Saturday, November 6, 2010

BIKE SHOPS & PALACE'S - Day 7 continued

"New Orca: Breath deeply, it's just a bike"
Put a bunch of bike geeks in bike shops, good luck getting them out!

Several flagship bike shops in a row shined like jewelry stores in a high-end shopping district. Merchandising was so well thought out in most with well lit displays, including floors decals with bike path symbols not just decorate, but for testing a bike indoors, taking it for a spin. Giant, Aster, Orbea, and Merida were the shops we spent time in. Super friendly staff's were a little uncomfortable with why a group of 5 English speaking American's descended upon their quiet shops. They spoke nearly no English at all and appreciated it when I approached them with my business card, and would ask for theirs. I asked if I could take photos, and checked out beautiful bikes, bike graphics, and clothing and accessories.

I'd try to point out interesting things to our novice cyclist Canadian Niamh, and then make sure that Mark Villegas would see the crank arms in gold anodized bliss. Mark Blacknell and I tried to make small purchases at each, a magazine, a flashing "Scully" handlebar light, something to show a gesture of thanks to them, and get a souvenir. They often gave us a 10% discount in return for our efforts, I'm guessing because we were in the same industry. To my surprise of being in the Country that most the products were made, I couldn't find gloves in my size, in the women's section. All XS or Large. An inventory mistake in my mind, but I imagine they had bikes in all sizes instead, and some accessories were 2nd priority.

A new favorite. The beautiful Orbea Diva.This seat post clamp had me impressed even before I lifted her off the ground knowing she'd be sub 16lbs.

I loved the women's lines of clothing, often marrying everyday wear
with high performance, decent looks to boot!

We are so used to the look of our Giro Helmets,
that this exotic honeycomb helmet had us mesmerized for a bit.

Took this for my friends in Marketing at both Cat Eye and Topeak,
their walls were looking familiar and clean and well planned and stocked!

Couldn't help but be drawn to this Giant matte pink bike on the end, the
raised box display with striping in lights was effective and beautiful.

With only hand gestures and smiles, the Merida staff installed the battery
and indicated my discount for purchasing, and were very happy to be in the picture. Most anybody we met in Taiwan was friendly and all smiles.

To this day, I never got used to men and women covering their mouths with protective gear. Seeing the mannequin is fashioned this way simply made me smile, they knew their target market!

Somebody please explain to me how multiple stem spacers for this Giraffe of a head tube and bizarre geometry is a benefit? Many of the bikes were not the classic triangle, but lower stand-over height, smaller wheels, and awkward looking stems and head tubes. I can only assume it's for fitting onto the train, your house, or easy nimble entry and and exit over a lower top tube. Too ugly for my tastes, but function should lead form I suppose.



Turns out a small scheduling problem that could have been huge for ourselves, was solved when John worked his magic, and got us into an even better hotel after we learned original was not booked for the correct day. The alternative he found, happened to be the one where most the Pro Cyclists were staying, and whom we'd meet at the Press Conference the next day.

Mark Blacknell looks for wireless access as we wait for check-in.

We arrived at our new destination. Yes, disappointed we wouldn't get our 1 of potential 2 times we'd stay at the same hotel more than one night, as this "every night a different hotel" was wearing on one's ability to organize and repack a suitcase, but any negativity left after we landed at the The Palais de Chine. In a tall building with an Apple store at it's base, it already gained points with all of us "Apple Heads" at first glance. We weren't prepared for the sophistication of this luxurious, less than a year old hotel. French, artistic and classy with plush features like libraries in alcoves along the hallways, paneled ceilings, even curved ceilings. Lobby with large rough cut stone as a backdrop, couches and seats that looked of a high-end brothel or smoking room that only the finest in Europe could be imagined to be sporting a glass of brandy or port on. Yet... once again, getting alcohol to match the tempting scene, deemed a large challenge, nearing impossible. *sigh*, the only touch missing to us, were nice hotel bars. I was starting to feel self conscious that I desired a good drink other than cheap 7-11 bought beer. And I was starting to feel like this culture was making the effort to fit in and gather tourism momentum, but only with surface and appearance level of knowledge. Where were the hospitality managers that understood travel, vacation, luxury and a good high-end drink go together?

Check-in was on the 4th floor, maybe the 6th, it all blurred together at this point. It was also useless to try and remember your room numbers. Luckily we'd all try to write them down when we were handed our keys, and often could remember everybody's but our own. Meeting times were agree'd to, and off we each went to try and not unpack so much as to make the early morning a chore to re-pack, and try to go wash the travel and tired eyes off w/ a quick shower and change. Often we'd gather in somebody's room to chat pre dinner, and this time it ended up mine. A quick catch up and comparing room amenities with each other, sometimes sharing a Taiwan Beer. Laughing together at the complicated lighting systems, and enlightening another as to what we learned. "Oh... that's how you connected to the internet", or "how do you flush the toilet", "How did you get your lights to turn off?" were common discussions. This pattern formed early on, and grew, as the group liked to share everything, and liked to be together. Luckily, we were usually roomed on the same floor.

This is a lounge area screaming to enjoy spirits, we did finally get some
wine to sit in this space and soak it in a bit.

Kate, Mark and Naimh hang in my room and try to connect with our worlds at home before dinner.


We were readying for a walk to a famous "night market" that I had heard about before the trip, and to get a "traditional meal". John found a restaurant after whisking us through a quieter than normal night market... as the rain was on and off and drizzling at this point. The local cuisine was a large flat grill that they cooked in front of you and you practically ate off of. As usual, Mark Blacknell and I were the outcasts on the end with our ever burdening request for a vegetarian meal, but I was always glad for the decision. I would nibble on fish when I felt like it, but didn't take to the mystery meat. Mark Villegas was an expert chopstick handler, and in the caring fashion that we all started to have for each other, sometimes would help me if I couldn't separate something out, and manage to serve anything onto my plate. I had always thought I was not so bad at chopsticks, but put a wet greasy noodle or shiny bean in front of me, and I might accidentally catapult it into your eye. Separating fish from skin was my most ungraceful, so usually I just didn't try.

This meal was fun, the cooks very local and between their cell phone calls and lack of interaction, I think they added more oil to the process. My belly was not happy as we walked back, as the grease was landing in my belly, we each retired to our glamorous rooms, to digest in our privacy, and get ready for the big "Press Conference" day in the morning. Bags packed and down to the check out by 8 or something like that. So breakfast at 7 or 7:30. They all blend together, but all of the morning calls seemed too early - especially with bags packed.

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