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Running Barefoot Along the Danshui River in Taipei

The concierge staff at the Regent Taipei has been the best I’ve seen (in my limited world travels).  They provided multiple maps, answer every question like they are glad to see me, and have a way of being professional but easily approachable.  It may have something to do with the fact one of them is the president of Les Clefs d’Or Taipei, also called The Golden Keys Association, a concierges network for improving service.

I discovered this because I was trying to identify who printed the main map, covering all of Taipei, that they gave me.  It has both Chinese characters and pinyin (basically how English speaking visitors can understand the street names and signs). With this map, you can show a non-English speaking taxi driver where you want to go, or ask for help on the street if you need to.  Or, you can possibly find your way home on your own…  It is Les Clefs d’Or of Taipei that publishes the map.

It was this map that showed me how close we were to the Danshui River (which, by the way, seems to be renamed Tamshui on the MRT line). Having lived in Taipei before, I knew that there are often good asphalt bike paths along the rivers. I went to the concierge desk to ask if there was a bike path along the section of the river due west of the hotel.  Yes, there was. (click on any photo to enlarge)

This is the map on a sign that can be found down by the river.

This is the map on a sign that can be found down by the river.

All I needed to do was go north on Zhongshan North Road, Section 2, until I found Minsheng West Road.  If I followed that west, I would run smack-dab into an opening in the flood wall called Dadaocheng Wharf.  He didn’t know the distance in miles, and the scale on the map is currently too cryptic for me (simply saying 1:20000, no units).

This is what the wharf gate looks like from inside by the river.  It looks a lot the same on the outside, but it is a large busy street, so I wasn't inclined to stop and take a photo there.

This is what the wharf gate looks like from inside by the river. It looks a lot the same on the outside, but it is a large busy street, so I wasn’t inclined to stop and take a photo there.

Unfortunately, my Garmin could not help me measure the distance due to all the high buildings.  However, Google maps says it’s about 1.2 miles.  This is not so great a distance when one is already going to run 8 -10 miles.  

Wild Greg ran with me on Tuesday morning.  We ran about 6.5 miles, mixing in some speed work.  Some of it was really coerced sprinting, as Greg was running late (ha ha) and I was trying desperately to keep up with him, dodging the first wave of morning foot, scooter, and car traffic; and giving an extra push to make it through signals.

Wild Greg running north along the Danshui River in Taipei

Wild Greg running north along the Danshui River in Taipei

Since no one else was chasing their husband through the streets of downtown Taipei, I’m going to say we gave the residents a cheerful start to their morning…  My neon orange shorts and flashy pink shirt probably made them wonder if the circus was coming to town.  My bare feet seemed to both astound and please, judging by their faces.

Friday morning I ran by myself.  I ran to the wharf, then headed north for 3 miles.  There were quite a number of people about as early as 6:30 AM.

A lot were walkers, 99% of whom stayed glued to the right side of the path.  That is because many of the bicyclists were what you would call serious riders.  When they went by, you were lucky if you heard the buzz of their wheels before they were actually beside and passing you.  The only cyclists who used bells were the older folks who weren’t going that fast.

There were a few runners, all in shoes, but they all greeted me quite positively.  Only one fellow, in a lovely bright orange wicking shirt, was going faster than me.  Maybe the faster runners run somewhere else?   When he finished his run, he turned around and I told him in Chinese that he was faster than me.  We had a short conversation, but I was on mile  7 and a bit too tired to think clearly in Chinese.

Rewinding to just before my most northern turn around point, which was 3 miles up from Dadaocheng Wharf, I would like to point out that I ran past a slew of stray dogs.  I haven’t figured out why most of the dogs I see with people in the city of Taipei are little foo-foo dogs, small enough to fit in purses; but the STRAY dogs are meaty, medium sized dogs who look like they belong in the army!

I did some quick evaluation of the situation.  The dogs were not bunched together.  There was one every few feet on the cement just the other side of the path railing.  There were  enough other people going by and the dogs made no movement relative to that.  They didn’t even raise their heads.

This lone stray dog was on the path in the other direction, south of Dadaocheng Wharf

This lone stray dog was on the path in the other direction, south of Dadaocheng Wharf

Guessing that the pack must have already eaten their daily morning jogger, I ventured to complete my 3 miles in this direction.  I tried to breath normally and not look at the dogs.  Most stray dogs I have met have a special helpless female radar that I was trying to jam.  I was tempted to take a picture, just to document how many there were, but decided against it.

Back at Dadaocheng Wharf, I found I hadn’t gone as far as I wanted (only 7 miles so far), so I went exploring to the south.  In this direction, the path was much more varied, both in texture and scenery.  The path curved more, working it’s way around everything from croquet lawns to wild duck habitat.  There were not as many people, which was good, because the path was generally more narrow, too.

Most of my photos are from this part of the path.  I ran until I had made it 9 miles, then turned around and walked back to the wharf looking for opportunities to use the camera.  As I was walking, I only almost got creamed by a serious bicyclist once, but that was because there was a man with a high powered blower cleaning the path.

The photos from this point will be the order I took them walking back.  I thought that made the most sense, since that is the direction I’m looking.  Except for the first one, which is actually me on Tuesday, running on the northern section, but headed south back to the wharf:

bike path, used by walkers and runners, too; along the Danshui River just north of Dadaocheng Wharf

bike path, used by walkers and runners, too; along the Danshui River just north of Dadaocheng Wharf

In so many of the photos it seems like the path looks empty. Really, there was a steady flow of people, but when they were there it was either unsafe to stop and take a photo, or possibly impolite to be taking photos of people without their permission.

one of the many overpass mazes the Danshui bike path goes under, near my turn around point

one of the many overpass mazes the Danshui bike path goes under, near my turn around point

The constant hum the city of Taipei, from over the wall to the right, can't be heard in this peaceful photo

The constant hum the city of Taipei, from over the wall to the right, can’t be heard in this peaceful photo

one of the many special sitting areas shaded by ficus trees

one of the many special sitting areas shaded by ficus trees

serious photographers in the wild duck area

serious photographers in the wild duck area

what their cameras are pointing toward

what their cameras are pointing toward

quite a few people here ride these compact bikes, maybe because they are easier to store in their apartments

quite a few people here ride these compact bikes, maybe because they are easier to store in their apartments

in many places, there was a walking path off to the side

in many places, there was a walking path off to the side

on the way back, I turned around to look at the sign for Huajiang Wild Duck Nature Park

on the way back, I turned around to look at the sign for Huajiang Wild Duck Nature Park

Although it was scenic and pleasant overall, there were many places where it was like a bike path freeway. In one long section, it ran parallel to what I call “the scooter highway,” a special section of roadway made just for scooters. A main entry point for it was at Dadaocheng Wharf.

the sound of the scooters echoed very loudly off of the walls

the sound of the scooters echoed very loudly off of the walls

drop off to the Danshui River on the one side and loud scooter highway on the other!

drop off to the Danshui River on the one side and loud scooter highway on the other!

many of the birds were singing happy songs

many of the birds were singing happy songs

This was where many men were playing Frisbee!

This was where many men were playing Frisbee!

The whole time that I was running on the paths was a weekday morning between 6 AM and 9 AM.  The age range of the other people on the path was toward the mature side, 35 and up.  It also struck me that for a city this size, the paths were not that crowded.

basketball courts just south of Dadaocheng Wharf

basketball courts just south of Dadaocheng Wharf

a croquet lawn was right there, too

a croquet lawn was right there, too

the tennis courts (behind the green fencing) were busy on a Thursday morning

the tennis courts (behind the green fencing) were busy on a Thursday morning

there were not many boats on the Danshui River

there were not many boats on the Danshui River

a "private" grove for morning group exercises

a “private” grove for morning group exercises

Many passers-by were intrigued with my bare feet, whether I was running or walking. The older the person, the more they seemed to give me approving smiles. There were not very many runners, and most of them were men, but there were a couple of other middle aged women out there. Those women greeted me enthusiastically.  Times like these reinforce the idea that all people have far more in common than they have cultural differences.

tthe contrast of the city after the bike path, just outside of the wharf gate

the contrast of the city after the bike path, just outside of the wharf gate

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