Sunday, April 19, 2015

What springs to your mind when you heard of "Tour de Taiwan"?

A leisure travelling plan across Taiwan? Not quite.

In fact, it is a professional multiple stage road bicycle race held in Taiwan yearly since its inception in 1978. 
Sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI), it's a 2.1 HC road race in the UCI Asia Tour calendar.
Tour de Taiwan 2015
That's right, we have Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia (yes, it was just ended about a week before the Tour de Taiwan) while Tour de Taiwan 2015 took place from March 22 - 26, 2015.

As a former St. John Ambulance Malaysia first aider, I've heard from seniors sharing their interesting experiences volunteering in Le Tour de Langkawi as paramedic.

Not once did it cross my mind that I'll be granted the chance to be one of the first two Malaysian representatives as part of the executive committee for such happening international racing event, in Taiwan.
Together, Ka-Mei and I met on the plane and flew to Taiwan for the Tour de Taiwan 2015.

It was my first time visiting Taiwan.

19 March 2015
March 19, 2015 was the first day I set foot in Taiwan and met Phoebe Wu alongside Chen Nien in real.
It was about dinner time when we settled down.
dinner together with the volunteers & TOEIC staff
As a globetrotter wanna-be, I will try to get hold of the chance to visit around before we start our duty on the next day; irregardless of my fatigue.
So, we decided to pay a visit at the nearest night market.
look who's behind me
on our way to night market
Raohe Night Market
sugar-glazed strawberries
 I was very tempted to try but the ulcer in my mouth put me off...

that's the Taipei Arena (台北小巨蛋)
okay, I don't get their traffic rules
I like the decor

20 March 2015
We started to work at the secretariat room upon reaching the first scheduled hotel - Sunworld Dynasty Hotel
photo credit to Ka-Mei
Next task: picking up the international riders, staff and officials at the airport.
 wefie when we were on our way to the airport

Four of us were separated into 2 teams and stationed at Terminal 1 & 2 respectively.
picking up the foreigners as though I am a local hahaha
Of parting and reunion, airport is the place where we can get to see a lot of genuine and touching moments irrespective of small kids or elderly.

Seriously it was my first time waiting and meeting up people at the airport arrival hall.
This time, it happened to take place in a foreign land.
I still remember the very first rider that I've encountered in the airport was Simon Strobel from Team Novo Nordisk.

It was the longest duration I've ever spent in the airport.
We were able to make a move upon meeting the last team of the day at 12 something in the end.

it was about 1am and everyone was so exhausted
It felt so good when we were able to check in finally with our own luggage upon reaching the hotel with the teams.
I still remember the sudden urge to jump onto the bed and rest as soon as I entered the room.

21 March 2015
Accommodation: SunWorld Dynasty Hotel
It was another day of the arrival of the athletes, officials and staffs.
However, I was stationed at the registration counter while some of the liaison team members were assigned at the airport and International Cycle Show venue.

 bike storage room

information goodies bag for the teams
Team Manager Meeting
can you spot your country's flag?
22 March 2015
(Stage 1 - Taipei City)
Start/ Finish: Taipei City Hall
Accommodation: Taoyuan Hotel Kuva Chateau
The criterium stage took place at the Taipei City Hall where the Taipei 101 was so close in sight!
Taipei City Hall & Taipei 101
arrival of team cars
No matter how tired I was, I will try to grab every chance of going around.
Hot food is so comforting at such chilly night.

hot soya bean - my supper

23 March 2015
(Stage 2 - Taoyuan City)
Start: Taoyuan City Hall
Finish: Kanpanzan
Accommodation: Forte Hotel Changhua
For some reasons, I was allotted to get on the riders' bus 4 to ensure the all of the riders were on board before we depart instead of getting on the van that the ceremony protocol team used to take.
I was so nervous and didn't aware that I spoke to the Chinese Taipei Team in English till they replied to me in mandarin.
It was my first time being split from my team; I was the only staff in the bus alongside international teams.
Oh well, it was a showery weather but glad that I always bring along the raincoat.
Cooling race for the cyclists.
reminded me of Kevin's food crave
there's a special name for the truck at the back - 海鸥车 (seagull truck)
before we dash to the finishing point ahead of the riders
riding under the rain; some riders crashed unfortunately
we're almost reaching the Kanpanzan
cute balloons at the peak
selfie beside the fruit stall haha
with the Froy mechanic
they are the men behind the lens
incessant rain throughout the race!
I was still wearing the raincoat to keep myself warm :P
That awesome moment when you see there's a massage chair in the secretariat room..
the most wanted chair
selfie to kill the time of waiting for the elevators
New, clean and spacious - I fall in love with this hotel (though there were a few aspects that require improvements as it's relatively new)...

multiple universal sockets - how thoughtful
 What's more, there are shower and powder rooms in the bedroom.
I like the ambience
I believe most of us had an unforgettable (or dreadful?) moment in this hotel - experienced strong magnitude 6.0 earthquake!
It was my first time experiencing such strong earthquake in my life.
I believe it happened to some of the riders too as they were really panic that time.
I was in the midst of washing my face when it occurred.
Thinking back, I was so calm at that moment without worrying that the mirror in front of me will break or the ceiling will topple down from above.
Instead, I was trying to calm my friend down who was in the bathroom showering while continuing my routine.

Godiva chocolates in 7-11. Seriously?
having sports injury? Shaolin kungfu sifu is available here
bike storage at the lobby
24 March 2015
(Stage 3 - Changhua County)
Start/ Finish: Baguashan Buddha
Accommodation: Chengpao Hotel
Finally, it was a sunny day with picturesque view.
View from the top
One can overlook the Changhua city at its highest hill - breathtaking!

The stage is now ready
jersey showcase
stage 3 backdrop
photo credit to Chris from Bike Aid
Contrary to the previous stages where we ought to pack the stuff quickly as soon as the race began and rushed to the finishing point, we got to have some time to chill and visit around in this stage.
exploration of Baguashan with the Samsung NX Mini
panoramic view of the great Buddha statue and the Changhua city
selfie with the Buddha
the great Buddha statue

thanks to the international team staff/ manager who suggested to take this photo
with Ka-Mei
with Brandon

myriads of egg available for sale!
some very rare leisure time...
entrance of the Baguashan Buddha
Baguashan marketplace
Stage 3 finishing point
One of the Malaysian cameramen
Baku's masseur photobombing.. haha
spot the official production team. oh, they are from Malaysia too!
winner of the Individual General Classification - Patrick Bevin
Marty at work!
Special thanks to Brandon's relatives for the desserts :)
It was so heart-warming after whole day long of grind.

25 March 2015
(Stage 4 - Terrific Taiwan: King of Mountain)
Start: Sun Moon Lake Xiang-Shan Visitor Centre
Finish: Yushan Tataka Visitor Centre
Accommodation: Jianshanpi Jiangnan Resort
With a total distance of 107.82km, this King of Mountain stage is the toughest stage of all.
Kevin and the medical crew
on our way heading to the Sun Moon Lake starting point
rain stopped before the race began, yay
random scene that I took when we were leaving to Yushan National Park
shivering cold and misty
selfie with abang Nazri Johar
they are the men behind the lens
seriously, all of us (especially the riders were shivering) on the stage
It was about 6°C after the rain.
The riders were all drenched when they reach the finishing point.
My lips turned purple and I wasn't able to speak properly.

winding & foggy route - dizzying! 
exhausted Judy
Thanks to Jenny's anti-nausea pill, I was able to survive throughout the journey.
I heard there were some riders and staffs vomited due to the twisted road up and down from the mountain.
Alishan National Scenic Area
Alishan National Scenic Area
close to 3 hours journey to the resort
26 March 2015
(Stage 5 - Terrific Taiwan)
Start: Jianshanpi Jiangnan Resort
Finish: Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area Administration
Accommodation: Garden Villa
At last, it has came to the last day of the race.
10 mins walk/ 3 mins drive from our room to the main lobby
huge and serene resort - great for relaxing
group photo with the Malaysian production team and Marty, the Fox Sports commentator from UK (on the right)
say "cheese"

Froy's mechanic - Timothy Hsu
Marshall and the Commissaire
that's the Fox Sports commentator from UK, Marty
Oh, he's a cartoonist too!
So talented..
all gearing up for the last race

This racing car was right in front of us as soon as we arrived Dapeng Bay race track.
One can run into Ruan Jing Tian at this place sometimes.

Brandon, the natural poser haha
 Chi siblings as the perfect pair of Chinese and English emcee

 media and production team were so excited for the arrival of riders

Shine Chi (emcee on the right) was creating the celebratory atmosphere, heightening the anticipation of the riders' arrival 
they are here!

the arrival of jury president's car mark the end of the race
how grandeur
photo credit to Jim Chen Photography
That marked the end of the Tour de Taiwan 2015.
We then headed to Garden Villa at Kaoshiung.

Wong Kam-Po, the world champion racing cyclist
He's now working as the team manager for the Hong Kong China team.
A humble and polite sportsman.

Not forgetting to take photos with my lovely team whom we've worked together day in and out (yes, over 18 hours daily) during the entire period before they leave upon off-duty after the race.
Niko and Phoebe
Kevin - he looks like JJ Lin isn't it?
thanks for the souvenir!

Team Novo Nordisk, one of the special team of all.
It is the world's first all-diabetes professional cycling team from the United States.
Yup, diabetes didn't stop them from pursuing their dream and they are all diabetes empowered, so inspiring!

Thanks for being there and tried to help when I was so tensed up.
I wish I could have enough time to take photos with the staff before they were off from work and left.
Everyone was so occupied and wore out at the end of the event. (you can spot my eyes are getting smaller in the last few photos - I was too tired that my eyes can barely open)
Frankly, there were moments where I was so exhausted that my brain just couldn't function and space out.

27 March 2015
Last day in Taiwan before we return to Malaysia and back to the reality.
with Melanie & Judy from CTCA
breakfast bento by Garden Villa
We were in a haste to Taipei for the interview session early so we grabbed our breakfast and left early in the morning.
sweet packaging they have
milk tea & Chia Te's egg tart for my tea time
thanks for sending us off!
we began to develop the tendency to think that Caucasians are the riders/ staff
The thoughts of identifying their sports team and ensuring that they are not being left behind arise lol
Guess we have been too focus on our roles and started to have such funny stereotype.

such artistic walkway
Honestly, it was my first time being a podium girl (officially known as Ceremony Protocol team).
Most of us are students (I was still a student during my application and eventually graduated when the months of selection took place).
It wasn't my first time involving in international sporting events but it was a unique experience with a totally different roles and responsibility.
I used to help out in award giving ceremony on stage for corporate events but sports events.
It may sound glamorous to be present on stage (and sometimes in the photos) but trust me, it was not a menial task - we have to smile at all times and looking good irregardless of the harsh conditions.
There were drastic weather change - the temperature was as low as about 6°C and climbed as high as 32°C.
Thankfully I didn't fall sick in this critical period where sleeping hour was so limited as I am taking note of my diet and consume vitamin C where necessary.
We were assigned for ad hoc roles from time to time e.g. being a translator for mayor, activity assistant, guest and cyclist reception etc.
Oh yes, special thanks to Jenny who guided us in the ceremony protocol and taught me some make-up tips.
Putting on make-up is not really my thing and I had a difficult time when we were required to have full make-up everyday.
As part of the International Liaison team, we were the contact point of internal and external parties.
Throughout the event period, there were many unexpected circumstances and uncontrollable events that require critical thinking and speedy action.
I was amazed by the team who can respond instantly; they are young yet experienced.
Teamwork and synergy truly demonstrated here; though there were rooms of improvement.
Of course, I didn't realise the official media and production team were mostly Malaysians till I happened to converse with them - they are one of the top production teams in Asia!
They were really professional in delivering the gist of the race regardless of the hard times they went through.
Accidents happened where there were injuries and equipment damaged during the shoot yet they still carried on their duty until it was completed.
I was really astonished that they have positive mindset together with great sense of humour and get their job done by hook or by crook even though there were times of unpleasant and unforeseen conditions.
"Malaysia boleh", yeah that's the spirit!
Oh yes, speaking of my teammates, they are polyglots!
Young, vibrant, smart and capable with high EQ - I was so grateful to be able able to work with them.

Many thanks to TOEIC Taiwan & TOEIC Malaysia, Chinese Taipei Cycling Associate (CTCA) and Tour de Taiwan Organising Committee for the precious opportunity (I was very fortunate to be one of the two Malaysian representatives) to be part of the great team.
And, special thanks to Elisa and Chen Nien for the accompaniment and arrangement.

Hmm.. It was my first time visiting Taiwan and I've never expected that my first visit would enabled me to visit so many cities from northern to southern part (and back to north) in such short period of time. I will definitely come back again and take time to explore around the attractions.

The end of Tour de Taiwan 2015 marks the final chapter of my life as a university student - it was an awesome ending.

Indeed, I felt like it was a dream.

I am thankful for everyone that I met in the journey.
Thanks for the guidance, advice and warm hospitality.
May our paths cross again in the future.

p/s: opps, I was unable to send any postcard this time due to the hectic schedule...