Up and Down, All Around: Bike Touring Taiwan

Daily Recaps

Day 1 & 2: Taitung -> Shitiping -> Hualien
Day 3 & 4: Hualien -> Jiaosi -> Taipei
Day 5 & 6: Taipei -> Neiwan -> Taichung
Day 7 & 8: Taichung -> Chiayi -> Kaohsiung
Day 9, 10, & 11: Kaohsiung -> Kenting -> Xuhai -> Taitung

Quick Take of Bicycle Touring Taiwan

Our 2013 Taiwan trip resulted in two very important developments. First, Emerson discovered Taiwan’s ocean of delicious flavors, went on a formidable out-of-body culinary adventure, and unknowingly gained 10 pounds in a week. Second, we encountered a number of cyclists who were touring all the way around the island (環島) and knew, “Yea…we’re doing that…” 4 years later, we did it!

In 11 days, Emerson and I completed a self-supported bike tour around Taiwan, covering over 975 km in distance and 9750 meters in climbing (or 600+ miles and 32,000+ ft of climbing). We rode our bikes that we had brought over from America and stayed at a mix of campgrounds, homestays, and hostels. Starting and ending at my families’ home in Taitung, we loosely followed the official guide, but notably ventured off of it to bike north along coastal Provincial Highway (PH) 11, south from Taipei up to the mountain town of Neiwan (內灣) via PH 3, and then all the way to Taiwan’s southernmost point in Kenting National Park. As a result, I’m sporting my strongest unibrow game since junior high, high def fingerless-glove tan lines, and creative mosquito bite constellations. They might as well be Olympic gold medals.

Tour Training Log

We heard as much, but this trip made clear why bike touring is such a great way to explore a country. It slows you down in a way that allows you to discover and intimately soak in the diverse variations of a country’s land and its people. It takes you across greater distances than on foot while still immersing all five of your senses in the environment. Bike touring around Taiwan introduced me to the minute contours of its coastal mountains, the banter of its tropical forest monkeys, and the fine slivers of aromas criss-crossing its small farming villages around dinnertime for the first time despite numerous previous visits.

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Not all areas are conducive to bike touring but several key characteristics make Taiwan exceptionally great for it. If you’re a less experienced tourer, you can stick to the recommended, well-marked routes where you’ll have the safety of reliable cell phone coverage, full-service convenience stores, and plenty of affordable food and accommodation options (agoda.com and booking.com are the popular search sites here). If you want more physical challenge or an escape from cities and traffic lights, you can ascend Taiwan’s quiet mountain roads, traverse across tropical fruit and tea plantations, and stay in remote campgrounds or school/police yards. Scooters have long been an integral part of Taiwanese life so car and truck drivers are accustomed to sharing the road with two-wheeled travelers.

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Our upcoming posts will detail our daily routes and discoveries, what we packed, and the good and not-as-good decisions we made as first time bike tourers. They will also feature plenty of sumptuous food porn so avert your eyes if you’re faint of heart or appetite.

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As those posts become available, I will update to include them here. For now, enjoy some pictures and perhaps start planning for your own bike tour 4 years, or hopefully sooner, down the road!

 

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