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.

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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 27

Just before I start, Peng Zheng-min the 18 season Brother Elephants/Chinatrust Brothers 1st baseman played his final games this week. Even as an opposition fan, despite not having seen him in his heyday, any player who has a career average of 0.333 over 1797 games and still average 0.302 and play 89 games at 41 years old is a LEGEND. Brothers will miss him a lot, and I’m sure a lot of Taiwanese neutrals, fans of other teams will miss CHIA-CHIA!

Fubon Guardians v Lamigo Monkeys – Tues 24th/Wed 25th in Taoyuan

A sense of normality resumed with the tropical storm affecting northern Taiwan having moved away during Sunday/Monday.

Fubon scored regularly early on to lead 5-0 after 4, but as Mike Loree exited after 75 pitches and 5 innings, things fell apart albeit temporarily… Fan Yu-yu conceded 2H, 2BBs and 4 runs without an out, the Monkeys were level but then proceeded to throw the game away. The inexperienced Monkeys bullpen allowed Fubon to move 12-5 up in the 7th, there was a minor comeback but in the end, a comfortable 13-7 Guardians win.

Two first-inning homers set the Guardians up for another win in Taoyuan on Wednesday. Michael Nix would concede 8H, 4R over his 6 as Travis Banwart got his first CPBL win as he kept the Monkeys to 2 runs in his 5.2. It was 4-2 with both foreigners gone, Fubon scored two further runs later in the game to record a 6-2 victory and put the pressure back on Brothers.

Uni Lions v Chinatrust Brothers – Wed 25th/Thurs 26th in Taichung

With the away side officially out of playoff contention, although having not been in it in practical terms for weeks this was the start of their final full week. Brothers lead 2-1 after 6 and would extend their lead to 7-1 in the 7th. 4 of the 7 Brothers runs in the game were unearned with 2 Lions errors. Mitch Lively picked up his 9th win of the year for the home side, 4H, 1R, 3SO over 7 innings. Lions 1-7 Brothers was how it finished. Chia Chia made two hits…

Legend v legend on Thursday in Taichung as Pan Wei-lun met Peng Zheng-min for the final time. The 37-year-old pitching legend met the 41-year-old batting legend, and it was Pan who came out on top. Pan lasted 5.2, giving up 7R (6ER) and 8 hits, but got his 8th victory of the season as Uni Lions lead 9-7 when he exited the game. Brothers got it back to 9-8, with a 3rd run in the 6th coming off Lin Chih-wei. No bullpen issues for the Lions as they scored three times more, and didn’t even give up a hit. Lions 12-8 Brothers, Chia Chia went 0 for 4.

Lamigo Monkeys v Uni Lions – Fri 27th/Sat 28th/Sun 29th in Tainan

The final three games of the CPBL season in Tainan, Uni Lions final three games at home could be described by the idiom “lambs to the slaughter”. Aside from Friday’s game, this resembled more like an elongated batting practice for the play-off bound Monkeys than a competitive series.

On Friday Uni Lions gave a debut to 19-year-old pitcher Gui Lin Rui Yang, one of three teenagers to make his Lions debut over the three games. (Wu Cheng-yu and Shih Kuan-yu the other two) To be fair to Gui or Gui Lin (I’m not sure what is proper parlance), 5H, 3R (2ER) over 5 to a strong Monkeys side wasn’t a bad showing. 0 runs in the opening 5 for the Lions so the youngster would take the loss, but it would only be a 6-1 defeat.

Saturday’s game saw 4th choice catcher Hsieh Zhong-wei make a rare first-team appearance and Ryan Verdugo probably appeared for the final time in Lions colours. 3 massive home-runs helped propel Lamigo to a 10-2 lead after 4 innings although Kuo Fu-lin and Yao Yu-hsiang did notably go back to back off Radhames Liz in the 2nd for the home side. No more homers in the game but Lamigo put 19 on the weakened Lions mainly consisting of young players and second-teamers. 19-3 with Kuo Yen-wen making 6 RBI for the Monkeys.

Sunday’s game was almost the same as Saturdays with the Monkeys racking up a 13-3 lead with 4 played. The former rookie of the year Shih Tzu-chien conceded 7H, 9R in 0.2 in the 3rd although bizarrely only one of these was earned… 3 and 2 more runs respectively as the Lions final home game of the season finished 17-5 to Lamigo Monkeys.

Fubon Guardians v Chinatrust Brothers – Fri 27th/Sat 28th/Sun 29th in Taichung

This was a slightly more competitive and important series. A sweep would give Brothers the second phase title and Chia Chia would play retire after playing for 18 seasons…

Brothers edged Friday’s game, a CPBL legend in his own right Lin Chih-sheng’s walk-off hit gave Brothers a 2-1 victory to push them to within 2 games of the second phase title. Lin Yi-hao was the unlucky Guardians reliever who conceded the run… Chia Chia went 0 for 4.

Chia Chia’s penultimate game, and the first of two sellouts in Taichung. In ordinary circumstances, this would still have attracted at least 8-10 thousand but was sold out 2 months ago… Tied at 2-2, Brothers took the lead in the 5th thanks to Wang Sheng-wei’s RBI and wouldn’t look back. Elih Villeneuva had another strong start (5H, 2R) over 8 as Brothers took a 5-2 victory with their 4th/5th runs coming in the 7th. Chia Chia went 1 for 2 with an RBI and a walk. Brothers were all set, Chia Chia’s retirement and the magic number set at 1…

It was Mike Loree v Casey Harman with 20,223 in attendance to see a legend’s final retirement and Brothers secure a play-off berth with 4 games to spare? Against Loree, it wouldn’t be easy… Harman lasted 4.2, taken off after 99 pitches but with the scores level. Loree would last 7 and 94 pitches with the scores still level at 1-1… 1-1, top of the 9th was it to be? No. Former Brothers player Chiang Chih-hsien hit a solo home run to put the Guardians 2-1 up. With an ERA of 1.70 and 19 saves, another former Brothers player Chen Hong-wen got the save. Chia Chia went 0 for 3, Brothers are still 1 game away…


Next week’s schedule is a mish-mash of rearranged games. 3 teams may well be in the play-offs. Lamigo are 0.5 ahead of Fubon in the overall standings with 3 to play. We could have an incredulous situation where Lamigo are 1st phase champions, Brothers win the 2nd phase but Fubon Guardians lead the overall standings… Fubon would then play the side with the worst record in a 5 game series, and I’ve frankly no idea who would get home advantage, it’s never happened before.

Brothers need 1 win to secure the 2nd phase, Fubon need to come ahead of Lamigo in the overall standings or somehow win the 2nd phase to have any chance of being in the play-offs.

Guardians v Brothers – Tuesday in Taichung at 6:35pm, a Brothers win will secure the second phase and all but eliminate Fubon from playoff contention.

Brothers v Monkeys – Wednesday in Taoyuan at 6:35pm. Brothers second chance if needed… A Brothers win could allow Fubon a lifeline if Brothers have secured the 2nd phase on Tuesday…

Lions v Guardians – Thursday at Xinzhuang at 6:35pm. Lions last game of the season, potentially Fubon’s too depending on the previous two nights.

Brothers v Monkeys – Friday and Saturday in Taoyuan at 6:35pm. The likely Taiwan Series match-up. Fubon are likely to need Brothers to win both if they are still in contention to come top in the overall standings.


A long report, I’ll be bringing CPBL round-up week 28 next Sunday/Monday, with a report on either the one or two CPBL series depending on what happens…

Tom

 

 

 

CPBL round-up – week 26

We are now approaching the final part of the regular season and of course, this is another round-up that ought to have been posted a week ago! Let’s review the action from Tuesday 17th to Sunday 23rd September…

Chinatrust Brothers v Fubon Guardians – Tues 17th/Wed 18th at Xinzhuang

This was a match-up between the best two teams in the second phase with just 1.5 games separating the sides. Brothers extended their lead with two victories in two very close games.

On Tuesday Zhang Chih-hao’s 2nd inning two-run homer put Brothers ahead and they would extend the lead to 4-0 during the 7th. Fubon pulled it back to 4-3 after 8 but CC Lee got the save as Brothers held on for a 4-3 victory.

Wednesday’s game saw a battle of the ‘MLs’,  Mitch Lively and Mike Loree took to the mound and it was always going to a be a low scoring game. Lively stayed on for 7, Loree for 8. Brothers got 2 runs in the 2nd but then Loree wouldn’t allow another hit. Fubon finally scored in the 7th to make it 2-1 before Chen Tzu-hao made it 3-1 in the top of the 9th. CC Lee got back to back saves and Brothers their 30th win of the phase.

Uni Lions v Lamigo Monkeys – Wed 18th/Thurs 19th in Taoyuan

There’s always a feeling of dread when Uni Lions go to Taoyuan and not for the first time, the bullpen blew a lead late in the game. Wu Chieh-rui’s RBI and Lin Tzu-chieh’s 2 RBI shot put the Lions 3-0 in the 3rd, this lead would hold until the bottom of the 9th. Chen Yun-wen allowed 3 walks, 2 hits and 3 runs in 0.2 as Lamigo tied up the game. Both bullpens would then hold firm, as the game was called a draw at 3-3 after 12 innings.

Thursday’s game was a bit more typical of usual meetings between the two in Taoyuan although after Lamigo 6-4 after 6, it looked to be close. 6 hits, 2 walks and 9 runs in 0.1 in the bottom of the 7th put Lamigo 15-6 up. The Monkeys would score 11 (ELEVEN) in the 7th and both teams would add a further run late on. Lions 6-18 Monkeys was how it ended.

Chinatrust Brothers v Lamigo Monkeys – Sun 22nd in Taoyuan

Unusually for this 2019 season, wet weather hit northern Taiwan when both northern sides Lamigo Monkeys and Fubon Guardians had scheduled weekend home games. No action was possible until Sunday in Taoyuan with Friday and Saturday’s games being moved back until October.

Sunday’s game saw Brothers take a 4-1 lead in the 6th then stutter as starter Casey Harman was brought in in the 7th. He gave away back to back to back homers, Lin Cheng-fei, Liao Chien-fu and Yu De-lung becoming the 8th trio in CPBL history to be part of a B2B2B effort. Harman was taken off, and Chen Bo-Hao took the loss in the 8th as Lamigo scored twice in that inning. No comeback from Brothers as they fell to a 6-4 defeat.

Uni Lions v Fubon Guardians – Sun 22nd at Xinzhuang

Like in Taoyuan, baseball was washed out at Xinzhuang two nights running but the sides managed a doubleheader on Sunday 22nd. The first game at 1:05pm resulted in a massacre with Ryan Verdugo then the Lions bullpen allowing 4 runs in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings. Until the bottom of the 6th, it was merely 3-1 Guardians before Verdugo then Lai Bo-kai and Fang Kang-de gave up 4 runs. Both the relievers gave away 3H, 4R, 2BBs. A 15-2 win for the Guardians but all change in game two…

0-0 with 6 innings played but there were 8 late runs in the 5:05pm game. 2 runs in the 7th and 1 early in the 8th put Uni Lions 3-0 ahead. Fubon levelled and no, it wasn’t that pesky bullpen but rather Josh Roenicke who allowed Fubon to tie after 8. Not to be denied, the away team got their first win of the week off Lin Yi-hao with 2 runs in the top of the 9th. Chen Yun-wen got save number 24 of the season. Despite losing 5-3, Fubon managed to strike out 15 Lions hitters.


The round-up from week 27 will follow shortly after this one has been posted…

 

CPBL round-up – week 25

Yet again, this is about a week late but as I’m sure you can appreciate, a personal issues have held me back once again. Motivation hasn’t exactly been high, anyway, let’s review the action from 10th to 14th September.

Fubon Guardians v Uni Lions – Tues 10th/Wed 11th Sep in Tainan

Tuesday’s fixture got underway at 7:46pm, a full 71 minutes late due to heavy rain all afternoon in Tainan. It was a surprise the game started to be honest! Uni Lions whacked Guardians starter Jiang Kuo-hao for 5 in the second inning and dominated this encounter. Josh Roenicke gave up just 3H, 2R (1ER) as Fubon made 4 hits to Uni Lions 17. It ended 8-2 Uni Lions and it could have been a lot worse for the away team.

He hadn’t hit a homer for 39 games and since 12th June but Chen Yung-chi finally joined the 100HR club on Wednesday.  The Lions 3rd baseman hit homer 99 in the 3rd to pull it back to 4-2 after the Guardians had taken a 4-0 lead. The big one came in the 5th, a grand slam that put the Lions 9-5 up. Fubon would only pull two back later, as the Chen and the Lions came away 9-7 victors.

Lamigo Monkeys v Chinatrust Brothers – Wed 11th/Thurs 12th Sep in Taichung

A Brothers late show gave them an easy win on Wednesday evening. 2 down early, they scored 2 in the 6th to tie, then 2 in the 7th and 3 in the 8th to lead 9-2. Just a walk in the top of the 9th for the Monkeys, another defeat and another off night for starter Michael Nix and the bullpen.

From a late show to an early show. 7 runs in the opening 3 innings gave Brothers a 7-0 lead they would not relinquish. This time the Taichung side went after Hung Sheng-xin as the Monkeys starter gave up 7 in the opening 2.2. Both sides scored a few runs later in the game, with Brothers coming away 9-3 winners.

Chinatrust Brothers v Uni Lions – Fri 13th, Sat 14th and Sun 15th Sep in Tainan

3 completely contrasting games and whilst it is said a lot in my round-ups, that was absolutely true.

Friday 13th was an unlucky day… For the Uni Lions on the opening day of retro weekend. This could only be described as a complete massacre. Shih Tzu-chien had an off day on the mound, 7H, 8R in the first 3.0. A run back in the 5th made it 8-1, before Lions reliever Hung Xin-chi went and gave away 6 runs albeit 3 earned in the 7th. 5 RBI for Chou Shi-chi and unsurprisingly he took MVP. Brothers 16 Lions 2 was this one ended in just 3hr 25 minutes…

Saturday’s game was a long one. With the score 4-4 after 7 innings and the time 8:10pm, the heavens opened. It had been raining a while but it came down hard. The game ought to have been abandoned and indeed many spectators left. Yet, with the rain having cleared the game resumed around 10pm and Brothers took a 10-4 lead. The rain intervened again around 45 minutes later and there was another break of play. The field of play looked dangerous but, the Lions made it 10-5 in the bottom of the 8th…

Wu Jie-Rui and Lin An-ke got to base but two outs followed. What followed was quite possibly one of the most dramatic finishes in a 9 inning game. A walk, and a Lin Ching-kai 2 RBI shot, 10-7 Brothers. A walk. Bases loaded. A walk, 10-8 Brothers. Pinch hitter, 40 year Kao Kuo-ching came to the plate and reached a full count before hitting a bases-clearing, game-winning 3 RBI shot to the warning track. 11-10 Lions with the stadium clock reaching 2359… A truly incredible finish to an extraordinary game.

Sunday’s game was a bit more mundane, actually, it was a drab encounter and was decided in the 9th inning. Lions closer Chen Yun-wen threw a ball, then two wild pitches, the latter of which got the runner home from 3rd. Brothers won the game 3-2 off a wild pitch as Uni Lions failed to repeat their walk-off win of the previous evening.

Lamigo Monkeys v Fubon Guardians – Fri 13th, Sat 14th and Sun 15th Sep at Xinzhuang

Lamigo Monkeys drab form in the second phase continued with three more defeats on the road. A rare reverse sweep for the Monkeys.

As Brothers pummelled the Lions in Tainan, the Guardians pummelled the Monkeys at Xinzhuang. Thomas Dominy took his first loss giving away 7R (4 ER) in the opening three. Facing Mike Loree the away side were always going to have issues getting back into the game and conceded 19 hits in a huge 13-0 loss, they also made 3 errors. Lin Yi-chuan and Fan Kuo-chen made 4 hits apiece for Fubon, with Fan hitting 4RBI. The Guardians strangely managed to strike out 12 times too!

As Brothers and Uni Lions game took 6hr 54 to finish, Saturday’s match-up was over in a very quick 2 hours 43 minutes. Starters Wang Yi-cheng and Ryan Bollinger gave away 7/8 hits respectively and 1 run. Wang Yue-lin was the losing pitcher as Lin Yi-chuan belted a two-run homer off him in the bottom of the 8th. It ended 3-1 Guardians.

Sunday’s game was a close encounter, the game was tied at 6-6 going into the bottom of the 10th. A walk, an intentional walk and a third walk loaded the bases with 1 out for the Guardians. Dai Pei-feng didn’t need much, and indeed he won the game with a sac-fly. A sac fly 7-6 win for the Guardians as they continued to put the pressure back on Chinatrust Brothers.


The table stood like this after the close of play on Sunday 15th September…

Brothers: 28-20

Guardians: 27-22

Lamigo: 22-27

Lions: 21-29

If Fubon Guardians finish 1st in the overall standings and Chinatrust Brothers win the second phase, they will play in a best of five series. This is something that has never happened in league history… Fubon could end 2nd in both phases, but top after 120 games… A strange situation!

Last week’s report will come whenever…

CPBL round-up – week 24

So, I initially intended to publish this last Tuesday evening but Fubon Guardians v Uni Lions went ahead unexpectedly. The rest of my week, I had a few personal issues and so I will be posting week 25 today/tomorrow.

Uni Lions v Fubon Guardians – Tues 3rd/Wed 4th September at Xinzhuang

Tuesday’s game was a great encounter and ultimately decided in the 9th inning. Fubon took an early 2-0 lead, before they went behind 4-2in the 4th. They then tied up in the bottom of the inning to make it 4-4. Fubon retook the lead in the 5th before yet again the game was tied at 5-5 in the top of the 9th. The game didn’t go to extra-innings as Hu Chin-long hit a massive walk-off homer out the stadium to win the game for the home side 6-5.

Wednesday’s game was a Mike Loree special, pitching 8 innings and giving up two hits. Dai Pei-feng hit the winning RBI in the 5th, a 1-0 game for the Guardians. If there is ever a current CPBL pitcher who could get the next no-hitter or perfect game, you’d be betting on Loree to do it.

Chinatrust Brothers v Lamigo Monkeys – Wed 4th/Thurs 5th September in Taoyuan

On Wednesday Brothers put together the mother of all comebacks, the biggest in fact in CPBL history as they came back from 11-0 down to beat Lamigo Monkeys in Taoyuan. Trailing 11-0 after 3, they hit 8 off Michael Nix in 0.2 innings. Lamigo scored in the 5th to make it 12-8. 4 more Brothers runs tied it at 12-12 after 6. Lamigo then regained the lead in the 7th. Zhang Chih-hao got the winning RBI as he broke a 13-13 tie in the top of the 8th. Lamigo would only get one back in the 8th with CC Lee collecting a save on one of the most epic nights in CPBL history.

Thursday’s game was postponed.

Uni Lions v Chinatrust Brothers – Fri 6th, Sat 7th and Sun 8th in Taichung

Three really quite contrasting games here in Taichung with another historic CPBL feat on Sunday.

Friday’s game was a hit fest, 25 hits in fact but only 3 runs were scored. Uni Lions scored in the 3rd and 4th, Wu Chieh-Rui and Deng Zhi-wei with the RBIs. Brothers RBI came from Peng Zhi-min in the 5th. MVP went to Shih Tzu-Chien, the Lions starting pitcher had an unusually decent night giving up 9H, 1R over 5.1.

Saturday’s game was a strange one. 3 2nd inning runs put the Lions ahead, only for Brothers to score one in each the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th then blew the Lions away with 7 in the 7th. Brothers looked more dangerous as the game went on, although the scoreless 6th had brought some hope to Lions fans only for that disastrous 7th to happen. It finished 11-3 Brothers.

Sunday’s game saw veteran Pan Wei-lun take on Casey Harman. Pan was tied for the all-time wins record in the Taiwanese professional baseball and was tied with a Brothers pitcher from the 90s. How fitting then that would get win 142 in Taichung against Brothers. The game was effectively over by the 5th, 4 runs in the 4th and 7 in the 5th put the away team well in control with an 11-3 lead. Pan departed at this point, and it looked like the game was safe at 11-4 in the 9th. The Lions bullpen had a wobble, bringing the winning run to the plate with the bases loaded at 11-8. Chen Yun-wen got the final out, and Pan Wei-lun had his record.

Fubon Guardians v Lamigo Monkeys – Fri 6th, Sat 7th and Sun 8th in Taoyuan

It’s fair to say Lamigo Monkeys have been an odd team in the second phase and this series proved it. They won Friday’s game, a crucial 4 runs in the 8th inning put them 7-2 up as Fubon had reduced a 3-0 lead to 3-2 in the 7th. Fubon only managed only one consolation run, but they’d have plenty to cheer over the following two days.

It was a battle of two Taiwanese pitchers on Saturday, Chen Shih-peng v Wang Yi-cheng and the younger man came out on top as the Guardians led 4-2 after 6. Two more runs gave them a bit more assurance of a win. Their bullpen held firm, giving away just 3 hits over 4 innings, and only run, that coming in the bottom of the 9th. Guardians 6-3 Monkeys was how it ended.

Ahhh, Ryan Bollinger v Radhames Liz, two foreign pitchers, one an inconsistent pitcher who hadn’t won in 6 and the other having won 7 games straight. What happened, was pretty crazy. Liz only lasted 2.1 innings with 9H, 8R conceded as Fubon Guardians lead 10-0 after just 3 innings. Fubon led by as many as 15, eventually coming out 16-3 winners. A second heavy home defeat of the phase for the Monkeys as a show of intent from the Guardians. Every starting hitter made a run, a hit and RBI, with Chen Pin-chieh making 2R, 4H, 4RBI and 1SB over 6 at-bats. A great win for the Guardians.


Week 25 will follow later.