Pedalling little bikes through rice fields, a Christmas tree made of logs, and spotting our first live Taiwanese snake.

Day 197: Taitung, Taiwan. Today was a day of cycling through rice fields, surrounded by the most stunning mountainous scenery of the East Rift Valley.

After breakfast this morning (a big improvement on yesterday, the guesthouse manager took our feedback on board and we got coffee, eggs and bread) we headed across to the station to catch a train to Chishang, about 40km north of Taitung.

Chishang is unofficially known as the rice capital of Taiwan – there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of rice fields, intersected with 23km of fabulous cycle paths.

We hired bikes at a shop right outside the train station. In retrospect we should have checked out some of the other bike rental shops, as we struggled to find bikes big enough. Jim had to upgrade from a town bike to a mountain bike to get a saddle that went high enough to stop his knees scraping on the ground. Lil made do with the biggest model town bike they had, but it was still too small for her (as she found out when her knees started aching mightily about an hour into the ride).

Regardless, we had a fabulous cycle around the area – it’s impossible to capture the beauty of the place in a bunch of photos.

Along with its rice recognition, the area is also famous for a Mr Brown coffee commercial that was shot there, at what’s now known as Brown Boulevard. (Mr Brown is a well known brand of canned and bottled coffee powders and concoctions). At the top of the Boulevard, there’s a cafe called Mr Brown’s coffee shop and a number of artifacts to snap pics against the amazing backdrop. Which we did.

EVA Air also shot a commercial in the area – a Taiwan born Japanese actor called Takeshi Kaneshiro featured in the commercial, drinking tea next to a tree. The tree is still there (though it was damaged by a typhoon in 2014) and a tea pot sits on a high table next to a seat. Another very popular photo spot.

And even out in the middle of rice fields, Jim got a chance to pose with a Christmas tree – this one was made entirely of wooden logs.

We also got to see our first live Taiwanese snake on the road (Lil nearly pedalled over it before shouting back to Jim, who jumped off his bike to photograph it from a safe distance).

We finished the ride where we started – at Dapo Pond – then headed back to the train station for the journey back to Taitung. With Lil grumbling that her knees were aching badly.

Tomorrow we’re planning to have a quieter day, with a walk to a local museum and dinner and drinks in the town. And we’ll keep a beady eye out for snakes along the way.

More then.