Monday, July 25, 2011

Bike Tour: Taipei to Yilan 單車旅遊:台北到宜蘭

     My trip this weekend was a complete success! It actually turned out better than I had planned. In a nut shell, on Friday I got the urge to take a very long bike ride over the weekend. So on Saturday morning I biked to Yilan City, it was about 50 miles of riding through the Mountain Roads (hwy 9) and took about 6 hours. I stayed the night in Yilan at a new friends house, then on Sunday I followed the Ocean Road (hwy 2) home, which was about 75 miles and took about 7 hours. I saw many great sites, Finally got to hang out at the beach, first time since getting to Taiwan... Met some great people, ate great food.

Details Below
(pictures are at the very bottom of the page)

Cartography by Brendan Allen (Me!!!) I love making maps.

     At first I thought of biking up to the Feicui Reservoir and researching the dam (cause i'm a nerd like that) It supplies the water for Taipei City. But that ride was not nearly long enough. So I looked to the East coast of Taiwan and thought that Yilan City was a better destination. I could make a whole weekend of of it. So I did some fast research Friday night about how to actually bike there, which I figured out by looking at other peoples blogs who had made the trip in the past. Made key adjustments to my polo bike to make it more suitable for a long tour (change the gear ratio, add a front brake) And then, find a place to stay in Yilan, which I used the greatest travelers website ever,, found a guy who lived in Yilan who had no problem helping out weary travelers by lending his couch to sleep on, not to mention show me around the town while I was there.
Day 1:
     I left my house right at 8am, I was on schedule for once! At about 8:40am I made it to Xiandian MRT (Metro Train) it was the last check point in Taipei City before hitting the mountains. Now the road to Yilan is a lot like the humps of a Bactrian Camel. Right outside of Taipei was about
1 1/2 hours of straight climbing, then you descend in a valley, climb back out of it, then descend in Yilan. The first break I got in the first climb was a great coffee place dedicated to cyclists, it was called (picture 1-3) 卡普咖啡 "Curve Coffee" as it was located in a big switchback to lead into the valley. The women that ran the place greeted me with "pa hao?" 爬好?(hows the climbing?) There a bunch of other cyclists there, and as I rested there I saw a few others that I had pasted during my climb. They had free water and a bike pump for the riders, and delicious lemonade which was perfect the the incredibly hot weather. Descending into the valley was beautiful! Much of the trail followed the Feicui Reservoir, and I could see lots of farmlands (pictures 4-6) I also passed through some of the small townships in the interior like Pinglin 坪林 (picture 7)  Climbing back out of the valley was terribly painful. I was very tired and sore already and I knew I still had about 2 hours ahead of me. I had a small scare as I started the climb. I was flagged down outside of a police station and asked to come in side and register, I didn't really know why, and I did't quite understand his explanation. I think the just want to keep track on cyclists in case something happens. They wanted me to fill out a form and then they would place a registration sticker on my bike so other police could identify me. But I didn't have my passport, and didn't remember the passport number, so they said I couldn't register. At first I thought this meant they weren't going to let me continue on, but after asking they told me to carry on my merry way, I'd just be a un-registered rider. Fine with me, I had a mountain to climb registered or not. It took about 1 1/2 to climb the second mountain. As I got closer to the top a strong head wind came, which biking up a hill into the wind is a very aggravating thing, but I couldn't have been happier. I knew that wind was blowing off of the Mighty Pacific, which meant I was getting close. Coming down off the hill was great! It was very steep on so the finally section was switchback after switchback, and I was flying down them. The only problem was the other cars, going down a hill at 30mph is scary when a car passes you, but it was good and bad that they seemed to come in chains about 10 cars, then I was alone for about 2 minutes. The amazing ride down the hill was about 15 mintues. Great views of Yilan and Jiaoxi.

     When I decided to do this on Friday night, I didn't really know what I was going to do when I got there. I didn't know what there was to do, but I did know that Jiaoxi was famous for its natural hot springs 自然溫泉. And so that was the first thing I did when I got into town. There are hot springs everywhere that you can go to, I wasn't sure which was good or bad, so I just choose one at random at it was Awesome! Very traditional style, men and women were separated, no clothing was allowed, had to shower before and after. Inside was all wood and stone, it was beautiful. The pool itself was all wood, the ceiling went up 2-3 stories of just wooden rafters, and the walls were open to the outside toward the top. The hot spring pool (42-43 C/ 107 F) took up most of the floor, and in the corner was a stone resting pool, (about 70 F) It was suggested that you only stay in the hot pool about 10 minutes then go into the resting pool or sit by the side for 5 minutes before going back in. I seriously cannot think of a more perfect way to relax after beating up my body for 6 hours. After the hot spring, in the courtyard outside where people giving massages, so I had to get one of those too. It was usually 300 kuai (about 10 bucks) for 20 minutes, but because I was a foreigner the women felt she had to give me a discount as a way to thank me for coming to her stand, and because she though I was so handsome, so she charged me 200 kuai.

     After the massage it was already 4pm and time to leave Jiaoxi and actually make it Yilan. When I got there I was casually biking around looking at the city (picture 8-11), getting some food, then getting incredibly lost trying to find an ocean side bike trail (I wasn't even close to finding it) By this time my friend Morice that I met on that most remarkably useful of website had gotten off of work and was ready to meet up. Well I had no idea where I was, my map wasn't doing me much good, so I found a bus transfer station and told him I was there and he came got me. We first went back to his place so I could drop off my bike (I was very happy to finally get out of the saddle) and I took a shower, then we headed out to the night market for food!!! We had 鐵板燒 where they cook all the food in front of you on a huge steel table, thats what 鐵板 basically means. It was great eating a big, real meal after eating mostly nuts and dried fruit all day. We also had bbq pork skewers, delicious. Then we were walking around the downtown, as he was running an errand, we went to the mall and had some dessert, sweet shaved ice with beans and fruit, also delicious! Finally I was getting very tired and needed to rest up, so we got some beers and small snacks and went back to his place and drank and chatted. Morice was incredibly helpful and gracious. This was not the first time he had hosted a weary traveler. Ends up I was the fourth person he had helped out like this. He was telling me about others that had stayed at his house. One kid from Hong Kong walked all the way Taiwan! Thats amazing. I was surprised and fortunate that Morice had responded to my Couch Request so soon, I had only hit him up online 24 hours in advance, it it hadn't been for him I would had stayed on the beach, because all the hostels were full for the weekend. Once again just goes to show how amazingly generous and accommodating the Taiwanese people are. Well Thank You Very Much Morice!

Day 2:
     Woke up at about 7am, Morice had to go to work so I had to hit the road again. We were discussing what I was going to do that day. He told me some beaches I could go to in the north and my out of town. He also suggested taking the Ocean Road back to Taipei. I was just planning on taking the Mountain Road back, and I was not looking forward to anymore climbing. Well the Ocean Road is all Flat! Sure its 25 miles long, but that extra 25 miles only came out to be 1 extra hour, not to mention not having to endure all that strain on my body biking up hills on a single speed bike wearing a backpack. North of Yilan, north of Jiaoxi I found Toucheng 頭城, which is the Pismo Beach of Taiwan. There I visited Wai'ao Beach. (picture 12-14) Black sand beaches! It was beautiful. The first beach trip I've had in the 6 weeks I've lived in Taiwan. There in the ocean I took a bath, sorta washed the sweaty cycling clothes still wet from the day before and tried to swim around. But a life guard stopped me after a few minutes and told me I could only wade in knee deep water. The waters on the East coast are very rough and unpredictable. Huge waves come from nowhere and sweep people out to sea. Well theres only so much wading I can do, so I decided to continue on, I knew I had a much longer trail to ride that day (though I predicted a 9 hour trip that only took 7). The coast of Taiwan is gorgeous.
It is all cliffs to the left and endless Pacific to the right (pictures 15-18). If I looked really hard I could almost see Oakland. This ride was pretty uneventful. I stopped ofter just to take small breaks, I mainly just took in the scenery as I rode. Two great milestones were when I finally made the big turn left and started heading west along the north coast of the island, and then when I hit Jilung City 基鋒市 (picture 19) and started heading inland towards Taipei. Jilung was the final port town on coast and I remained me a lot of Oakland Ports.

     During the last 2-3 hours of riding is when I was getting delirious, singing and talking to myself. Cursing the road, and Taipei for being so far away from where I was at that moment. I was pretty sun baked, though I'm not sun burned today, yesterday I was looking like a lobster. This trip was an amazing adventure, and exactly what I hope to have more of within the next few weeks in Taiwan. Our last day of Class is Friday August 12th. Sunday the 14th I am going to a southern city Gaoxiong to play in a Bike Polo tournament, and from there I plan to bike along the whole east coast back to Taipei. It will probably take about 7 days at a slow pace. So I felt this weekend was great practice for my week tour 5 weeks from now. Who Wants To Join Me!?!?!

(sorry the pictures are all wonky. this website makes it VERY hard to organize them in an orderly manner. that or i'm a technological idiot who can't figure it out. the jury is still out to lunch.)












  1. Dude - you are a bad-ass for riding that whole way on your polo bike! Looks rad. Wish I was there and touring, too!

  2. seems completely amazing. if you get a chance, you should go down to the south by kenting. Its a trip but its also really beautiful...and relatively flat if you want to ride.

  3. I love reading your blog, and I especially loved this adventure! Beautiful.