Image for post
Image for post
Danongdafu Forest Park, Guangfu Township, Hualien County

Biking Around Taiwan

And what to photograph.

Biking around an entire country seems out of the realm of possibilities to someone living in the USA. Riding around just my home state of California would be treacherous. But other countries are not like America: some are smaller, some flatter, and some are even islands.

On Biking

  • Biking with a touring company is way different compared with biking on your own. You don’t have to worry about where to stay, what to do if you get a flat tire, or at which landmarks you should stop. I recommend using a touring company if you are going somewhere you don’t speak the language.
Image for post
Image for post
The overall route. The missing segment in the northeast part of the island is too dangerous to ride and is traversed via train. Rendering by HeatFlask.
  • Biking around Taiwan in a group is, in some ways, like getting trapped in a glass elevator: You get to meet new people under treacherous conditions, there is not much elevation change, and if someone passes gas, everyone behind you will know soon enough.
  • Check the season. Taiwan can be hot, rainy, comfortable, or typhoon-y. Be sure you know what season you are traveling in so you can prepare. Although the hot and humid weather was worrying before the trip, it turned out to be not so bad as long as we stayed hydrated.
  • Because our planet is careening through space, even when you are stationary on your bike you are covering a great distance. Unfortunately, due to a bug in their system, my cycling recording app didn’t capture this distance.
  • Pros of riding with a tour group: worry-free travel, meet new people, tips on places to see, unlimited snacks and water, good drafting opportunity.
  • Cons of riding with a tour group: harder to go at your own pace, stay on the road most traveled, risk of getting stuck with someone you don’t get along with, you have to look at someone’s back the whole time unless you’re leading.
  • You cannot eat rice directly from the plant, no matter how pristine is the farm from which you picked it. There are multiple non-obvious reasons for this: (1) rice needs to be cooked, (2) you are probably stealing, and (3) there is a saying: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy and avoid uncooked rice.
  • Add Oil! Many residents know that biking around the country is one of the few essential Taiwanese adventures. Because the bike tour is general knowledge, sometimes people who see you passing by will get excited and shout words of encouragement. The most common exclamation is “jiāyóu” (加油), which literally translates to “add oil.” Don’t get too excited, though — nobody will ask for your autograph.
  • Take a day or two to do something different. If you are visiting Taiwan for the first time, the bike tour is an excellent way to see what seems like the entire country. Even so, the trip covers only the perimeter of the island, and mostly lowlands. Take a day or two before or after the bike ride to go into the mountains at the center of the island, or visit the parks on the coast of the northern tip. I visited Yilan park afterward, and it was among the highlights of the two weeks.
  • The roads are smooth. The government construction agency paves their roads out of the same material that makes up clouds; biking over them is a pleasure.

On Photography

What is there to photograph?

The Streets

The streets in Taiwan are exciting. Some have trains in the middle, some have buses going against the rest of the traffic, and some are split into many sections with tree-lined medians. In bigger cities like Taipei (as one might expect) there are lots of people on the sidewalks.

Image for post
Image for post
Tamsui District, New Taipei City
Image for post
Image for post
Raohe St. Night Market, Songshan District, Taipei

The Colors

Image for post
Image for post
Songshan District, Taipei

The Natural Wonders

Image for post
Image for post
Yehliu Geopark, Wanli District, New Taipei City

The Mountains

Image for post
Image for post
Mingchi National Forest Recreation Area, Datong Township, Yilan County

The Towns

Image for post
Image for post
Shifen Old Street, Pingxi District, New Taipei City

Links

Giant Adventure: Giant Bicycles is based in Taiwan and they operate an “adventure” organization that runs cycle tours.

Professional Engineer, Unprofessional Everything-Else

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store