I’ve now been in Taiwan for almost 6 weeks. Tomorrow I will fly to Hong Kong.
I have gone all around this island. I cannot recommend bike touring here. There is too much traffic and it is all high way riding, especially on the west coast which is very built up. The highlights for me are the food and the people. For cycling I recommend several cities with bike paths, especially Taipei and Kaohsiung which is rated best city in Asia to bike in. I have done a few 40 km rides along the river on a bike path in Taipei – very nice. It is very busy on weekends.
In Tamsui a couple who have a bike shop helped me find my hostel. The next day I rode 20 km’s of bike paths on the way to Hsinchu city. On the way to Hsinchu I met a local cyclist, who insisted on guiding me and bought me lunch.
In Hsinchu Puck (who I met in Keelung) helped me find a hostel and introduced me to friends. One of whom was Tama who connected me to a couple who cycled across Canada. I visited them later in Taitung on the east coast. I also met Jane in Hsinchu riding around Taiwan on the classic 10 day route. We met this week in Taipei to share stories. I met Yuchi through Warmshowers and met with her and her friend Emma this week in Taipei. I am going to go with them and a group on a mountain expedition January 1-3. We will climb up to 3000 meters over three days, establishing a base camp around 2000 meters. I am a little nervous because of the extreme weather and the fact I have done very little hiking I did a test run on Mt Qiung this week and was sore for 3 days. I’ll do another one 4 days before the big hike and hope that will be enough. My cardio is good, just the hiking muscles are so different – very humbling.
I decided to skip the west coast with heavy traffic, all highways, smog and took trains to Taichung and Kaohsiung. From Taichung I went to Sun Moon Lake for 2 nights and rented a bike to ride around the lake. It’s at 750 meters and the weather was very pleasant. The only negative was the hordes of Chinese tourists.
In Taichung I stayed with Tu, a friend of Hsiuling’s. The focus was on food and the beauty of city at night . I found the larger cities use spectacular lighting at night – very magical.
On Nov 21 I took the train to Kaohsiung and stayed with Money’s parents for 4 nights. On Sunday I rode with Money’s mother. We were joined by her sister Jessica and brother Allan all in thier 50’s and very strong riders. We went to a magical flower garden – see photos. I also went to a drumming concert and a Wetlands with her parents.
Wednesday a.m before I left I taught yoga to a women’s basketball team. They then took me out for breakfast. On the way to the southernmost tip of Taiwan I visited Hsiuling’s parents. I was the first foreigner to ever visit their home. Her father poured copious quantities of tea and took us out for lunch to a seafood restaurant near the fishing harbor. Everywhere I went friends insisted on buying me meals. They refused to let me pay. I have a huge karmic debt to pay when any of them visit me in Canada.
I stayed in Kenting near the national park at the southern tip of Taiwan. The weather gods were not cooperating. The winds were 35 and gusting to 50 – it is the time of the year. I cycled 76 km’s to get there – the first 30 were so easy no wind, then all of a sudden the wind came up and the gusts hitting me sideways made it very difficult to ride. A few times I came to an abrupt halt and it was all I could do to avoid being pushed right over on the ground. Fortunately it was mostly behind and to the left side, so I persisted to arrive there safely.
I rode down to the southernmost tip of Taiwan the next day. The wind was not too bad. Here the China Sea, Taiwan Strait and Pacific all come together. I visited Eluanbi Park and walked to the lookout.
From Kenting I took the Sunday train to Taitung. There is one car on the train just for cyclist. There were lots of bikers, who were all very friendly. Upon arriving in Taitung I spent the day with Tom and Iris, who had ridden across Canada in 2005. They helped me find a hostel and that night I did a presentation of my “Journey through the Americas” at Cats Homestay with 20 people in attendance and Tom acting as translator. The next day I crossed over the coastal range, with about 700 meters of climbing on, for the first time a nice quiet back road.
The staff from cats booked a hostel for me in Chikshang . Boy was I glad they did I did not arrive until after dark. The next morning I went to No. 9 Gourmet coffee – very nice but very expensive. After a night in a motel in Ruisui, vegetarian hot pot, the next day was the easiest ride I had in Taiwan. In Haulien the owner of Amigos is a coffee roaster. So he entertained me with, drip, espresso and Americano, one of which was a very acidic coffee from Costa Rica. I then visited Taroko Gorge National Park. It is very beautiful but overrun by you guessed it Chinese tourists. They need to close roads and create more natural settings for their parks.
In Yilan/Jiaosi for the weekend I had a whirlwind tour with Coco, CeeJay and Minyen. One focus for sure was food, but unique was eating dinner at a hotspring with our feet dangling in the hot water. The highlight for me was going to a design exhibition – fantastic. I took a lot of photos. The most unique Ice-cream I ever had was with ground peanuts and fresh coriander. Yummy.
TOTALS FOR TAIWAN – November – 632 – December 224 – 857 – 8,020 FOR THE YEAR. Still time to do a little more.
So tomorrow I fly to Hong Kong, to visit my friend Hsiuling in HK and go to the island where she is working on an experimental aquaculture project. I’ll go with her and her friend Money to Vietnam for 3 days in Hanoi and then return to Taiwan for the Mountain expedition.
Next on the agenda and then home mid-March is New Zealand. More on this later.
https://flic.kr/s/aHskohqiXp – Taiwan