Monday, January 03, 2011

Taiwan -- Day 9 GIANT Bike Factory and the SASO Carbon Factory

The next morning we got to sleep in before heading to The West for a brilliant western breakfast buffet.  Great food and eggs and then got ready for checkout at 830am. Unfortunately though, the reason we got to sleep in was that the Taiwan Cup was cancelled. Typhoon Megi hand landed a knockout punch to the Tourism Board with the ongoing intense bad weather.  In the Taroko Gorge several people were now missing due to landslides and a dozen tourist buses were struck. The Cup route was severely impacted by the typhoon and it wasn’t safe to keep the ride as scheduled.  At dinner the night before John told us that the train with the cyclists didn't make it to Hualien from Taipei because the train tracks flooded. The cyclists were unable to get off and be driven because the road was washed out as well.  Typhoon Megi  really washed everything out. The Taiwan Cup, after two years of planning and millions of dollars spent on infrastructure had been called off due to the bad timing of one of Mother Nature’s temper tantrums.

Typhoon Megi on CNN Asia

View out of the Grand Victoria Hotel
In the blank space of clouds on the left of the building is actually Taipei 101.
The weather was so bad that when I went for breakfast Taipei 101 was there
and when I came back it was gone.
Since we were unable to get to Hualien for the next two nights, John changed it that we would travel to Sun Moon Lake by bus instead for those nights.  On the way we were going to stop at the GIANT Factory and the SASO Carbon Factory.

We stopped at the GIANT Factory in Daijia and met Zach. He gave us a tour of the factory and showed us how they assembled the bikes and manufactured different lines. It was remarkably interesting.  I felt like I was on the Discover Channel Show “How It’s Made”.  First we entered the showroom and saw the top of the line premium bikes. Amazing, even for me with completely untrained eyes could tell these bikes were special.  The most captivating was the On-road Performance bike, Trinity Advanced SL. Its frame was a hair wider than a BIC pen and you could hold the bike with one finger it was so light. Then we walked through the outside yard and all the inventory and stock supplies and into the factory itself.  At first I found it a little depressing to imagine that these people spent eight or more hours a day putting together bikes in a gritty, dirty, green machine filled room.  But as we wandered around and watched the entire process I could see the great job that everyone did and the enjoyment and pride that they took in their work.  It is quite remarkable to see the bike frames be built, then powder coated and painted and then hit the assembly line to be put together with shocks, forks, seats, brakes and all the other accessories.  Fantastic visit and again it made me wish that I had a better background in bikes to fully appreciate the experience.

GIANT Factory Showroom.
Look at how thin the frame on this bike is !
GIANT Bike Factory
Making spokes and wheels for the bikes.

GIANT Factory
Bike Assembly line.

After leaving the GIANT Factory we headed into downtown Daijia.  We ate at a local restaurant which served bento type boxed lunch.  I had the pork schnitzel looking box with rice, cabbage, some type of brown egg, a side of miso soup and a Lucky probiotic drink. Except for the egg thing it was a yummy lunch the price is great NT$75 ($2 CAD).  Next we walked to the local the Buddhist Temple which was gorgeous but packed. You wouldn't want to have asthma as the extreme smell of incense took your breath away and was headache inducing.

NOTE:  All receipts in Taiwan are the exact same looking.  A system has been introduced that all stores/vendors give the same looking receipt and on the top of each receipt is a lotto number. On the 25th of every odd month the lotto numbers are drawn and if you match 3 or more numbers you have a chance to win up to NT $2,000,000.  Not a bad system at all, it keeps everything above board and on the books and you have a chance to win big for free.  

My lunch and the Taiwan Receipts

After leaving the temple we headed to SASO Carbon Fibre Technology factory by Mekkem Industrial Inc in Taichung.  Here they make a variety of carbon based products, from water bottle holders to handbags.  It was amazing to watch all the components of a carbon bike being put together by hand by the lovely local women.  For some of the parts you need the tiniest fingers to reach into the molds but the strength of the hulk to make the products.  Tony and David were fabulous and friendly.  We sat and chatted, drank coffee and spoke about all things carbon.  It was a real delight. 

SASO Carbon Factory

A factory worker making water bottle holders at SASO.
Amazing to see.

 Next stop was Sun Moon Lake and The Wen Wan Hotel. 

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