Cycling Around Taiwan, Partly & Slowly (4)

  • Where: Kaohsiung (高雄) to Kenting (墾丁), Taitung (台東) to Hualien (花蓮)
  • When: 18 Dec – 27 Dec 2012
  • Who: Peter and Lois (our first cycling trip)
Image grid showing cyclists travelling to Hualien Valley via Yuchang Tunnel from Ningpu
  • Humbled by mother nature and with the sea views eluding us, we decided to seek protection from the wind by getting into the Hualien–Taitung Valley (花東縱谷) to continue our journey towards Hualien. We were lucky to have the Provincial Highway No. 30, which cuts through the Costal Mountain Range (海岸山脈), laying in front of us. This is one of the four passages connecting the valley and the coastal route through the Costal Mountain Range. There are cyclists who find the coastal route and the valley route too easy for them that they zigzag between the valley and the coast making their way through all the four passages (花東四小橫). Again, not for us. The road is rather steep that we did not bother to cycle, and instead pushed our bikes, until we reach the entrance of the 2.66km-long Yuchang Tunnel (玉長隧道), elevation 370 metres. We made sure our rear lamps were on and pedalled through the tunnel carefully. It was even more depressing when we reached the other side. The air was even chiller. Someone was burning wood outside of a dilapidated hut to keep himself warm. However, as we descended slowly into the valley, it got warmer and more pleasant. There were hot spring resorts along the way. We should have made a stop there.
Image grid showing the rooms of QianCaoYuan and the dinner sets they served.
  • The Costal Mountain Range did shield the valley from the harsh chilling wind. We switched from survival mode to leisure mode immediately. We detour to bikeways and enjoyed the charming pastoral scenes. There were much more towns and shops in the valley. I bought a jacket for the cold wave and Lois a pair of leggings in Yuli Township (玉里鎮). The valley has a railway running from Taitung to Hualien. Train stations could be found every 5km-10km. With more towns scattered along the route, less than 10km away from each other, there’s no more pressure on how far we need to to go before we could make a stop. We cycled 42km that day and found this nice homestay named QianCaoYuan (The Garden with Thousand Plants 千草園) run by a plant lover in Ruisui Township. It is decorated meticulous with numerous pots of plants. Our stay there made us realize it did make us happier living with more plants. When we got home, we started to grow our own windowsill garden. The homestay also served nice dinner sets. We had three sets between the two of us to celebrate Christmas Eve.
Image grid showing the road condition of Hualian Taitung vallue route and a lunch with lobsters
  • We roamed leisurely in the valley for two days. We had been to tea farms, old sugar refineries. We rode so slow that a restaurant owner said we were even slower than walking. But we still had time to take a detour to the coastal route (the Provincial Highway No. 11) as we were approaching Hualien. The roads are wider and flatter compared to the Taitung end. We had lobsters for lunch in Yanliao Village (鹽寮村). Most of the restaurants we’ve been to in Taiwan are reasonably priced, but it’s always a good practice to ask for the menu with price listed before ordering.
image grid showing cyclists on Coastal Route to Hualien, a special homestay and bums.
  • The coastal route on the Hualien end is more appealing. There are vast unblocked panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. More homestays with special themes could be found along the way. In retrospect, it may be a good idea to leave Taitung on the valley route and then switch to the coastal route in-between.
  • We reached Hualien in the afternoon and planned to spend the whole next day there before we take the train back to Kaohsiung in the evening. Unfortunately and shame to ourselves, we had not make bookings in advance and all the tickets were sold out (8 trains per day) except for the one leaving at 6:00 am. Not Smart! Lesson learned: Hualien is a very popular vacation destination among the Taiwanese. Train tickets are notoriously hard to get during weekends and local holidays. Be careful when you are planning your holiday there.

Hualien and Taitung have the most beautiful cycling routes between them. There are much more to see and we should definitely come back. When planning a cycling trip next time, I must take the wind direction seriously. We can cycle in the rain, in the dark, in the chill or under the scorching sun but we should always avoid doing it against the wind.