Sunday, 1 April 2012

Boating in Bitan

There are some disadvantages to living in a country where the majority of the population is smaller than you. Luckily for me I'm a small person anyway, so I feel quite at home. (In fact, I quite enjoy feeling normal for a change.) But my husband Andy is an average-sized Westerner, which here means he's sometimes a little too big.

For example, when sitting in a pedalo, boating in Bitan on the Xindian River, he found the seating to be a little inadequate, with too little distance between the pedals and the seat. This caused him to have his legs up too high, which in turn caused his lifejacket to ride up, which well..........

Yesterday we took the MRT to Xindian at the end of the red line, just four or five stops along from us, at the southern tip of  Taipei New City. It's very pleasant there. The river is wide and dreamy, and the mountains are verdant, beautiful and full of sweet, fresh air. There are lots of restaurants, plenty of street food and miles of river walks.

First, we took the aforementioned pedalo excursion. After the general hilarity at Andy's lifejacket predicament had subsided we had a enjoyable hour's pedalling around the river.  The rivalry with other boating enthusiasts was, at times, a little intense. We had several impromptu races with other families out on the river which brought out Andy and Conrad's competitive sides and provided some very good exercise. We explored upriver and down, and had spurts of splashing speed along with some more leisurely, sedate cruises (I was in charge of the latter).

The day tourists were out in force. As well as the many pedalo-users, there were lots of people promenading up and down the banks and families with children out exploring the shoreline. We returned the friendly waves as we drifted past.

There were some other objects of interest along the banks, such as this 'hobbit' house, so named by Andy and Conrad:

Less agreeable moments included nearly running aground when we came too close to the shore, and the sight of a poor fish down on its luck. It was trying to swim belly up on the surface of the river. No doubt it would have been put out of its misery quickly enough by one of the many herons scanning the water.

But all in all, a highly pleasurable hour.

Next, attracted by the views of the mountainside, we headed inland and took one of the many trails there. Spring was clearly on the agenda. Over the last couple of weeks flowers have been appearing all over Taipei; wild, exotic plants that back home would have to be carefully nurtured into bloom are here carelessly, vigorously flowering in the most unlikely and neglected spots. Up in the mountains the native flora were exuberantly doing what comes naturally. Here is, according to the sign, a shellflower, as seen from afar and close to. The open flower is said to resemble a goose in flight:

We walked the trails for over an hour, exploring the mountain. The trails themselves are not tracks as such, but paved or concreted structures a little at odds with the surrounding vegetation. But they make up for the discord with their extreme ease of use. 

The views were marvelous.

At the top we encountered a small mystery. Someone had clearly had intentions of building a retreat at the top of the mountain, but the work had been abandoned. There was a wide concreted area with various construction projects surrounding it. The only thing that had been completed was, bizarrely, a garden pond with ornamental fountain:

That was it. No house, no garden even, just a pond with its little-boy-peeing statue. Maybe someone will come and add the more useful parts of the construction at some point.

To make the day complete, we went back down the mountain to have an early dinner at one of the restaurants on the riverbank. 

To continue the tradition of this blog, here are the food photos. Conrad shared with us and had a little of everything. I had Gong Bao Chicken.

Andy had a lemon bream dish.

And we had tempura.

And chips!

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