Felix ElsnerFelix Elsner

2014 Taiwan bike tour travel report

It’s been a while since I finished this tour, but I still haven’t found time to write down the exact whereabouts, personal recommendations as well as most of my travel experiences.

Although the flight with Air China was booked way in advance, I still did not really know what I was getting myself into. Stepping out of the airport, the heat hit me and I was impressed by the politeness that I saw around me.

The first days after arrival I stayed in TaiwanMex in Taipei, bought a Lonely Planet and visited the sights of the city. Apart from the obligatory Taipei 101 and Chiang-Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, I stopped often and took a look at many of the curiosities the city had to offer. Sun-Yat-Sen Memorial Hall is quite nice at nighttime and lots of people gather for breakdance performances at the entrance to the building.

After I had found a bike shop willing to rent me a 2000$ bike for 5€ a day(get out at MRT stop Quilian, take exit 1 and after about 200m of walking on the road to the left of the metro, you should be able to see a carwash, continue and after a few meters you will find a small bike shop), I packed up and started riding. My first stop was the harbour city Keelung north-east of Taipei. The roads were congested and the heat made everyone nervous. I was so relieved to finally see the waves and followed the coastline to Fulong beach.
Along the way, I met many friendly cyclists from all over Asia, who followed the same route as me.

I slept at a small surf shack in Ciayi and took a surfing lesson the next day. The waves were ideal and everybody had a great time. You could already tell a typhoon was coming though.
After a night at a bar in Yilan I took my bike on the train to Hualien(Xin Zen). You should have somebody arrange it in advance for you or you might run into a conductor giving you trouble.
From there on my trusty bike had to endury the steep climbs of Taroko Gorge National Park. The first night was spent in Tianshiang at the Catholic Youth hostel. Not a single word of English was spoken, but luckily some friendly Malaysian guests there to save the day for all unsuspecting western travellers.
There is a beautiful trail called Luishui-Wenshan-trail near Tianshiang, crossing abandoned old bridges and going up and down the mountains. At this time of the year I had the trail all to myself.
Be sure to apply for a mountain permit beforehand.
The hot springs at the end are very convenient and I found them to be much more relaxing than the ones I found near Puli later on.

After getting some rest, I spent the next day struggling partly with the mountains, but mainly the worsening weather. Car drivers kept telling the storm was going to hit much earlier than expected.
The rain kept getting stronger and I was glad to finally arrive in Guanyun, having covered around 2000m of elevation and about 60km of serpentine after serpentine.
Back on the road after the typhoon, the streets were not as devastated as I would have expected them to be. The roadworkers, many of which came to the police station, the only building to have electricity and access to running water, did a great job during the night.

The last bit to the top of Highway 14 is just excruciating, in turn the descent is even more rewarding. The night was spent in Puli Guest House, the owner, a Japanese expatriate, was quite helpful in planning the next steps of my journey.
Sun-Moon-Lake kind of failed to impress me, so I continued without staying there too long. Lukang was nice, but the rest of Changhua couny and around just seemed boring and the infrastructure seemed to consist of long strips of indistinguishable roads and car shops.
The bus back to Taipei was on time, comfortable, allowed me to take my bike without a hassle, arrived quickly and made me wonder why transportation at home still does not work that seamless at all.

After returning the bike, getting some chores done and exploring Taipei, a bus took me to Kaohsiung and the night was spent at the interesting, albeit slightly touristy nightmarket.

To be continued.