Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dezikou River Bike Path 得子口溪自行車道

This bike path passes through the Wendi wetlands, one of the most famous bird watching spots in northern Taiwan. This area consists mosty of rice paddies, so it's also a chance to get a feeling for life in rural Taiwan.

For most of the way, the bike path goes along the top of a series of flood embankments. The path is well maintained and it's a smooth ride and completely flat most of the way. The entire route takes about one hour round trip.

If you visit in late autumn or winter, although the paddies are dry and filled with mud and brown stubble, you will have the chance to observe flocks of migratory birds in the dry paddies. The birds differ according to the time of year, as they pass through the area at different times during their migrations. Depending on when you go, you might see large numbers of egrets, cranes, herons, ducks, geese, and many
other migratory water fowl. Sometimes a few endangered black spoonbills spend the winter here.

Another good time to visit is when the rice is highest right before the harvest, such as in early June. Rice is a beautiful crop, and it provides the perfect backdrop for a bike ride. A number of little rest spots have been constructed along the bike path. These places are good for bird watching or just gazing at the rice paddies.

The best starting point for the ride is next to the bridge at the intersection of Dawen Road 大塭路and Wendi Road 塭底路, which is near the coast road. To get there, take the Number 9 Road (the main street of Jiaoxi) to the Jiaoxi Post Office. Turn onto the little street that runs next to the post office. This street soon dead ends. Turn right at the dead end. Then immediately turn left again (next to the shop selling steamed buns) and crosss over the railroad tracks. This is Dawen Road. Drive
down this road until you are almost at the coast. You will see a metal statue of a giant shrimp on your right. (This area used to have a lot of shrimp farms.) Cross over the bridge. The beginning of the bike path is on your right. If you have trouble finding it this place, just tell people you're looking for the giant shrimp.

Ride your bike on the left side of the river, heading upstream. You want to stay on the left bank of the river. At one point you will have to cross over to the right bank for a short distance, but get back onto the left bank as soon as possible. You will go under several overpasses and cross a couple of small roads. This stretch of bike path mostly runs on top of the flood embankment, looking down on rice paddies to your left and river on your right. After half an hour or so you will come to the Number 9 Road. This is a very busy road with a concrete median in the middle, and marks the end of the path. Turn around and head back to the giant shrimp.

On the return leg, after riding for awhile you can eventually cross over to other bank. The path soon goes down and you are riding next to the flood wall. This stretch of the path takes you past a sleepy village. People visiting from Taipei will think they've entered a time machine. This town feels like nothing much has changed in the last couple of decades, and it gives a feeling of small town life in rural Taiwan. There are a few old red brick farmhouses along the way, so you can get a taste of the traditional rural architecture. If you're thirsty, a couple of old fashioned country stores sell bottled drinks. Eventually the path will take you back up onto the embankment for the final part of the return ride.

When you get back to Jiaoxi you might want to stop and try the steamed buns at the shop next to the railroad tracks. The times when the buns come out of the steamer are posted on the wall. Local people will line up patiently for a long time to buy some of these famous buns, and consider them one of the best snacks in Jiaoxi.

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