Bicycle touring Taiwan: Taoyuan to Heren via Keelung

When Jack reached out and asked if Ferda and I were interested in a bicycle tour in Taiwan, we didn’t hesitate. It would be Jack’s first time leaving the US since he was diagnosed with leukemia. Since then, he’s had a real adventure including chemotherapy and stem cell treatment. Taiwan wasn’t highest on our list after our short visit to Taipei only nine months earlier, but we were thrilled to be able to go on another adventure with Jack.

Ferda and I had a happily uneventful flight from Narita to Taoyuan (the city with Taipei’s international airport, as Narita is for Tokyo) and left our bicycle boxes at warmshowers hosts in Taoyuan, Julia and Yuhsi.

Ferda, Julia, Yuhsi by bryandkeith on flickr

Dealing with boxed bicycles (in taxis, trains, buses, airplanes) and what to do with those boxes while cycling is often the most stressful part of a bicycle tour. Julia and Yuhsi (and big taxis between the airport and their house) made this very easy for us.

It was a flat, fun ride the next day with a bit of a headwind to get to the centrally located hotel where Jack was waiting for us in Taipei.

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A bit of Honshu: Hiroshima, Kurashiki, Tokyo

On this bus, train, and boat trip from Kyoto to Tokyo (oh so different from my bicycle tour from Tokyo to Kyoto many years ago!), we took Japan’s famous shinkansen twice. Even though 12 countries now have high speed rail networks (and they’re all countries I’ve been to), it was my first time taking a high speed train.

Looks pretty cool, doesn’t it?

IMG_20231118_103647 by bryandkeith on flickr

The longer trip we took was about three hours from Okayama to Tokyo. Turns out to be about the same distance as the 10.5 hour bus ride that Ferda and I took from Çorum to Antalya two months earlier. Moving right along — certainly the farthest I’ve ever traveled overland in three hours.

Our first high speed train took us one morning from Kyoto to Hiroshima. Our first stop in Hiroshima, as I suppose it should be, was the ground-level epicenter of the August 6, 1945 atomic bomb explosion. Little Boy was detonated 600m above this spot (at the group of people in front of the white car):

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Seto Inland Sea: Shikoku and Naoshima

Shikoku is one of Japan’s four main islands, the smallest of the four in terms of both area and population. It wasn’t till I started to write up this entry that I realized on my first trip to Japan I visited only Honshu, my second trip only Hokkaido, my third trip only Kyushu, and here I am on my fourth trip to Japan visiting Shikoku for the first time!

The first place we visited on Shikoku was Matsuyama, the largest city on the island. Our first destination in Matsuyama was the castle. It’s one of only 12 original castles in Japan. Most have either burned down or were demolished during the Meiji Restoration. The only other of those 12 that I’ve visited is Matsumoto Castle, one of the great stops on my first bicycle tour in Japan.

I also loved this visit to Matsuyama Castle.

IMG_20231113_140908 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Kyoto excursions: Fushimi, Arashiyama, Uji, Nara, Miho Museum

In my last post I showed some photos of some of the places we visited in central Kyoto. For this post I’ve separated out excursions that were a little further afield, sometimes very little.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shinto Shrine, for example, was only about 6km south of our hotel. This is where we took my Dad for his second full day in Japan, still a bit jet-lagged. The walk up the hill through the 1000 torii gates ended up being a bit challenging.

We had been warned that the main temple would be very crowded,

IMG_20231105_104929 by bryandkeith on flickr
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Kyoto, wow!

Near the end of my first trip to Japan over 20 years ago, I spent a few days in Kyoto. I remember being overwhelmed. During that bicycle tour, before arriving in Kyoto, we had seen one temple or shrine or garden in a day. Kyoto’s too much, I thought.

This year, my first return to Kyoto, I felt that in a full week of sightseeing we barely scratched the surface. As an example, we only made it to six of the 17 sites listed in the UNESCO-designated Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. There’s a lot to see.

On our first morning on the way to Yasaka Shrine, my Dad and I wandered down a small street (Nishitera Machi Dori) with temple after temple.

Futso Ko Tera (?) by bryandkeith on flickr
Futso Ko Tera
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