two.

The last two crossings were quite deep and looked treacherous. This wasn’t so bad, what seemed to be was we’d been informed we were an hour short of the hot spring area. It was 1:15pm and there was a need to get back before 4 for the restaurant and to ensure the van got back to Kaohsiung by 7.

People stopped for 30 minutes for lunch and to rest whilst I idlely sat on a rock bored. It got too much for me and I slow set off back down the river now feeling confident to take on the river alone. It was the one downside to being with a group, a slow pace. Usually when I hike it’s at speed without much need to stop and rest. I made the first three crossings back with people in sight then spent about 45 minutes alone.

What I was oblivious to was many of the group were sat in a warm pool and I was missing out. That said with my boots as soaked as they were, taking them off would meant getting them on would have been almost impossible.

An Englishman by the name of John caught up as I slowed down. I had been helped across to river crossings by mountain bikers and I had some company right back towards the bridge at the start. Unfortunately we forgot where to make the last crossing and I ended up having to dive for the bank as I teetered backwards.

2 hours 10 after leaving the rest point me and two other members of the group were back. Most of the others were at least 15 minutes behind and it gave me chance to snap a few photos from the aboriginal painted bridge that spanned across the valley.

With the group back together about 20 minutes we headed for the aboriginal restaurant. What I didn’t realise was most had changed, whilst I sat in my base layer oblivious despite having brought a spare t shirt and trousers!

The view from the restaurant was superb and the food was even better. Aboriginal style pork was ordered as if catering for a small army and it became obvious why… It was smoky, tender and just a really really great cut of meat. Also ordered was sweet potato which found myself wanting more and more of, ome steamed vegetables and chicken. I could eaten far more and it was a crazy cheap NT$200 a head.

Around 5:30pm we moved on and back to Kaohsiung where we arrived back around 7. NT$450 for the van/fuel and I trudged along to Kaohsiung station for a train back north.

My bike was where I’d left it and after a tricky 6.5km cycle in boots that weighed twice what they usually do, got in around 9.

Excellent food, wonderful scenery and a fun hike. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Cycling with Tom – Beimen and the weirdo – 21st Dec

There are 35 districts in Tainan City, some are large such as Nanhua at 171km2, some are small such at West Central at just 6.2km2, some have many people like my own East District at 187,000 and some are just, out the way…one of which is the topic of today’s ride.

It’s fair to say many of Tainan’s 35 districts are infrequently visited by westerners with little of real interest. There are exceptions outside the Inner Tainan such as Baihe’s Guanziling Hot Spring and maybe Zuozhen’s Fossil Museum but I’m stretching it here. Most districts are rural, most agricultural areas with a smattering of industry thrown in for good measure. There is usually little to draw anyone and I’ve come to like that…

Beimen is one of those districts that falls into the category of rural, with a low population being located 35km north of Tainan City Centre. Being a geography nerd I have of course read the English Wikipedia page on every district in Tainan and Beimen has just always stuck out. It borders with Chiayi County and has two tourist attractions known to the locals, the Crystal Church and the salt fields.

My previous Sunday’s ride had given me confidence about my ability to cycle distance and so on the face of it, 82km looked like a decent ride. The catch was, it was a Saturday as I had plans for Sunday so I didn’t get my usual sleep in till mid afternoon…

I set off at 2:07pm, acutely aware that I needed to be in Beimen by 5:10 for sunset. I’d initially planned to leave an hour before and get lunch in central Tainan but laziness kicked in…

I headed through the city centre onto Jhonghua West Road on Highway 17 and then took a left as the road split over the river and into Annan District. This area is known as the wetlands and from the bridge, it’s just one big flat expanse heading north. It was a 1km up the road things took a turn for the bizarre…

A scooter pulled up alongside and it was an older gentleman maybe mid 50s. He started talking in Chinese. I thought oh, he has noticed I’m a foreigner and wants to chat. Oh no, he stayed alongside me just rambling the same kind of thing not listening to me. For the first few minutes, I assumed nothing was untoward so I carried on with my earphones in but suddenly I started to get scared. Panic mode set in after about 5 minutes and I realised I had an issue.

The minutes and kilometres ticked by and I knew there was little I could do so I threatened to call the police in my best Chinese to try throw him off. He kept following and I made a plan. I needed water anyway and knew the next 7 Eleven was a few more km north. I just kept riding knowing I had to reach the 7 Eleven.

Finally I got around a corner and there it was! At least 20 minutes and at least 8km after I’d started to be followed, I’d reached the 7. I got off my bike, locked it and ran inside in distress. I asked the cashier for help in Chinese, told her I was being followed in English gesturing too. She quickly understood as he made his way to the door. I went into a total breakdown as for the first time in my years in Taiwan I’d feared for my safety.

I went to get some water as the cashier exchanged words with the man outside. I still have no idea what he wanted and he disappeared after about 5 minutes. A xenophobe? A drunk? A local lunatic? I will never know but it took me about 20 minutes to calm down. I’d lost a lot of valuable time and continued determined not to let the weirdo ruin my afternoon.

The wind was a huge factor and after crossing the Zengwen River going into Qigu the road was largely in poor condition. I had over 20km to do against the wind in about an hour and 10. It wasn’t pleasant to say the least.

It was a slow 14km up to the border of Jiangjun province but thankfully the road smoothed out and the traffic was non existent. For the first time since 2:30pm I was smiling and it was all new scenery to me. Jiangjun became the 29th district of Tainan I’d step foot in.

Things only better and it took me just 12 minutes to cycle through a deserted Jiangjun into Beimen. As I passed the Beimen sign there was a great feeling inside of me, I’d made it to this place I’d read about a lot before.

I pulled off to the left towards the visitor center and there was this feeling of desolation. The police station was closed, it was eeriely quiet until I pulled up at the visitor center.


One of the wonderful things I’ve found in Taiwan is even off the beaten track is written English can be found. It’s on street signs, there is almost always tourist information and Beimen was no exception. Food, yes is usually an exception but that wasn’t an issue here.

I walked down to the Crystal Church which in the late afternoon light looked splendid. 20NT admission for what most westerners would consider a basic attraction but it made for superb photos…

I got back on the bike in order to make sunset down at the salt fields. Beimen’s main street was basic. A few houses, one or two shops, some food stalls and the obligatory temple. This was the real rural Tainan, there wasn’t even a 7 Eleven.

The road down to the salt fields was smooth with water on either side. It appeared however that I’d arrived bit too late. The sunset had nearly passed and I really should have left Tainan earlier. That said I hadn’t expected a 2 hour 20 minute ride and a weirdo hinder my progress… Nonetheless I got a good impression.

There was information about salt and behind the tile paved salt fields, Beimen Lagoon which looked a tad dreary. With the sun almost gone I had to get all my photos and tourism done in a 25 minute window.

Leaving the lagoon I picked my route back, heading out the way I came, back onto Highway 17 but then took the 174 to Xuejia. I knew Highway 19 was a faster, smoother road and this proved true I absolutely blitzed my way back to Tainan City ring road in no time. I had no problem regularly hitting 37kmh and was back home by 7 15pm.

The day got better as it went on and it was one of those rides I simply had to write about!

I’m back on the bike this week so I’ll be bringing another cycle post soon.

Tom

Cycling with Tom – Beimen and the weirdo – 21st Dec

There are 35 districts in Tainan City, some are large such as Nanhua at 171km2, some are small such at West Central at just 6.2km2, some have many people like my own East District at 187,000 and some are just, out the way…one of which is the topic of today’s ride.

It’s fair to say many of Tainan’s 35 districts are infrequently visited by westerners with little of real interest. There are exceptions outside the Inner Tainan such as Baihe’s Guanziling Hot Spring and maybe Zuozhen’s Fossil Museum but I’m stretching it here. Most districts are rural, most agricultural areas with a smattering of industry thrown in for good measure. There is usually little to draw anyone and I’ve come to like that…

Beimen is one of those districts that falls into the category of rural, with a low population being located 35km north of Tainan City Centre. Being a geography nerd I have of course read the English Wikipedia page on every district in Tainan and Beimen has just always stuck out. It borders with Chiayi County and has two tourist attractions known to the locals, the Crystal Church and the salt fields.

My previous Sunday’s ride had given me confidence about my ability to cycle distance and so on the face of it, 82km looked like a decent ride. The catch was, it was a Saturday as I had plans for Sunday so I didn’t get my usual sleep in till mid afternoon…

I set off at 2:07pm, acutely aware that I needed to be in Beimen by 5:10 for sunset. I’d initially planned to leave an hour before and get lunch in central Tainan but laziness kicked in…

I headed through the city centre onto Jhonghua West Road on Highway 17 and then took a left as the road split over the river and into Annan District. This area is known as the wetlands and from the bridge, it’s just one big flat expanse heading north. It was a 1km up the road things took a turn for the bizarre…

A scooter pulled up alongside and it was an older gentleman maybe mid 50s. He started talking in Chinese. I thought oh, he has noticed I’m a foreigner and wants to chat. Oh no, he stayed alongside me just rambling the same kind of thing not listening to me. For the first few minutes, I assumed nothing was untoward so I carried on with my earphones in but suddenly I started to get scared. Panic mode set in after about 5 minutes and I realised I had an issue.

The minutes and kilometres ticked by and I knew there was little I could do so I threatened to call the police in my best Chinese to try throw him off. He kept following and I made a plan. I needed water anyway and knew the next 7 Eleven was a few more km north. I just kept riding knowing I had to reach the 7 Eleven.

Finally I got around a corner and there it was! At least 20 minutes and at least 8km after I’d started to be followed, I’d reached the 7. I got off my bike, locked it and ran inside in distress. I asked the cashier for help in Chinese, told her I was being followed in English gesturing too. She quickly understood as he made his way to the door. I went into a total breakdown as for the first time in my years in Taiwan I’d feared for my safety.

I went to get some water as the cashier exchanged words with the man outside. I still have no idea what he wanted and he disappeared after about 5 minutes. A xenophobe? A drunk? A local lunatic? I will never know but it took me about 20 minutes to calm down. I’d lost a lot of valuable time and continued determined not to let the weirdo ruin my afternoon.

The wind was a huge factor and after crossing the Zengwen River going into Qigu the road was largely in poor condition. I had over 20km to do against the wind in about an hour and 10. It wasn’t pleasant to say the least.

It was a slow 14km up to the border of Jiangjun province but thankfully the road smoothed out and the traffic was non existent. For the first time since 2:30pm I was smiling and it was all new scenery to me. Jiangjun became the 29th district of Tainan I’d step foot in.

Things only better and it took me just 12 minutes to cycle through a deserted Jiangjun into Beimen. As I passed the Beimen sign there was a great feeling inside of me, I’d made it to this place I’d read about a lot before.

I pulled off to the left towards the visitor center and there was this feeling of desolation. The police station was closed, it was eeriely quiet until I pulled up at the visitor center.


One of the wonderful things I’ve found in Taiwan is even off the beaten track is written English can be found. It’s on street signs, there is almost always tourist information and Beimen was no exception. Food, yes is usually an exception but that wasn’t an issue here.

I walked down to the Crystal Church which in the late afternoon light looked splendid. 20NT admission for what most westerners would consider a basic attraction but it made for superb photos…

I got back on the bike in order to make sunset down at the salt fields. Beimen’s main street was basic. A few houses, one or two shops, some food stalls and the obligatory temple. This was the real rural Tainan, there wasn’t even a 7 Eleven.

The road down to the salt fields was smooth with water on either side. It appeared however that I’d arrived bit too late. The sunset had nearly passed and I really should have left Tainan earlier. That said I hadn’t expected a 2 hour 20 minute ride and a weirdo hinder my progress… Nonetheless I got a good impression.

There was information about salt and behind the tile paved salt fields, Beimen Lagoon which looked a tad dreary. With the sun almost gone I had to get all my photos and tourism done in a 25 minute window.

Leaving the lagoon I picked my route back, heading out the way I came, back onto Highway 17 but then took the 174 to Xuejia. I knew Highway 19 was a faster, smoother road and this proved true I absolutely blitzed my way back to Tainan City ring road in no time. I had no problem regularly hitting 37kmh and was back home by 7 15pm.

The day got better as it went on and it was one of those rides I simply had to write about!

I’m back on the bike this week so I’ll be bringing another cycle post soon.

Tom

Cycling with Tom – Wanpi Zoo and the 100km – 15th Dec.

It’s been three weeks since I blogged about starting to cycle and it’s fair to say I’ve really been enjoying it. It has opened up the ability to visit parts of Tainan that I wouldn’t usually be able to. Sods law would have it though, that in the midst of 10 days off having overdone things last week.

In between my Qigu, Madou ride on 1st December and 15th, things didn’t go well. I did a few night rides between 5th and 12th and struggled, they were nothing crazy (25km-50km) but it felt like my fitness wasn’t improving at all. A dip in temperatures and not feeling well may well have had something to do with it though. It may seem odd then that on 14th December I decided to push things and do Wanpi Zoo the next day, an 80km ride.

My plan from 1st Dec onwards had been to do a few more km each Sunday, 70-75km on 8th, 75-80km on 15th so I was trying to get back on track. Wanpi almost didn’t happen, I went to bed at a ridiculous 5am but, at 8 I almost leaped out of bed with great enthusiasm.

Wanpi Zoo is somewhere my students had told me about, located in Tainan’s Xuejia District (學甲區) just off Provincial Highway 19. I have a somewhat ethical objection to zoos but I read a few reviews and thought “Ok, let’s do it”. Unlike most rides then, there was something to aim for rather than just cycling to see new towns and villages.

I set off up Tainan’s Jhonghua Road (the city ring road) and then took a right onto Highway 19, and over the first of two rivers that brought me into Annan District. I stopped off for water and carried on north in a headwind through Anding, then over the huge Zengwen River into Xigang.

From Xigang the road smoothed out, I crossed into Jiali then Xuejia. I had a little break as I bypassed the town thinking I’d got 5-6km to do at most. I didn’t…

I crossed over a huge bridge north of Expressway 84 and the views were spectacular but by now, I’d been riding for 1 hour 45 and wanted to just reach the zoo.

I had to take a left onto a small somewhat rutted country road and despite cramp, I felt excellent being so far out the city. It was getting more rural and after a final right, reached Wanpi after 2 hours 1 minute on the bike.

The zoo cost NT$480 to enter which I knew in advance but felt excessive. Thankfully with it being mid winter it wasn’t particularly busy.

I started to make an anti clockwise loop around fully intending to make the most of my day with no worries about time.

The first two animals were the flamingos and capybara’s neither of which I recall seeing, at least in the previous 20 years!

Next up was the petting zoo area, rabbits, goats, mini horses but also… Sheep-Pigs?

Unfortunately I wasn’t happy with the conditions that were kept in and I moved on swiftly towards the porcupines and llamas.

From the llamas there were lots of sheep like looking animals with horns, donkeys, camels and some sad looking ostriches which I absolutely hate.

The next thing of interest looked like mini kangaroos…

It was inside to the rodents, hedgehogs, guinea pigs, hamsters etc before moving down the left side of the zoo. Unfortunately the giraffes were far away from the fence and the zebras were close to it, but the view was poor.

Despite this, it was good to get close to the Komodo Dragons which I don’t think I’d ever seen previously…

My time at Wanpi was wrapped up with a trip inside to the reptile house. Snakes, turtles, tortoises nothing too exciting except some huge pythons…

And of course one of my favourites… MEERKATS!

I began one last little walk but came away exactly how I felt beforehand. A good selection of animals to see, some new ones but from an ethical point of view, a lot of animals could have been kept better. It was obvious, some animals were unhappy. 3 hours used up and it was time to make my way south back to Tainan.

These were excellent wide, lightly traffic cycling roads and the views were pleasant. I diverted into Xuejia town on the way back with it’s impressive temple and I always find it fascinating to see these towns like Jiali, Xuejia, Madou. From an administrative point of view here in Taiwan, things are different but for all intents and purposes, we still have towns and villages even if they are organised differently.

Back on Highway 19 and it was a fast, fast road heading south with the tailwind as I reached up to 42kmh and cruised around 36km. There was another nice little temple in Jialixiang which was worth a look at…

From Jialixiang I pushed on back into Tainan, choosing to divert in Annan onto Beian Road and got a little lost at one point. I’d done over 70km and was cramming and sore. It turned out it was a good decision to divert as I ended up on the west side of the city centre.

I popped into Tu Xiao Yueh for some Dan Zai Mian and contemplated what to do next… I’d done 78km and ultimately made the decision to push for 100 but how?

Anping. I rode down in some discomfort to the beach for a couple of photos but still had 16km to do. I got on Google Maps and tried to create that with only 12km back home. I usually a couple of route extensions via the air force base and set off back…

There was painful moments but incredibly despite thinking I’d planned for 100, got 500m from home and still had over 1km to do. I pushed the route a bit more and to a 7 Eleven home near home. Finally got gone 5:30pm with 32 days to spare I had my 100km day!

A good solid 9 hour day out and Wanpi Zoo, well, make your own mind up on it. From a public transport perspective it’s train to Xinying and a rare bus to Wanpi Zoo or bus to Jiali, Xuejia and then Wanpi. It’s quicker and easier to cycle it!

Stay tuned for more posts like this one.

Tom

7 weeks, 27 and cycling.

It’s been a while since my last post but as ever  there hasn’t been a great to say recently.. until now!


7 weeks. At the time of writing I will be in the United States of America in 46 days. All my hostels are booked, most internal travel inside the US is sorted, ESTA, and most research. The only part of my trip I’m lagging behind on is LA. About 90% of the research on this 18 day trip has been focused on my 5 days in New York. I think deep down I want to get off to good start on my holiday, and then will plan more in depth about the other cities as I travel.

I’m really excited of course about all 5 of these cities, although NYC for me is iconic. This coming from the man who once said he’d never step foot in the US as recently as 2-3 years ago and is now investing about 2 months worth of wages into a trip there…

27. I turned 27 on 21st November and it was a fine occasion. Despite being on a Thursday, it was quiz night and so drinks were always going to flow. I co-hosted the Artful Dodger quiz, and my good friends ensured I didn’t have to pay anything on the night. It was a really nice gesture indeed and after 4 years in Taiwan, I’ve become part of the family so to speak. Definitely my best birthday for a number of years.

Cycling. Last year, I had a bike stolen during an October weekend which was a wonderful surprise, arriving back from Tainan at 2:30am after a Lions away weekend in Taoyuan. I ended up walking for a month before I was kindly gifted a bike for birthday. This one speed lasted until September when it started to have a few problems…

In the mood for a new bike, I purchased this:

A Giant bicycle for NT$9900 on October 9th.

During the Rugby World Cup, I didn’t get much time/motivation to head out riding but that changed last week.. I’d only done 2 decent rides, then suddenly last Sunday as I once sat in my apartment feeling sorry for myself went for a salad. I came back 3 hours later, having done a 50km ride, It was my first 50km in a long time, and it felt bloody awesome.

Monday came along and I’ve now made it my mission to ride at 4 days a week/100km a week, and do a 100km ride before I got to the US in 46 days time. It gives me 6 weekends more, including my 1.5km of commuting of each day, I clocked up 94km before I took on what I called the Grand Loop, up Highway 19 from the east side of Tainan to Xigang, over to Madou, then west to Jiali and Cigu before re-entering the city via Highway 17. 63km plus another 6km achieved, as I’d stopped for lunch at 63km. 

It felt great to 13km on the previous Sunday’s ride and I know I can push on, and hit that 100km barrier. Next week, I’ll up it to a 70km ride and take a little easier in midweek if needs be. I’ve never done 70km before, but I want to. Cycling makes me feel so free, so alive and it’s great to see new places. I went through 9 separate districts of Tainan today, including 4 I’d never been to before (Xigang, Madou, Jiali and Qigu) although I’ve passed through Madou by bus before.

I’m having fun and let’s see how it goes

Tom!

7 weeks, 27 and cycling

It’s been a while since my last post but as ever there hasn’t been a great to say recently.. until now!

7 weeks. At the time of writing I will be in the United States of America in 46 days. All my hostels are booked, most internal travel inside the US is sorted, ESTA, and most research. The only part of my trip I’m lagging behind on is LA. About 90% of the research on this 18 day trip has been focused on my 5 days in New York. I think deep down I want to get off to good start on my holiday, and then will plan more in depth about the other cities as I travel.

I’m really excited of course about all 5 of these cities, although NYC for me is iconic. This coming from the man who once said he’d never step foot in the US as recently as 2-3 years ago and is now investing about 2 months worth of wages into a trip there…

27. I turned 27 on 21st November and it was a fine occasion. Despite being on a Thursday, it was quiz night and so drinks were always going to flow. I co-hosted the Artful Dodger quiz, and my good friends ensured I didn’t have to pay anything on the night. It was a really nice gesture indeed and after 4 years in Taiwan, I’ve become part of the family so to speak. Definitely my best birthday for a number of years.

Cycling. Last year, I had a bike stolen during an October weekend which was a wonderful surprise, arriving back from Tainan at 2:30am after a Lions away weekend in Taoyuan. I ended up walking for a month before I was kindly gifted a bike for birthday. This one speed lasted until September when it started to have a few problems…
In the mood for a new bike, I purchased this:

A Giant bicycle for NT$9900 on October 9th.

During the Rugby World Cup, I didn’t get much time/motivation to head out riding but that changed last week.. I’d only done 2 decent rides, then suddenly last Sunday as I once sat in my apartment feeling sorry for myself went for a salad. I came back 3 hours later, having done a 50km ride, It was my first 50km in a long time, and it felt bloody awesome.

Monday came along and I’ve now made it my mission to ride at 4 days a week/100km a week, and do a 100km ride before I got to the US in 46 days time. It gives me 6 weekends more, including my 1.5km of commuting of each day, I clocked up 94km before I took on what I called the Grand Loop, up Highway 19 from the east side of Tainan to Xigang, over to Madou, then west to Jiali and Cigu before re-entering the city via Highway 17. 63km plus another 6km achieved, as I’d stopped for lunch at 63km.

It felt great to 13km on the previous Sunday’s ride and I know I can push on, and hit that 100km barrier. Next week, I’ll up it to a 70km ride and take a little easier in midweek if needs be. I’ve never done 70km before, but I want to. Cycling makes me feel so free, so alive and it’s great to see new places. I went through 9 separate districts of Tainan today, including 4 I’d never been to before (Xigang, Madou, Jiali and Qigu) although I’ve passed through Madou by bus before.

So far so good! I’m enjoying the feeling and for once taking pride in something I own.

Let’s see how it goes!

Tom

CPBL round-up – week 29 – Taiwan Series

For the 29th and final time this season, I am rounding up last week’s CPBL action. It’s time to look back at the Taiwan Series between Chinatrust Brothers, the 2nd phase champions and Taoyuan Lamigo Monkeys, the recent dominant force in Taiwanese baseball.

GAME 1 – Saturday 12th October – Brothers v Monkeys in Taoyuan.

Elih Villeneuva v Radhames Liz.

Game 1 was a tight affair and a great start to the series. In the second phase Brothers had led the head to head 13 to 7 and they took a 2-0 lead in the 2nd through Zhang Chih-Hao’s 2 RBI shot. It wasn’t to last long though,

Lin Hung-Yu got on base, and Chen Chen-Chiu got an RBI to bring it back to 2-1 with no outs in the bottom of the 2nd. Brothers then made an error off a Chu Yu-Hsien shot and Chen Chun Chiu came home, 2-2 with 0 outs. Kuo Yun-Wen and Lin Cheng-Fei were sent back to the dug-outs before Liu Shih-Hao put runners on the corners. A second error of the inning put the Monkeys ahead 3-2 as Chen Chen-Wei successfully got to 1st and Chu Yu-Hsien came home, 3-2. Villenueva was struck out and it remained 3-2 after 2.

Lamigo further increased their lead in the 4th, with 2 on base, Chen Chun Chiu’s sacrifice shot put runners on 2 and 3. Chu Yu-Hsien’s 2 RBI single then got both runners home to make it 5-2.

Brothers got back into the game in the 6th thanks to Wang Wei-Chen’s home run and the game would remain without further score until the 9th. Radhames Liz lasted 7 innings (7H, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 9 SO) and Villenueva lasted 8 with a line of 9H, 5R, 3ER, 0BB, 7 SO.

The game hinged on the 9th as Brothers levelled in the top of the inning as legend Peng Zheng-Min hit a 2 RBI double with 2 outs, then put another man on base with 2 outs. Thomas Dominy then walked Wang Wei-Chen before Wang Yue-Lin ended the inning with the game tied at 5-5.

In the bottom of the 9th, Lamigo loaded the bases with 2 outs with pinch hitter Liao Chien-Fu at the plate. He hit a walk-off single and game 1 of the series was over.

Chinatrust Brothers 5-6 Lamigo Monkeys – Monkeys lead the series 1-0

GAME 2 – Sunday 13th October – Brothers v Monkeys in Taoyuan.

Liao Yi-Zhong v Michael Nix

This game was over as a contest in the first inning, Chinatrust Brothers completely ripped Michael Nix to shreds making 6 hits and were walked twice to put them 7-0 with 1 out. Zhang Chih-Hao was the big profiter, hitting a grand slam to take it from 2-0 to 6-0. Wang Wei-Chun came onto pitch but couldn’t stop the bleeding conceding another 4 hits before a double-play ended the inning.

Lamigo pulled a run back in the bottom of the first but another hope of a comeback was quickly extinguished. 3 more Brothers runs in the top of the 2nd was the icing on the cake and anything after, was irrelevant. Brothers didn’t score after whilst Lamigo scored 5 more runs in the game. Liao Yi-Zhong lasted 6.1 and ended with figures of 7H, 5R, 5ER, 1BB, 6 SO with Michael Nix’s figures being a grizzly 0.1 6H, 8R, 8ER, 2BB, 1 SO.

Chinatrust Brothers 13-6 Lamigo Monkeys – series tied 1-1

GAME 3 – Tuesday 15th October – Monkeys v Brothers in Taichung

Wang Yi-Cheng v Mitch Lively

On Sunday, Michael Nix had been smashed around by Brothers on Tuesday it was the turn of Lamigo Monkeys to do that to Mitch Lively.  Yes, for the second time in three days, a foreign import gave the game away early but this time the runs came in the 2nd inning.

Two hits were followed up by Chu Yu-Hsien’s RBI and a walk which loaded the bases with 0 outs. Two further walks followed to load the bases twice more, with 2 runs being scored. Chen Chen-Wei struck out before Lin Li made it 4-0, Lan Yin-Lun ground out but a run scored to make it 5-0 and Lin Hung-Yu’s 2 RBI single made it 7. Lively finally got out the inning as he got Chen Chun Chiu out.

Brothers never threatened a comeback making 7-1 in the 4th, before Lamigo scored to make it 8-1 in the 5th and then became 8-2 after 6. 2 late runs in the 8th inning made it 8-4 but Lamigo comfortably held on.

Wang Yi-Cheng lasted in the 8th: 7.1, 7H, 4R, 4ER, 0BB, 7 SO and Lively lasted 6, 8H, 8R, 8ER, 4BB and 3 SO.

Lamigo Monkeys 8-4 Chinatrust Brothers – Monkeys lead the series 2-1.

GAME 4 – Wednesday 16th October – Monkeys v Brothers in Taichung

This was a pivotal game in the series with Lamigo turning to Thomas Dominy and Brothers turning to Yang Zhi-Long.

In the opening three this was a tight game with Lan Yin-Lun’s 2 run homer put Lamigo 2-0 up in the top of the 2nd. Lamigo went 4-0 ahead through Chen Chen-Wei and Lin Li’s RBIs but Brothers quickly brought it back to 4-3 in the bottom of the inning.

A blank fourth followed but the runs started to flow again in the 5th. Lamigo increased their lead to 8-3 despite starting the inning with 2 outs. They loaded the bases, changed the pitcher and Kuo Yun-Wen hit a grand slam off Casey Harman. Brothers charged back with Zhang Chih Hao scored a 3 run homerun off Lin Bai-You to make it 8-6.

Lin Li put Lamigo 9-6 ahead in the 7th with a home run but Brothers came back once again with Zhang Chih Hao hitting a 2 RBI single to make it 9-8. This was the last time Brothers would come back on the Monkeys as the defending champions launched a full-on assault thereafter whilst keeping tight on the mound.

5 runs in the 8th made it 14-8 and a further run in the top of the 9th made it 15-8 as Brothers usually reliable bullpen bleed runs. Yet it was Yang Zhi-Long who took the loss in his 4.2 innings, 5H, 7R, 7ER, 3BB and 5 SO. Monkeys starter Dominy went 2.2 but it was Chen Yu-Hsun who got the win, 1.2IP, 2H, 0R and 2 SO.

A superb win for the Monkeys who looked as if they’d found their stride again, the experts in play-off baseball were now 1 win away from a three-peat.

Lamigo Monkeys 15-8 Chinatrust Brothers – Monkeys lead the series 3-1.

GAME 5 – Thursday 17th October – Monkeys v Brothers in Taichung

Elih Villenueva v Michael Nix

For game five, Brothers went back to the reliable Elih Villenueva whilst Lamigo turned to the man who’d conceded 8 in 0.1 innings just 4 days before.

Lan Yin-Lun put Lamigo 2 up with a double in the top of the 1st and from there on, it was Lamigo. Liu Shih-Hao hit a grand slam to make it 6-0 and the visitors put 2 more on base with 2 outs as Villenueva was removed after 0.2. Lin Li went the distance off Chen Bo-Hao and it was 9-0. The Taiwan Series looked like it was over after an inning.

Like Lamigo had done on Sunday, Brothers pulled a run back in the bottom of the 1st after conceding heavily in the top of the 1st. Unlike Brothers, Lamigo Monkeys continued to score runs, 1 in the 2nd, 1 in the 3rd and 4 in the 4th made it 15-1 Monkeys. The series was done and Chen Chun-Chiu made it 19-1 in the 6th with a 3 run homerun.

The Monkeys made it 20 in the top of the 9th and Brothers score 2 runs in the bottom of the inning but it was a tiny consolation. Lamigo Monkeys had their three-peat and had done in 5 games just like they did in 2017 v Chinatrust Brothers.

It was a completely savage Lamigo Monkeys performance, 43 runs in 3 games in Taichung said a lot about how good Lamigo were. Brothers had been a force in the second phase but were ruthlessly dispatched in five.

Elih Villenueva took the loss 0.2IP, 4H, 8R, 8ER, 4BB, 2SO with Michael Nix redeeming himself with a solid performance, 6.0IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 5SO. It was comprehensive and few would have expected a win in this manner in game five.

Lamigo Monkeys 20-3 Chinatrust Brothers – Taoyuan Lamigo Monkeys win the series 4-1.

This was the final chapter for Lamigo who will be taken over by Rakuten in the close season. 5 championships in 6 years, 3 in a row and there is no doubt at all, that what will be the Rakuten Monkeys will be the team to beat next year.

That was the Taiwan baseball season, that was my last round-up of the year. I’ll be back reporting on baseball again next spring, thank you.

 

 

 

The 2019 Uni Lions in-depth season review – part one

Disclaimer, I am not a baseball expert nor am I a proper journalist and I’m writing this from a fan’s perspective. This is part one, an introduction to my Uni Lions end of season review.

It’s October 30th 2018, Uni Lions have just tied the Taiwan Series at 2-2 and there are 3 games left in the series. Momentum looks to be with the Lions having been 2-0 down but, two days later and Lamigo deliver a crushing blow with an 11-2 win in Tainan. By Saturday evening, the series is over as Lamigo score six 7th inning runs in a 10-3 victory. Tears flowed but there were reasons to be optimistic at this stage.

This was a Lions team who’d won 57 games in 2017; lost in the first round of the playoffs then won 64 games in 2018 and took defending champions Lamigo Monkeys to 6 games. Things seemed to be looking up. We had lots of young talent and whilst there were obvious cracks, we had been improving. Lamigo Monkeys didn’t seem like that impenetrable force anymore, and with their star Wang Po Jung headed to Japan, there was a degree of hope Uni Lions could go one further in 2019…

They didn’t…

The 2019 regular season ended on 3rd October at Xinzhuang Stadium with a crushing 18-4 defeat to Fubon Guardians. It was the third Lions double-digit loss in a row, and the team finished with a 48-2-70 record. So how did things go from an optimistic pre-season mood, which inspired this ill-fated prediction, to a table that looked like this 11 months on?

Lions table

The short answer is injuries. Case closed and there you have your end of season review. No, this end of season review is going to be a breakdown of every aspect of the Lions season taking a closer look at the hitting, the fielding and pitching. I did have four concerns which I noted in my pre-season prediction and will also cover those: Lions in Taoyuan; consistency, injuries and bullpen.

In part two, I am going to be looking at the pitching.

 

 

 

 

CPBL round-up – week 28

Aside from a round-up of the Taiwan Series, this will be the final round-up of the season. It’s time to review those last few games played between 1st October and 5th October.

Fubon Guardians v Chinatrust Brothers – Tuesday 1st October in Taichung

Brothers secured the second phase title and made Fubon Guardians task of reaching the play-offs almost impossible with victory in this game. Fubon took an early 3-1 lead but then squandered it very quickly. 3 runs in the 3rd, and then 4 in the 4th for Brothers put them well in control. Brothers legend Peng Zheng-min hit a 3 RBI double in that 4th inning, the 5 run lead would not be threatened as Brothers cruised an 8-3 win and the second phase title in front of 15,283 spectators; one of the biggest crowds at a midweek game in Taiwan in recent years.

Chinatrust Brothers v Lamigo Monkeys – Wed 2nd, Fri 4th and Sat 5th October in Taoyuan

In a preview of the Taiwan Series, the two leading CPBL sides met 3 times in rearranged games in Taoyuan.

On Wednesday Brothers edged out Lamigo 5-3. The visitors took a 1-0 lead in the 3rd, only for Lamigo to go 3-1 up in the 4th off Yang Zhi-long. The men in yellow responded with 3 runs of their own and kept things tight with the pitching. Just 5 hits all night for Lamigo, Brothers extended their lead in the 8th to 5-3 and CC Lee got the save.

Friday’s game was the first of two run-fests as Lamigo Monkeys crushed Brothers in a game that they hit 7 home-runs. 10-1 ahead after 4, then 15-1 after 7, they gave away a few late runs but they cruised a 15-4 win. Radhames Liz became the first pitcher since 2017 (Mike Loree) to reach 16 wins. Lin Hung-yu hit 3 home runs in 4 plate appearances with 7 RBI.

Revenge was swift in the final game of the regular season as Brothers brushed aside their opponents in the Taiwan Series 14-5. Two interesting points to note, both sides made 12 hits in this game and secondly, the score was 2-2 after 5 innings! So what happened? Brothers made 9 runs in the 6th and that was pretty much that! 3 more runs for each team and as a near-capacity crowd of 19,510 were treated to 19 total runs scored. It must also be noted, that this was an ordinary working Saturday in Taiwan which makes the attendance staggering. Those playoff tickets will sell fast.

Uni Lions v Fubon Guardians – Thursday 3rd October at Xinzhuang

Contrasting seasons for these two sides. One has struggled throughout and the other became the first side in 6 years to not make the playoffs after finishing over 0.500. In a 4 team league, that’s unlucky!

Any late arriving spectators would have been kicking themselves after this one as the game was effectively over after an inning. Fubon scored 12 first-inning runs and it took 60 pitches to get the first two outs! The entire night was a complete shambles for a Lions side that had long since given up for the season. Fubon added 3 runs in the 5th before the away side scored 4 of their own in the 7th. The game finished: Lions 4-18 Guardians. Lions 2015 draftee Kuo Li-wei made his first and only 1st team appearance as he was one of four Lions players released in the last week.


Taiwan Series schedule 

Chinatrust Brothers v Lamigo Monkeys – Sat 12th/Sun 13th in Taoyuan

Lamigo Monkeys v Chinatrust Brothers – Tues 15th, Wed 16th (Thurs 17th if necessary) in Taichung

Chinatrust Brothers v Lamigo Monkeys – Sat 19th/Sun 20th in Taoyuan if necessary.


I will bring my final round-up of the season after the Taiwan Series has finished, thank you and goodbye for now.

My 2019 baseball season review

Just like last year I’ve decided to compile a review of my 2019 baseball season. Similar to last year, this one is difficult to write albeit for different reasons. Last season, we lost in the Taiwan Series, this year we seemed doomed from the start. At the time of writing, it’s likely to be around 20 weeks until Uni Lions first Spring Training game and I’m quite thankful for that. It’s time to look at, my 2019 baseball season…

Right back in the early part of the year, I told myself to do less Lions games, but at the same time, watch every Uni Lions game in Tainan that I could… That would seem like I was trying to be a Schrodinger’s baseball watcher and of course, I did 8 more games than last year with no playoffs. Yes, I had a bit of luck with the weather and my work schedule so was able to do 34 Tainan games.

STATISTICS Just CPBL
Games watched: 60 54
Runs seen 703 623
Lions runs 309 251
Opposition runs 394 372
W/L/T 24-35-1 18-35-1
Attendance 315956 (3 games att N/K)
STADIUMS GAMES W/L/T
Chengcing Lake 3 1-2
Hualien 2 1-1
Taichung 6 2-4
Tainan 34 16-18 (6W were in Spring Training)
Taoyuan 6 1-5
Tianmu 3 0-2-1
Xinzhuang 6 3-3
WIN/LOSS/TIE RECORD
Chinatrust Brothers 7-12-1
Fubon Guardians 9-9
Lamigo Monkeys 5-12
Other 3-0

Last season I said there was a lot to digest, this season, there’s a feeling of being underwhelmed. I always have fun watching the Lions but this year, it’s fair to say, even just looking at these stats you know that the season was one to forget. There wasn’t a single stadium where I saw more wins than defeats, and going 18-1-33 in league matches isn’t an easy pill to swallow.

Compared to last year, being able to do 34 games in Tainan as opposed to 20 is mainly down to the Lions playing more games in Tainan. My Taoyuan, Xinzhuang and Taichung totals added up to 20 compared to 18 this year but we had the playoffs last season.

The only weekends I missed games were:

Monkeys v Lions at Tianmu on 18th/19th May due to a pre-booked trip to Kinmen.

Lions v Monkeys in Taoyuan on 2nd/3rd July, partly apathy and partly because I expected two defeats…

Guardians v Lions at Tianmu on 17th/18th Aug, and Lions v Guardians at Xinzhuang on 24th/25th Aug, both due to not having an ARC or passport that would allow me to stay over. I was working at 10am on Mondays and wasn’t keen on single-day trips…

Lions v Guardians at Xinzhuang on 22nd September, rain concerns and end of season feeling, plus the Rugby World Cup had started… This one was always a non-starter.

60 games done out of a possible 66, I’m pretty happy with that although not how the majority of those games ended! It’s time to look at my top best and top worst moments of the season. The bad moments certainly outnumber the good ones!

TOP 4 BEST MOMENTS

4) Kao Kuo Ching becomes a pitcher – 1st June

At the back end of an away day humiliation, the 40-year-old 1st baseman became the first Lions position player to pitch for 10 years. Kao was scoreless, giving up just 2 hits in the 8th inning. I was proud to say I was there given how rare it is for a CPBL position player to pitch, I’ve now seen it twice…

3) Away games and friendliness of the Uni Lions fans.

This is a non-specific highlight, as now after 4 full seasons watching the team, I’m well known and I know I am. Fans wanting selfies, adding me on Facebook, trying to communicate with me, then you get Dave and Tom, two of the guys who I hang around with at away games. It was a depressing season, but looking back, still cheering and signing when getting beaten badly, especially on the road, it wasn’t so bad eh?

2) Chinatrust Brothers 10-11 Uni Lions – 14th September

In a season blighted by a lack of fun moments on the field, this was certainly one to remember. 4-4 with 3 hours played, the rain came, and the players went off for almost 2 hours. They came back we ended 10-5 down, at 10-5 down with 2 on base, 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, the Lions somehow got back into it. Kao Kuo-Ching with the 3 RBI double to walk off at 11:59pm, what a special special moment indeed and it was just a day after, we’d been beaten 16-2 by Brothers!

20190915_000231

1) Lamigo Monkeys 8-19 Uni Lions -11th August

Lamigo Monkeys have inflicted so much pain on Uni Lions in recent years and after beating us 10-0 the day before, I expected another defeat. This was a quite ridiculous game of baseball, as I saw the Lions put 10 on the Monkeys for the first time in 38 regular-season games, 32 Su Chih Chieh hit 3 home runs as the Lions ran riot. The bullpen had a wobble to see 27 runs (record), the Lions score 19 (record) and in Hualien too, it was special.

20190811_210719_HDR

TOP 4 WORST MOMENTS

4) Lamigo Monkeys 19-3 and 17-5 Uni Lions – 28th/29th September

A pair of crunching defeats. This would be higher on the list BUT, the majority of players in these two games were either out of form, youngsters, rookies or 2nd team players. Two games I went to, because I had to because they were in Tainan. Didn’t I enjoy either game for more a few more minutes? No. My interest in baseball had long since gone for the season.

3) Chinatrust Brothers 16-2 Uni Lions – 13th September

Last year, Lamigo made up the majority of these bad moments, this year it’s Brothers. The Lions were already dead and buried for the season, but losing 16-2 at home, my biggest ever home loss (albeit only for 15 days!) still hurt.

20190913_203132.jpg

2) Uni Lions 0-16 Chinatrust Brothers – 21st July

So, you travel 175km (4 hours) each way by bus to Taichung from Tainan and see your team lose 10-6. Upon arriving home at 1am, you rest for 10 hours then go and make the same journey only to get beat 16-0. That’s exactly what happened in this game. This was humiliation. It remains my biggest ever Uni Lions loss on the road and joint-worst defeat ever.

1) The Tianmu weekend – 20th/21st April 

If you play a three-game series away from home, you expect a defeat or two but what happened on this weekend, was just dreadful, dreadful. It had rain, a serious injury and a walk-off loss.

Game 1, leading 8-4 after 3, 8-5 after 7.5, we lost 9-8.

Game 2, Brothers pitcher Yang Zhi-long hits 4 Lions players and is ejected from the game. The game ends up abandoned after 5 at 3-3 due to torrential rain. It late turns out Lions leadoff man, and arguably best player, Chen Chieh-hsien suffered a broken finger when he was struck. Chen never played again after that…

Game 3, Brothers walk-off 3-0 in the bottom of the 11th with a 3 run homer.

Below is footage of the injury sustained in game 2…


So those were my best and worst moments, I was able to limit it at 4 despite seeing a total of 60 games. A lot of just, ‘so-so’ afternoons. If I could have extended to top/worst 5 I would have…

Final word

I will be back in 2020. I would just like to reiterate my thanks to every single Lions fan and opposition fan who I’ve spoken to this season, has added me on Facebook or cheered with me at the games. Game 200 looks a certainty next season having reached 176 games this year. My 100th Lions win is also within reach (90) and my 100th visit to Tainan Municipal Stadium too, (84).

I’ll be bringing you a review of the season, a look at the squad, stats the positives and the negatives etc in the next few weeks. It will take me a while to put it together.

Until then, thank you!