Day 8 – Big city shock to Zhiben

On April 19, 2012 by admin

Luye to Zhiben

Not having a hot spring to use in the morning definitely had us packed and riding earlier than any other day. The staff at the hotel we stayed at didn’t speak any English and we weren’t sure if there was a breakfast or not, even if there was, we were leaning on skipping it anyways.

On the road by 8:30am, the ride to Taitung from here started with just an easy grade climb, from about 150m up to 290m then a long coasting downhill into the outskirts of Taitung. We pulled into a rest stop at a 7-Eleven around 10am to escape the heat that was rising out and had a quick cup of cereal and a coffee. Today’s main goals were to find a bank since we had about $15 USD left, and a coin laundry since we (I) reeked. Pulling into the visitor centre before Bainan, the guy in there stayed in his office the whole time on the phone, pretending not to see us mulling around waiting to ask for directions, so we carried on. From this point the road keeps going downhill but separates nicely to a lane for scooters and bikes, divided by a tree lined boulevard between the cars, and goes on for 3-4k like this.

Into Taitung, it was a rude awakening to see the traffic and business after the last 5 days of cruising down Taiwan’s quiet east coast. Unfortunately, we had to go all the way into downtown to find a bank that would let me withdraw money, then we turned around and got the heck out of there.

On the road out of Taitung heading towards Zhiben hot spring area, we saw a couple other bike tourers on the roadside. They rode along with us for about a half hour or so and chatted, very nice guys, from Nantou area by Sun Moon Lake. I wish I’d caught their names but we did exchange emails at least. We had a short coffee and Slurpee break at 7-Eleven then waved goodbye as they rode south to Taimali where they’d catch a six hour train ride back home, hardcore! I was impressed at how light their baggage was, just seat post racks with a small backpack on it each, nice light and quick. When they lifted my bike they thought I was crazy. I think I’m crazy, too. Not having camp gear on this tour I figured my bike would be lighter, but actually the bike and panniers bags are pretty heavy to start with on their own. When we were in the north during and after the rains it was actually pretty chilly out so I kept my warmer jacket and shoes, since walking in my old sandals is hell for more than five minutes. Other than that in my gear is chargers, heavy camera gear, one spare set of riding gear, one dry set of clothes, a sometimes quick drying towel, and a few maps. It all adds up of course…

Arriving at Zhiben, or Chihpen, or Jhiben, we didn’t know where to stay, but figured there were plenty of options. We rode up the first road to Wulau Hotel, which wasn’t so nice and cost $2300 TWD ($78 USD), so we thought we’d look around more first. At this point an old guy with a wispy beard on a scooter caught up to us again and was asking in Chinese if we needed a room. Telling us it was only S1500 TWD ($51 USD), we said we’d have a look. The room was in the Goya Hot Springs Hotel, so as I went to the front desk to show my passport, I was told we actually weren’t officially IN the hotel, so mass confusion set in, as it turned out that this room was maybe a timeshare or separate deal, and didn’t have use of the hotel spa or facilities. I rode up to look at other hotels, but no vacancy. Deciding to just go for it, we paid the man the money and he gave us two hot spring vouchers.

After doing some sink laundry, because my socks stunk so badly, we went down to the hot spring but weren’t let in since we weren’t officially in the hotel. The vouchers were for the next floor up, and turned out to be little more than a very large hot tub with hot spring water, no outdoor Rotenburo style hot spring. We were a bit disappointed, and the water temperature was only 34C! I asked the guy to turn it up and over time it made it to 38 degrees, not bad and more relaxing. Ophee and I walked around the area, ate a sugar apple, and thought about trying the hot spring next door, where they simply asked us our room number and we could’ve entered. We decided not to, as karma can come back to bite you, and on a bike trip you need all the good karma you can get.

We considered going next door to yet another hot spring but decided to put that money towards a couple of massages at our hotel, which turned out to be great, and worth the $1500 ($51 USD) we splurged on them.

To be honest we have been underwhelmed by Zhiben. It’s a very important point on the bus tour circuit of Taiwan, meaning this hotel is a prime set up (as all around here are) for a bus to arrive at 6, sleepy tourists stumble off to check in then are herded into the buffet, given access to the hot springs, then they’re asleep. I prefer how we make the most of our hotels and the surroundings, and have found I get tense when scores of bus tourists pour out and ruin the quiet solitude of a scenic view…

Looking forward to heading further south tomorrow!

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