First off, I’ve taken a decision to change the way I do my posts in 2019. I’ve now watched 131 Uni Lions games with a lot of travelling to the same stadiums. I won’t be doing individual match reports, and will instead cover baseball in my weekly round-ups. Anything interesting from my travels, I’ll of course post about.
So the 4 day weekend, last year it took me to Taoyuan and Tianmu stadiums and it was cold. This year, it involved a Thursday trip to Kaohsiung and an away series at Xinzhuang Stadium. Of course, I was always going to go.
Kaohsiung is one of Taiwan’s biggest cities and only 45km away, but I’ve done bits of tourism. Back in 2016, I went to Lotus Lake, 2017, I went around the City Centre and the railway museum, 2018, Fo Guang Shan. It seems each year, I do a little bit more of the city.
I briefly stopped by Cijin Island in 2016 and wanted to go back as I had barely an hour there last time, on a hot, sweaty day in June.
So Thursday morning I took the train down to Kaohsiung station and was immediately lost, Kaohsiung train station has been relocated underground! Once I got my bearings I got the MRT to Sizhiwan and made the short walk over to Gushan ferry port. Cijin is just 5 minutes across from ‘mainland’ Kaohsiung and I only had to wait 10 minutes for a ferry.
Onto the island and I made my way up to the lighthouse and onto the port. I’d got about 2 hour 15 this time and just took it easy. It was quite a warm afternoon and (in April!) I was in shorts! The views from the lighthouse were good, you could see right down the island and across it, Cijin is maybe only 600-700m across and 8km long.
I made my way along to Cihou Fort which was typical of most old forts in Taiwan. The sea views were better and I soon made my way down to the beach.
I could have decided to get a bicycle and have a ride, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. Instead, I followed my unwritten rule about travelling in Taiwan, ‘If I see a coconut, I will buy one’ and that’s exactly what I did. 70NT and I sat around the beach area for half an hour.
I walked onto the main street for some food, a bacon flavoured Taiwanese style bun, a shrimp roll, some shrimp balls and some egg roll things. Tasty enough for just over NT$100.
I planned to be back on the mainland by 3:15 so I could get a bus around 3:45 to the baseball. I was at the ferry terminal at 2:25, only to be confronted by a huge queue. 4 ferries and about 30 minutes later, I was heading to mainland Kaohsiung. I didn’t need to rush and was outside Formosa Boulevard station about 30 minutes after leaving the island.
I took the 60 bus to Chengcing Lake Stadium and unfortunately things didn’t go well. 1) Lions were in the infield, and I was in the outfield, so I was pretty much on my own. I had asked Lions fans and someone told me outfield, oh well! 2) The game was absolutely terrible and Chinatrust Brothers ran out 2-0 winners.
Things did get better, I walked out of the stadium pretty much straight onto a bus and had 30 minutes before the final Tze Chiang Express north. It was straight to Legends for quiz night, my team easily won and at 1:30am, called it a night ahead of my three day trip to Taipei.
A bit drunk, I packed my bags very soon after I arrived back home in the early hours of Friday morning. Amazingly, when I got up at 10am I found I had packed perfectly and there was absolutely nothing not in my bags!*
Bags, yes. Two 20L rucksacks, and why on earth would I have that? Well, I am autistic, a little bit OCD and 100% baseball, Lions mad. Bag 1 – two full changes of clothes, phone charger, suncream etc. Bag 2 – 4 Lions shirts, 3 Lions t-shirts, air horn, towel, flag, bandana and amazingly, I’d packed my spare cap! Why 4 shirts for 3 games? I’ve started wearing my Chen Chieh Hsien Ultraman shirt every time he bats, and only when he bats.
The other thing as well, I will always wear a normal t-shirt on my way to the stadium, and then change into a Lions one at the stadium. Taiwan’s climate means that, by the time I get to stadiums, it’s nice to change into something fresh!
I took the 11am bus to Taipei, checked into at my hostel just before 3:30pm and headed out to Xinzhuang Stadium. If you ever go to Xinzhuang, it usually takes me 40 minutes from Taipei Main station to the stadium, via the red/orange lines and a 1.1km walk from Xinzhuang MRT.
I got into the stadium and it wasn’t great. I met up with my friend Tom, and we saw the Lions fall to a 9-3 defeat to Fubon Guardians. More debate over the usefulness of the Lions coaches, making a starter pitch 110, give up 7 runs, 13 hits and it just wasn’t a great game as a Lions fan.
I joined Tom and his friend on a visit to Shilin Night Market, I’ve been past it before but never been. The crowds were not as bad as expected, and it was 9pm. We ate the famous fried chicken steak, some meat wrapped in green onions and bone soup. Good food, although the beef wrapped into green onion was like nothing else I’ve ever eaten before.
Tired, I was back in the hostel by 11 ahead of Saturday’s trip…
I ignored my 7am alarm as I was too tired, I finally got up nearer 10 without a clear idea what to. ‘Keelung’ came to mind and I caught the 11:13 train up to the northeast city. Like Kaohsiung and Taichung, its train station has been rebuilt in recent years and the area around the station looks a lot better.
I thought about getting a bus to one of the forts/Heping Island but had a walk instead. I’d been to Zhongzheng Park back in October 2017 and had enjoyed the superb views of the city so that’s where I went.
I strolled across the plaza then along Xin 2nd Road to the steps below the Martyrs Shrine from there it was a long climb up to the park. It was hot and whilst I didn’t want to rush, only had 2 1/2 hours.
I got a few photos and moved along towards Ershawan Fort, expecting a short walk.
Heping Island in the background
It took about 12-15 minutes to get up to Ershawan Fort, I had no idea how far I was out the city and I was asking myself whether I would need to walk the same route back. Google Maps seemed unclear.
The fort was shaded and quite spread out. I rushed through, worried about not making it back for my 1442 train to Taipei. In 20 minutes I saw all of the fort area but didn’t really get a chance to appreciate it as much as I would have liked.
I made my way down a path, at the south-west end of the fort and didn’t know where it went, it turned out down to the bus stop, ‘Haimen Tianxian’. I had about 50 minutes to make the train but was comfortably back by 1410, in time for the 1418.
Back in Taipei around 1515, I had time to have a wash and change into baseball clothes ahead of the 1705 start.
This game went a lot better than the previous night. Uni Lions scored regularly in an impressive 10-2 win over Fubon Guardians. Hitting was a lot better and veteran Pan Wei Lun pitched fairly solidly, the bullpen didn’t mess up either.
Back into central Taipei and I had two more beers before heading to bed about 11:30pm.
Ahhh, a 2:05pm start for the baseball… how… wonderful! In all seriousness, it didn’t give me much chance to do anything. I left the hostel just after 10:30am and took the MRT to Daan Park, I spent about 30 minutes strolling around. Locals were busy photographing the ecological pond which was a hive of activity, all kinds of birds were hovering around and there were plenty of people to enjoy them.
I sat and stopped for about a little between Daan Park and Daan MRT stations before finally making my mind where to go for lunch.
I got the MRT one stop to Zhongxiao Fuxing and then one stop on the blue line east to Zhongxiao Dunhua to Tu Hsiao Yueh. I’d been there before, and even though it’s Tainan style food, I’ve been to this particular branch more times than the two in Tainan itself!
I had Dan Tzai Noodles and Dan Tzai Vermicelli with a bowl of minced pork rice. Hot tea is served complimentary but bought a can of cold Oolong tea anyway.
It was an easy trip over to Xinzhuang for my final game of the trip, and it was hot! I immediately got some suncream on and I tried desperately to avoid the sun hitting my body as much as possible.
The game started reasonably well, the Lions took a 4-0 lead before Josh Roenicke gave up a few hits and it was bases loaded. Fan Guo Chen smashed a grand slam and it was 4-4 after 6 innings.
Chen Yung Chi put the Lions back ahead in the 7th with a home run and in spite of a double in the bottom of the 9th, Chen Yun Wen got the save. Lions 5-4 Guardians. 2-2 for the 4 days, exactly the same as last April’s 4 day weekend, albeit 10C hotter!
I headed off to 7 Eleven for some beers for the trip back and to buy my ticket for the bus home to Tainan. The game had finished before 5pm and I managed to easily get a seat on the 6pm Kuo Kuang service. 4 1/2 hours later and I was back in Tainan, a bit tipsy and a bit tired.
A good 3 day trip to Taipei and a nice 4 day weekend!
Until next time…