First order of business, renting a bike. No, wait, first order of business is breakfast.
I have to admit that I am not as excited about getting breakfast out in Taitung. Not that you can’t get a decent breakfast. Just it does not have the number of breakfast places as the more populous cities that have large numbers of people rushing off to work first thing. So the options are more limited. Plus one of my favorite places (Egg荷包蛋早餐店) moved to the outskirts of town.
So we had to shop around a bit.
So we settled on a place largely out of convenience. With decent food of course. By some gross oversight (ok, mostly due to hotel provided breakfasts) we had not had a dan bing (蛋餅 dàn bǐng) yet. Dan bings are a really popular breakfast dish in Taiwan. It consists of scrambled egg and a thin pancake cooked on griddle then this is wrapped around something such as meat or cheese. Or some other filling combination, of which there are many combos. Then served chopped with some sauce, such as sweet soy sauce or sweet and spicy sauce.
Another not altogether uncommon breakfast item is the 厚片hòu piàn or “thick slice” shown here with was some sort of sweet spread and pork floss (肉鬆 ròu sōng). It is good, but not terribly filling on its own.
Breakfast over and done with we grabbed a bus out to the train station to see about this whole bike rental thing.
Right next to the train station is a Giant bike shop that is part of network of shops that rent bikes for around the island cycling. That is, you can rent bicycles at one shop and drop them off at another location if you like. It also means you can rent a halfway, if only halfway, decent bike to ride.
I find precious little information on this rental program in English for some reason. I vaguely knew of it. But details and rates seemed hard to come by, but I at least knew this was the shop in town that rented around the island bikes. From what I could gather it is suggested that you make reservations at least a week in advance perhaps a little more if your e-mail is in English. However I figured that it being the off season we would just go and try our luck.
We managed to rent a couple of bikes. Your basic Taiwanese style, meaning they were mountain bikes with flat bars and road slicks on them. What I expected, not what I would prefer, but what I expected. The rates for the around the island bikes are cheap which makes them a rather attractive option. As of January 2015 it is $1200 NTD (a little less than $40 US) for the first three days then $200 NTD (about $6 US) for each day after that. FYI you will also need to leave some sort of ID behind (not your passport), I left my US drivers license. Wasn’t going to use it anyway.
They also rent more performance oriented bikes as well, for a bit more money. Still not too expensive by western standards. I would like to tell you how much all the rates are, but I am at a loss as to where that little card I picked up at the shop got off to.
Shop info: Giant Taitung New Train Station 捷安特-台東新站 (jié’āntè-tái dōng xīn zhàn) telephone 089-235879, e-mail; firstname.lastname@example.org
There also a lot of other rental locations around the island.
Free at last!
Bicycles are really my ticket to freedom. Most of the East Coast is very enjoyable to ride. And Taitung itself is flat, small, and easy to navigate on bicycle. With both bike paths and some rather low traffic streets. Now if I could only remember the easiest way back to downtown.
Finally making back to town it was time for lunch. After some searching it seems that my favorite congee (粥 zhōu) place is no more. So instead we opted for a place down the street that makes one of the local favorites. The 卑南豬血湯 (bēi nán zhū xiě tāng) or Bei Nan Pig’s Blood Soup, which judging from all the names scribbled all over the walls is as well known and popular. The, what I believe to be, more famous location for this specialty is a place over in the northeast part of the city on Gengsheng Rd # 76, this one is located downtown at 117 Chuanguang Rd (傳廣路117號).
We of course had their pig’s blood soup and a side of pig’s skin (豬皮 zhū pí), which comes with some raw crushed garlic and sweet soy sauce.
Not overly full, riding is good for your apatite, shortly thereafter we had to find something else. There is also a nondescript place down around the corner at 453 Zhengqi Rd (正氣路453號). Called 吃吃看海苔捲 Chī chī kàn hǎi tái juǎn or Eat and See Seaweed Rolls. They make a rather unphotogenic 飯捲 or rice roll that I’ve tried to mimic before.
Afterwards we did our best to ride down every street in town. Including past were we use to live. Where we just happened to run into Robert Story, longtime expat and writer of several of the first Lonely Planet Taiwan editions. He owns (with his wife of course) what use to be a vacant lot and now is a homestay that is located across the street from our old place. We had a bit of a chat and caught up on what is going on locally and that sort of thing.
We rode around till nearly dark then we headed over to one our favorite places in town for dinner. The Green House, 綠房子 (lǜ fáng zi) located at #13 Chenggong Rd (成功路13號) might be easy to miss, since it is nearly completely overgrown with a flowering vine of some sort. The Green House serves set meals, meaning they include a main dish, rice, sides and a soup. Not to mention they have some really good homemade juice drinks and dumplings as well.
Their set meals are some of my favorite on the island, all very traditional with some flair here and there. They do a drunken chicken that uses a plum liquor (梅酒醉雞 méi jiǔ zuì jī) that is one of the best take on the dish I’ve ever had. Their red braised pork hock (紅燒豬腳 hóng shāo zhū jiǎo) is also a succulent and rich dish I can never pass up.
I can’t say enough good things about the Green House. It has the quirky laidback atmosphere that I love about Taitung plus really good Taiwanese food.