Hi all. A few weeks ago Dann got an urge to go on a road trip. He contacted me and Herman to see if we wished to join him. Herman had commitments but I happily agreed. The window for travel ended up being during Chinese New Year (a week or so in duration).
We did some quick research about cycling and there was a great deal of info available through the Taiwan government website. The route for cycling around the whole island is marked at intervals and at intersections. One route is 900 k and the other is 1200 k. The suggested time frame is nine days for the 900 k route which would be a tough go. I would think that a couple of rest days and a side trip or two should be included.
We only had eleven days so we decided to start in the direction suggested and go down the western side of the island. The time frame and accommodation limited us to this option. Many of the hotels were booked solid due to our late decision.
Upon arrival we met a couple of challenges due to our bike bags. We flew into Taoyuan airport which is quite a ways out for the city. We easily took a bus to Songshan airport which is a common thing to do. From there is should have been a quick taxi ride to our hotel. Not to be. The taxis took one look at our bags and laughed. They wouldn’t even try to put the bags in their cabs. There was a long line of customers waiting and they could not be bothered. We knew they would fit easily. Oh well. We took the subway instead, lugging our bags through terminals. We now know it can be done but not as nice as a cab.
The first full day we put our bikes together, checked out where the route started and arranged bag storage at our final hotel and cycled along 44 k of the 112 k river route winding through Taipei. The first and last hotels were very close to the train, subway (mrt) and start point of our route.
The next four days riding were over 100k each day totalling 500 k total for the five days.
Our route consisted of local roads, provincial highways and bike paths. The bike paths were great as were some of the roads outside the cities. In the cities we were surrounded by scooters and stopped at a heck of a lot of lights. The scenery on one mountain climb was great but for the most part we were cycling through heavily populated areas. The air pollution was tough to take but i guess it comes with the territory. The scooters put out a lot of smoke to choke on. I may sound negative but telling it like it is. There we quiet and pleasant segments as well.
This is the heavily populated side. We shared the road with 15 million scooters. Yes, that is the actual number of registered scooters.
We stopped at four cities and at the last, Kaohsiung, we were going to take the high speed rail back to Taipei but it was fully booked all day. On the bright side, the train station 350 metres from our hotel had trains considered limited express that got us back to Taipei in five hours. Dann and I got two of the last reserved seats on the train. We bagged our bikes as required using rinko bags that we purchased prior to leaving from Jim Locke who ran the japan tour we went on last September. These are nylon zip up covers with a strap going from the saddle to the stem for carrying. The bags pack up very small and we didn’t notice them in our panniers. By the way, carbon bikes would have been impractical for this journey. Dann and I both had our hybrid flat bars.
The train ride, reserved seats ended up being a journey in a packed train car. The people standing did so for hours in a few cases. The standing passengers fit in wherever they can. Halfway through the trip I traded seats with Dann who had the aisle seat. This is when the train got really full. Ha ha. Joke is on me.
Our overall opinion of the trip was that it was well marked but the lack of scenery and the pollution soured our outlook. That being said, I just might go back and go down the east side, taking my time, heading up Taroko Gorge where a world class kom is held each year. The west side is best avoided but as part of the route to go around the whole island you would just need to suck it up and do it. The east side is very rural and a popular cycling destination on its own. We have all the hard stuff figured out.
Overall, on two weeks planning during the busiest time of the year in Taiwan we fit in an adventure, cycled, drank beer and stayed warm.