words with kitchen

real life adventures of an aspiring adult

你好, Taiwan!

I’m officially in Taiwan!

Taiwan has long been on my list of places I’d like to visit, and while I was in New Zealand, my friend Vyki suggested we meet up in Taiwan and tour the island together. So we did!

Yes, that means I’ve actually already been here for several weeks now and already done a lap around the island, partially by bicycle. But that’s ok, because I’m going to do another lap!

The plan for the trip was to ride Taiwan Cycle Route 1 in a big loop around the island. Then, I would do another lap, this time taking a bunch of alternate routes, some of which are numbered, some I would probably make up on the fly. From there I would head into the mountains, either on foot or by bicycle, and do an end to end or maybe criss-cross the island a few times. That was the plan.

The first lap

It ended up that we followed route 1 fairly faithfully the first day, but deviated from it in several places starting on the second day, then came to the realization that route 1 was not really all that great. So we did our own thing. We rode side roads, found random bicycle paths in the middle of nowhere not on any of our maps, rode up super steep hills to closed tourist attractions (ok, that one was my fault, on many counts). It was really great!

An old railway tunnel converted to a tourist attraction  with stripes of rainbow colored lighting as you go through the tunnel.
Guogang Tunnel. This is not part of route 1, but it should be. [wikipedia]

Once we got to Kaohsiung we changed our approach again. After spending a tourist day in the city we decided to take the train to Taitung, on the East Coast and ride from there. The idea was to avoid a rather large hill between Kaohsiung and Taitung, and also to take what would probably have been a 2 day section and make it into one, and still have plenty of time to get a bit further down the road from there.

Eventually we settled on a little bit of riding, a little bit of train all the way back to Taipei.

A train car with special racks installed to hold bikes vertically with several bikes mounted in them and several on the floor around them.
This is the nicest user-accessed bike storage I’ve seen on a train.

Now, we’re back in Taipei, we’ve gone our separate ways, and I’m preparing to do another lap.

The second lap

For this lap I still intend to follow as many of the side routes as I can find, but I’m definitely going to be erring on the side of smaller, more scenic roads. Route 1 is a lot of riding in the right lane of busy roads, sometimes with the lanes being specifically for bikes and scooters, with lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of traffic signals, and lots and lots and lots of scooters, and also parked cars and delivery vehicles and such. Often times there’s a very quiet, if slightly less direct, road just to one side or the other of the main road, and often times those roads don’t have traffic lights on them, meaning far less stopping and waiting at very long signals. There were times when we were doing as much standing around waiting at red lights as we were riding. All the while breathing in the exhaust of hundreds of 2-stroke scooter engines.

Selfie of me and Vyki with a dozen or so scooters behind us at an intersection.
Fairly typical intersection on main roads in Taiwan.

I also plan to do a bit of an excursion far to the southernmost point of the island. There doesn’t seem to be an official “northernmost point” but I may try to find something on the map and make an unofficial one myself.

On the east coast there are 2 main options between Taitung and Hualien, a coastal route and an inland valley route. We rode part of the coastal route up to Dulan on the first lap, and I think I’d like to ride the whole thing, and save the inland valley route for when I do my criss-crossing through the mountains.

There’s only one section I don’t plan to ride, and that’s the section on the east coast that nobody rides. In fact I’m not entirely sure if you’re even allowed to ride it. From all accounts I’ve seen, it’s almost universally avoided. I may end up renting a car for the day and driving through, however, as it’s very pretty, at least the parts you see from the train, and I would like to see it.

screenshot of google maps street view showing a sign with "Cycle Route 1" and an arrow pointing into a tunnel, where there's a "no bicycles" sign a few meters in.
I’m confused. Cycle Route 1 through here, but no bikes? [google maps]

Criss Cross

After the second lap I would like to ride deep into the mountains. I have been describing Taiwan as “a mountain range surrounded by a city” and so far I’ve mostly been in the city parts. The east coast gets a lot more rural, but it’s still fairly flat. The mountains are supposed to be incredible, though. Do a couple of warmup laps and then hit the hills? Yes, please!


From there it remains to be seen what I will do. I have some ideas that I’m going to start exploring, and hopefully one of those will bear fruit. If not, well, I’ll have had a great time exploring Taiwan!

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