Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cycling Through Gongguan

Most people think of Taipei as an urban jungle and so did I until I found out that Taipei has developed riverside parks, an extensive network of cycling paths and a new city bike rental service. I was intrigued with this new way to explore the city and I knew I had to squeeze it somehow into my schedule.

At first, I was unsure whether the YouBike rental service would be accessible to foreigners. The English website wasn't as comprehensive as I remembered and there were barely any information on blogs for single-use riders. My inital game plan was to rent a bike using my EasyCard but as I was struggling with the rental terminal, I realised I had to register the card first. In the end, I used my credit card and in no time I was breezing through the streets of Taipei. Finding a rental terminal was easy, in fact, it will probably be one of the first things you notice about Taipei now, all these adorable orange-yellow bikes standing in a row outside train stations. You can also search for your nearest rental station via the website, it even tells you how many bikes are supposed to be available, whether are there any parking lots or if the station is closed. It might not be the most accurate though, the first rental station I went to was supposed to have bikes available but there were none.

Anyway, the little problems aside, I had so much fun riding through the streets and sidewalks of Gongguan (my 'hood in Taipei yo!). I cycled without a map but I knew the area well enough to head in the direction of the riverside park, the area is also pretty well sign-posted and it's hard to get lost. Once I hit the park, I just followed the trail around the river together with the rest of the Sunday morning crowd. I can't believe that this expanse of greenery have been hidden behind Taipei's concrete facade all this while. I only biked a small stretch between Jingmei, Fuhe and Guting Riverside Parks but it's totally possible to bike all the way up north to Danshui or down south to Xindian. That's how well developed the riverside networks have become! I think the next time I visit Taipei again, I might earmark an entire day to just ride along the river!

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