It may seem daunting to those who haven’t tried, but getting out on a bike for a few days can be a welcome break from the pollution and hustle of the city. With the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) train service that circles the island, combining a train journey to access rural areas is both convenient and inexpensive.
With this year designated as Year of Cycling Tourism (自行車旅遊年), government agencies are accommodating the venture and there are more bike lanes and areas suitable for families to get out on two wheels than ever.
Photo: Mark Roche
On a recent Friday afternoon, I set out for a multiday bike touring trip to the east coast. Go to the train station in person to check on train times and the availability of bike carriages. Some trains have split carriages where your bike can be wheeled on. The carriage has bike racks and the fee for the bike is half a passenger fare. However, these trains only depart in the morning and things get tricky if you leave in the afternoon or evening.
My only option was a Ziqiang (自強號) express train, so the bike had to be bagged and carried on, front wheel off and strapped to the side. According to the TRA, these trains are not designed to carry a bike or the rules concerning bicycles are dictated by passenger traffic. But don’t let this deter you. If bagging the bike is too much hassle, just take a local train that you can wheel the bike on to; the downside is that it stops at every station.
ON THE ROAD
Photo: Mark Roche
It was a two-hour train ride from Kaoshiung to Taitung County’s Taimali Township (太麻里) and a 10km ride to Jinfong Hot Springs (金峰溫泉) on County Road 64. All along the east coast there is a high concentration of Aboriginal communities (Paiwan/Rukai in this area) and laid back small villages where wild camping is generally permitted. In the past you could camp at elementary schools on weekends and public holidays, but the rise of “glampers” — people with huge tents who carry everything including the kitchen sink — has seen some schools put “no camping” signs outside. After camping by the springs, I was up early on Saturday morning to start the ride down the east coast.
If you are wild camping be mindful of the following: Don’t camp if there is a “no camping” sign and follow the “6 to 6” rule: don’t set your tent up before 6pm and try to take it down by 6am.
Riding the east coast is probably the best place to start for anyone considering bike touring in Taiwan, as it features mostly flat roads, light traffic and splendid views of the Pacific Ocean. On this occasion I was riding south along the coast, but heading north is definitely better with the ocean on your right.
Photos: Mark Roche
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Try to reduce the amount you carry. Camping gear, change of clothes, bicycle repair kit and some snacks are all you need to get you through a few days. Most Giant shops offer rental options for touring bikes with pannier bags to load your belongings.
I rode for 30km down Provincial Highway 9 to my first stop which was Jinlong Lake (金龍湖). The lake can be found just 2km inland from Dawu (大武) and has a bike path that takes you around it.
Photo: Mark Roche
On the way, you will pass a popular stop, Duoliang Train Station (多良車站) just 5km south of Jinlun (金崙). Often called Taiwan’s most beautiful station, it has attracted an increasing number of tourists due to the juxtaposition of railway, mountain and ocean.
From Dawu it is a further 9km down Provincial Highway 9 to where it meets Provincial Highway 26 at Daren (達仁) in Mudan Township (牡丹). Follow this for 5km to 6km to the start of the Alangyi Historic Trail (阿朗壹古道). Although you can’t hike the trail without a permit, it is a wonderful area worth exploring. From here you have to backtrack to Daren to cross the island on Provincial Highway 9.
In the afternoon, I continued the journey by riding to Pingtung County’s Sihchong River Hot Springs (四重溪溫泉). After a 12km climb, you come to a turnoff for Provincial Highway 199 and Checheng Township (車城).
Photo: Mark Roche
This stretch is a favorite for cyclists in the south due to its low traffic. I clocked up 120km on this ride, but that could easily be broken into two days with lots of accommodation and camping options in the Dawu area.
After a night camping at an elementary school in Checheng, it was time to head back to Kaohsiung. Normally I would ride to Fangliao (枋寮) and take the train, but in March it’s perfect weather for a longer ride to get some miles in the legs and to check out the bike paths that connect Siaogang Airport (小港機場) to the city. Some sections are under repair, but this is one of the better paths following Jhongshan Road (中山路) to the city center.
Photo: Mark Roche
>> Starting from Taitung County’s Taimali, the ride distance over two days is 220km. This could be broken up into three days, or you can return to Kaohsiung from Fangliao train station and save yourself the 50km ride into the city.
>> Always check the availability of trains that have bike carriages the day before. Bringing a light-weight bag will give you more options for the trains you can take. Giant bike shops just outside Hualien and Taitung train stations offer touring bikes equipped with panniers usually at NT$500 per day. A bike can be picked up at one location and dropped off at the other.
In Normal Accidents, Charles Perrow’s classic analysis of technological systems and the accidents they foster, Perrow observes that “when we have interactive systems that are tightly coupled, it is ‘normal’ for them to have this kind of accident, even though it is infrequent.” Such accidents are an “inherent property” of technological systems, and we have them because our industrial society is full of tightly coupled, interactive systems with great potential for catastrophe. Here in Taiwan the omnipresence of tightly coupled systems — systems in which a failure in one leads to failure in another — operating in an atmosphere of
April 12 to April 18 Hsieh Hsueh-hung (謝雪紅) stuffed her suitcase with Japanese toys and celebrity photos as she departed from Tokyo in February 1928. She knew she would be inspected by Japanese custom officials upon arrival in Shanghai, and hoped that the items would distract them from the papers hidden in her clothes. Penned with invisible ink on thin sheets, it was the charter of the Taiwanese Communist Party (台灣共產黨, TCP), which Hsieh and her companions would launch on April 15 under the directive of the Soviet-led Communist International with the support of their Chinese, Japanese
Charles Baudelaire, whose 200th birthday yesterday was celebrated with stamp issues, new editions of his poetry and virtual events, is arguably more famous for his concept of the flaneur — an aimless stroller or ambler — than for his writing. That’s partly because reading his volumes Les Fleurs du Mal or Le Spleen de Paris requires a degree of application, but also because the idea of an individual moving through the city streets and finding aesthetic pleasure in the teeming crowds, appeals to us and continues to chime. At least, it did until spring last year, when the crowds were
Cute cartoon animals have been at the heart of Hong Kong clothing brand Chickeeduck since 1990, displayed on everything from t-shirts and tote bags to baby rompers and pillows. But owner Herbert Chow is now struggling to get his designs made in China, where his avian characters have been seized by authorities for “advocating violence.” Chow, 57, was preparing for the Lunar New Year shopping season earlier this year when he was informed that a shipment of some 10,000 Chickeeduck items had been seized in mainland China. “My manufacturer said the customs department found the products were advocating violence in social