This is essentially the miscellaneous page where I post random details about undertaking a trip like this.
My Jetstar flight was initially booked to depart Singapore on 5 January 2016 and depart Taiwan on 15 January 2016. This was because I wanted to be back in time for my Mum’s birthday on 16 January 2016. I gave myself 10 days to complete the ride, but bought a flexible option in case I finished sooner, which I did.
Local data SIM card
Before the immigration counters at Taoyuan Airport, there are 3 booths by the main telecoms players in Taiwan. All offered similar prices from what I could see. I went with Chunghwa Telecom as they are the oldest and have the greatest coverage, so I assumed they would offer the best connection in rural areas. Even then my signal dropped a few times and I had to reset my phone to find it again. If you miss these counters, there are a few outside in the public airport area as well.
The Taiwan immigration form requires you to fill in the place you’ll be staying at while in Taiwan. I’d left this blank as I had no idea where I would be staying that night, and tried to explain my free and easy plan to the immigration officer. She insisted that I provide an address, so in a flash of inventiveness I wrote “Novotel Airport Hotel” which I remembered seeing in a Google search result. She was happy enough that the blank was filled and I was happy enough to proceed to not stay there at all.
Bike box storage
There are 2 counters for left luggage in Terminal 1 of Taoyuan International Airport. Both are owned by Pelican Express and charge the same prices. The difference is the operating hours. The counter behind Row 12 of the Departure Hall on Level 3 opens till 11:30pm. The smaller counter at the Arrival Hall on Level 1 closes at 6pm and hence has a much shorter queue.
Both charge NTD 300 per day, inclusive of the first and last days, ie if you leave your box from Monday night to Friday morning, you will be charged 5 days as Monday and Friday are each counted as one day. They are flexible though, as I initially deposited my box for 10 days but collected after only 7 days and was charged 7 days.
Bike set up
In the months before the trip, I’d replaced my SPD-SL road cleats with SPD pedals as SPD shoes are easier to walk around in. I’d also replaced my racing saddle with a Brooks Cambium for the comfort as well as bag loops. My bags were a Carradice Zipped Roll in front and Carradice Barley at the back. I’d removed the quick release skewers from my wheels and used normal skewers which require a tool to remove, making them harder to steal so I don’t need an extra cable lock to secure the wheels. My lock is a Bordo 9000 folding lock that weighs about 1kg and is attached to the top tube with velcro straps. It has a Sold Secure Silver rating, meaning it takes 3 minutes to break with regular tools. This gives me enough time to go to the toilet or run out in the middle of a meal and whack the thief over the head with my water bottles.
I brought 2 front lights and 3 rear lights, all battery operated except 1 rear light which needed charging each night. Although this sounds like overkill, it turned out to be just right. At the end of Day 6, my chargeable rear light had died and another rear light had bounced off my saddle bag for good (I’d rescued it twice previously but didn’t hear it fall off the third time). So I was left with 1 rear light. It happened to be the cheapest, lousiest light that I’d bought only as a back up. In the end it was the one that shone.
My two little bags gave me a total capacity of 11 litres, and weighed 5kg combined. I prefer travelling light so it was enough for me. I recommend going as light as you can. Your bike will be easier to handle, you will go faster, and life really doesn’t require that much stuff. The rule of thumb for lightweight travelling: the second of anything is redundant.
Merino wool clothing helps as it stays warm when wet, and doesn’t smell even if you are too tired to wash it every single night (don’t ask me how I know this). I also bought Keen SPD sandals which doubled up as my street shoes, so I only needed one pair.
- Merino wool jersey
- Merino wool shorts
- Merino wool sports bra
- Merino wool socks
- Sunshades (transition lenses for wearing throughout the day)
- Cap (for keeping sun and rain out of the eyes)
- Arm warmers (great for regulating temperature by rolling up and down the arms as needed)
Off-bike kit (to wear to dinner):
- Merino wool T-shirt
- Merino wool cardigan
- Nylon quick-dry long pants
- Panties (the only item I broke the lightweight rule for – I brought 2 of these)
Several people asked what I wore to sleep, since I only brought one set of clothes for on the bike and one set for off the bike. I repeat: one set on the bike, one set off the bike. Work it out, geniuses! ;p
- 2 spare tubes (used only 1)
- Garmin and light charging cables
- Chamois cream
- Toothbrush and toothpaste (not needed as hotels provided these)
- Comb (also provided and therefore not needed)
- Microfibre towel (not needed and never used)
- 1st aid kit (not used but probably a good idea to have for emergencies)
- 2 hair ties (in case I lost one which happens quite often)
Inside the bike box:
- Floor pump (for setting up bike at the start)
- Change of clothes and shoes for return flight
What I didn’t bring
Although I usually have a book with me, I had none this time. The actual reason was that I’d borrowed a cycle touring book from the library as I thought it would be good company but it started to irritate me around page 3 as the author was just trying too hard to be funny. Annoying company is worse than no company, so I returned the book. I’m glad I didn’t bring a replacement. I had little time to read. I’ve also found reading to be an escape into another world, and instead I got to experience my actual world more fully.