When I was a teenager, everything was ‘Made in Taiwan’. I could find Taiwan on the map, and that was all. My winter break from cycling is drawing to a close, and I leave Taiwan with fond memories of a friendly, staunchly patriotic people, of visionary city planning and public policy, and an extremely obedient, orderly society. Where else in the world do you throw out your rubbish at 9:10 pm into a rubbish truck to a backdrop of ice-cream van music?

The view down the street near my apartment in Taipei

The view down the street near my apartment in Taipei

 

Public infrastructure
I am absolutely amazed at the speed a modern public transport system has been created out of nothing in Taipei. Twenty years ago there was traffic gridlock. Rather than building more new roads, like the new policy of the Australian government, the Taiwanese government has implemented an amazing public transportation network that reduces traffic, increases accessibility, and improves health.

Twenty years ago, there was no metro. Now there is a brand spanking new one, spanning the metropolitan area. In the last year they have rolled out a massive public bicycle system – YouBike – similar to that in Paris, London and other European cities. The result is a huge reduction in traffic, a better, less polluted environment, and a healthier, more active population.

Metro etiquette
‘You can’t eat that!’ said the little boy, scolding the grandma.
‘There are video cameras watching you,’ I have been warned by multiple people. ‘If you’re chewing gum, just stop chewing. They may not see you, and you should be ok.’
The metro trains run every two minutes or so, and while waiting for a train, you can watch a video of metro etiquette.

No eating, drinking, chewing gum. People religiously wait in lines marked out on the platform. No-one sits in the seats for the elderly and handicapped (except the elderly and handicapped). Everyone – but absolutely everyone – leaves the left side of the escalators free for people walking up. Each station has a spotless, free toilet. I could go on and on. Part of the overarching public transport strategy, the metro has been coupled to societal education to make it a big success.

Rubbish and recycling
‘A dearth of rubbish bins,’ I have heard it described as. Indeed, there is hardly a rubbish bin to be seen. You just have to keep your rubbish until you shout with joy – ‘there is one!’ and you can unload your stuff.

Household rubbish? Well, everyone knows that has to be thrown out personally at 9.10pm. At that fateful hour the rubbish truck passes my house playing a simple tune that will stay in my mind forever. People congregate, throwing out the rest waste in expensive rubbish bags from the council in the first truck, the recyclables in the second truck, and the biodegradables in the third truck. Paper is only collected on Mondays and Fridays. It was the government’s goal to raise awareness on the amount of rubbish we produce. As a result, a lot less rubbish is produced.

Rubbish collection

The big place
China is called 大陸 (Dalu – or ‘big place’). Taiwan lies in China’s shadow across the sea. In Taiwan (different to the mainland) they use the traditional Chinese script. In Taiwan there are many words that are different to mainland Chinese. I have decided to no-longer use the mainland China words – I have caused enough irritation already. I know how they feel. Coming from the antipodes, I spell colour with a u, I drink from a tap, I used to wear nappies when I was a baby, and my parents took me for walks in a pram.

Chinese New Year in front of the television
I was lucky enough to be invited to a traditional family Chinese New Year celebration. I was warmly welcomed by my hosts, but I then realised how foreign I am in Taiwan. The celebrations involved a spread of traditional Chinese food.
‘Its chicken,’ he said.
I looked at the alien soup – black flesh floating in a clear broth next to a tangle of ginseng.
‘Really! Its chicken.’
It was black chicken. A new-year’s tradition.
My Chinese new year
Then there was a bright orange soup with floaty white bits. And another soup with some unrecognizable things. I pride myself on my adventurous appetite. Here, I just ate some fried chicken and rice. In Holland I have welcomed Korean cyclist guests. All they wanted was a Korean supermarket where they could buy noodles. At the New Year’s Eve dinner, all I craved was a piece of chocolate.

After the dinner, the new year’s eve continued on the sofa in front of the television. The odd fire-cracker was let off outside at random intervals. As the evening continued, I didn’t hear any crescendo in the fire-cracker activity, and was asleep by midnight.

Studying Chinese
People ask me, aren’t I missing cycling? Don’t I have itchy feet to jump on the bike and continue. While in Taiwan, I was studying Chinese. I love learning languages – another one of my passions, and didn’t notice the time fly by. I was proud and happy as I felt my Chinese improve every day. In the last few days I have been having regular long conversations in Mandarin, proudly using the latest grammatical structures I have learnt.

Chinese language grades
My time in Taiwan is now coming to an end, and my feet are becoming itchy. The next leg of the cycle trip can begin!!

 


During my winter break I will add a few non-cycling posts on some thoughts and experiences. I will continue the cycle from Holland to Australia in March 2015.

‘Smell this,’ whispers Jeremy, his head and light peering through the dark into the open skip. ‘Bleach. Someone doesn’t want us to take this.’ The pile from the bakery, sitting in the skip was doused with bleach. Some people think, if I don’t want it – you’re not getting it either. There is so much waste, but putting it to good use, I feel like a fugitive. My ears are perked up and my eyes are sharp, concentrating on the moment – night-time foraging in the rubbish bins of supermarkets in Adelaide.

Its called Dumpster Diving – salvaging food from rubbish thrown out at supermarkets, fruit markets and bakers. I first heard about it in Dubrovnik when Clement told about cycling 3000km through France without money. Florian has done it on his trip from Germany to Australia. In Adelaide I added the dumpster diving badge to my qualifications.

In the dead of the night we work. Behind the supermarkets. The bikes are parked. Head torches on. Watch for people. Listen. Be alert. Are the supermarket workers still there? Is security passing? Is that truck the rubbish truck coming to take away our booty?

Jeremy, our dumpster teacher opens up the skip. A faint smell wafts up, of everything, of rubbish. And then we sift in the dark, lit by the light of our head-torches. Moving boxes of empty CD covers. An old watermelon seeping its juice. A few leaves of old cabbage. Someone adjusts the torch to better see inside the skip. Then an arm is thrust down deep. Up comes a milk container. Use-by date – tomorrow. He touches it to his cheek. Still cold. Still sealed. Who wants it? And then another. Then an iced coffee. A carton of milk. It is wet. A drop of white collects in the bottom corner. Jeremy squeezes it. It’s good. The milk is from somewhere else. The more we look, the more we find. A stash of milk to satisfy us all. And all not passed its use-by date.

Dumpster Diving in Adelaide

Dumpster Diving in Adelaide

In another skip we find thick paper bags full of pastries from the bakery. Cinnamon scrolls, buns, croissants, cakes. We find bottles of orange juice, still cold. This is all stuff that couldn’t be sold. This is all good food. And it’s all going to waste.

I try to decide what I think of this. Society is wasteful – mountains of food are grown just to be thrown away. I think it is morally good to take this food and use it – without paying for it. But other people have paid for this, I hear you say. Other people have worked, and I just take the spoils of their toils. The supermarket is losing paying customers to dumper divers. Why pay for it, when you can get it for free? – just wait until closing time. There are lots of conflicting thoughts that go through my mind. I think that it is good there are dumpster divers. I am glad I have tried it. Although, I must admit, I would rather buy the food off the shelf. I am lucky enough to have the money to have the choice.


My video documentation of the European part of my World Cycle Trip is now complete. The second video showing the part from Dubrovnik to Istanbul is now online. Take a look and tell me what you think (and share it if you like). :-)

You can also see a summary of my blog for the European part here.

Have a very merry Christmas and a great 2015!! I am really looking forward to my 2015!


I am approaching 100,000 hits with my blog. Thank-you everyone for visiting and ‘hitting’ arctic-cycler.com! May I be hit a lot more during the rest of my trip! :-)

While vegging out in Australia over the winter break, I have collected all the daily blog entries of the European leg into a summary page, which can also be accessed from the World Cycle Route tab.

I have also been putting together some videos of the European leg of the trip. Here is the first one – from Eindhoven to Dubrovnik. Tell me what you think!

 

The cycling continues in March 2015. See you then!


My last day of cycling for 2014. It has been an amazing trip. I am now left with my memories, some great new friends, and my three dog rocks. They won’t be needed any more now.

The three dog rocks - for aggressive dogs (of which there are many)

The three dog rocks – for aggressive dogs (of which there are many)

In the book ‘On the Beach’ by Nevil Shute, radiation from a huge world war that killed everything in the Northern Hemisphere was slowly creeping south. When the book started, Brisbane went ‘out’ (died of radiation). Finally the radiation reached Melbourne, and people made the most of their last days before the radiation killed them too, and there was nothing left alive. On my bike trip I have been running from the winter. Places became too cold just after I left them. The rain and cold has arrived in Istanbul. James is fleeing for the winter, leaving today. I am left, with a forecast of rain, rain and rain. I will try to move my flight out forward. The first part of my bike trip from Holland to Australia is complete, and it is time to call it a day.

On the Beach. Nevil Shute

On the Beach. Nevil Shute

The road from Gönen to Bandirma was freeway-like and very uninteresting. My boat to Istanbul is in the evening, and I am sitting in a warm cafe in Bandirma watching people walk by. My departure from Eindhoven 2.5 months ago seems a lifetime ago. So much has happened – so many amazing places I’ve seen, incredible people I’ve met, and things that have happened. And the great thing is, there is a LOT more coming up next year. As my friends in Boston say – ‘AWESOME’. See you all next year!

The road from Gönen

The road from Gönen

Day 74. 74km. Çan – Gönen

Posted: November 28, 2014 in Cycling
Tags: , , ,

Good cycling roads are different to good driving roads. A good cycling road has few cars, and no fast cars. It therefore needs to be windy, have some bumps and potholes, and pass through many small villages. Today the road to Gönen was never signposted as such. A good sign! I confirmed that it actually did go to Gönen and had a lovely, peaceful ride through the Turkish countryside.

On the way to Gönen

On the way to Gönen

This feels like the real Turkey I want to cycle through. No big freeway-like roads, but small roads where everyone waves. Small villages with chickens waddling around. And regular stops to eat Börek and other pastry delights. Oh, and quite a few vicious dogs – the three rocks are always ready in the back pockets of my cycling tricot.

A small Turkish village

A small Turkish village

On the way to Gönen

On the way to Gönen

Little did I know, but Gönen is quite a tourist centre – in the summer. It is famous for its hot springs, and there is a squillion hotels and pensions clustered around the spring and public hammam. I didn’t know this, and didn’t find them initially. A kind man who spoke German helped me find them, and also explained how the hammam worked. The hammam was wonderful, and I feel squeaky clean again! :-)

My friend helped me find a cheap pension

My friend helped me find a cheap pension


A little kitten, all alone, meowing on the side of the road. Outside in the cold. I almost tried to take her in my handlebar bag. Passers-by didn’t seem too concerned. Maybe they didn’t understand me. She might freeze. Or get squashed.

A lonely little kitten

A lonely little kitten

After all the cold days, I was worried about climbing into the mountains. There was no need. It was short-sleeve weather for me (about 6C, I think – I overheat easily, as James can testify to). It was also big head-wind weather today. As I crawled along the valley, I was a bit worried about reaching Çan before sunset. (In the end, I made it easily.) And, finally, it was impressive cloud weather today. Although sometimes dark and looming, the clouds kept their water to themselves.

Up the valley from Çanakkale

Up the valley from Çanakkale

Up the valley from Çanakkale

Up the valley from Çanakkale

The road to Çan

The road to Çan

Looming clouds

Looming clouds

See how small she is

See how small she is

Thanks to the kind hotel manager at the Anzac Hotel in Çanakkale, I am now in a hotel that I would have never have found. Recommended as a cheap hotel, it is inside the security wall of a ceramic factory. It reminds me a bit of the teacher accommodation we stayed at in Lüleburgaz. It is a hotel, but, not for the normal public – or at least, it is not widely advertised. Its perfect for a tired cyclist! :-)