Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 35

CHASING RAINBOWS

MY ROUND TAIWAN ISLAND SOLO BIKE TRIP


November 2014
ONG YULIN

For the young, let me tell you the sky has turned brighter. Theres a glorious
rainbow that beckons those with the spirit of adventure. And there are rich
findings at the end of the rainbow. To the young and to the not-so-old, I say,
look at that horizon, follow that rainbow, go ride.
- LEE KUAN YEW

PREFACE
In November 2014, I went on a solo bike trip around Taiwan Island. I had posted on Facebook
photographs taken enroute and my reflections for each leg of the trip. I received a lot of
encouragement from friends via Facebook, WhatsApp and other instant messaging apps. Thank
you all.
On the last leg of the ride as I headed to Kaohsiung where I had started the ride, I received
suggestions to write a book about my travels. I dismissed it as I thought the bike trip was a
common venture and many people had blogged about their round Taiwan Island bike trip.
However, I did decide that I would compile the postings and photographs that I have posted on
Facebook into a journal. I wanted the journal to include other thoughts and photographs that I
had not shared on Facebook. I also wanted it to be an information source for those who aspire to
ride around Taiwan too, and a point of reference should I head back to Taiwan to bike around the
island a second time.
I encountered rain throughout my journey. As I contemplated on a suitable title for the journal as I
rode towards Kaohsiung that day, I saw a rainbow and decided to entitle the journal "Chasing
Rainbows". It was "hiao" (cheeky) enough. Perhaps, it adequately described me as delusional
and out of touch with reality to embark on such a trip at a not-so-young age. Perhaps, it
described my refusal to grow old gracefully and how I felt about my mind and body being young
enough for such an adventure.
I spent two weeks writing and completed the journal on 10 March 2015. I circulated it among my
family for first readings and comments before I sharing it online. After a week of waiting for
feedback and another for amendments and adjustments, the journal was ready saved for a
quotation on rainbows to fill a space on the cover. I had wanted to keep the space below the
photograph on the cover but most felt that I should have a quotation to summarise my adventure.
Not finding any suitable quotes, I decided to leave it as it is and was ready to share it online. But
as I mourned with the rest of Singapore on the passing of our Founding Father, I decided to
withhold publishing it online till a more suitable time.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew's quotation on "Follow that Rainbow" resonated as my family and I shared in
the national grieving:
For the young, let me tell you the sky has turned brighter. Theres a glorious
rainbow that beckons those with the spirit of adventure. And there are rich
findings at the end of the rainbow. To the young and to the not-so-old, I say,
look at that horizon, follow that rainbow, go ride".
My family members and I unanimously agreed that this was the quotation I was searching for to
fill the space on the cover. Furthermore, I belonged to the not-so-old age group too. I was driven
by a spirit of adventure and by the end of the ride, I had found myself again.

Ong Yulin
March 2015

Routes

GPS Maps:
Day 1 Kaohsiung to Kenting https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/7993066
Day 2 Kenting to DaWu https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/7993105
Day 3 DaWu to Sanxian https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/7993121
Day 4 Sanxian to Hualien https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/8895974
Day 5 Train. Route from Hualien to Keelung https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/8977366
Day 5A Hualien to Yilan (126 km) https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/8977492
Day 5B Yilan to Keelung (99 km) https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/8977471
Day 6 Keelung to Taipei https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/635800684
Day 7 Taipei to Hsinchu https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/635800698
Day 8 Hsinchu to Miaoliao https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/635800708
Day 9 Miaoliao to Kaohsiung https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/8976567

MY ROUND TAIWAN ISLAND SOLO BIKE TRIP


(November 2014)

his is the journal of my solo biking adventure in Taiwan. This round island trip of about
1000 km took 9 days, although I had planned to cover the distance over 11 days. I rode 80
to 140 km each day. I staged my ride out of Kaohsiung and returned to Kaohsiung at the
end of the ride.

I was asked many times as to the purpose of the ride. Was it a midlife crisis thing? Why the
search for solitude? Why subject the body and especially the @$$ to unnecessary pain? Why
solo?
Most people thought it was a crazy idea including many Taiwanese friends but military buddies
all encouraged me and thought it was an excellent idea. Some checked their schedule to join me
on certain legs, but alas, it was not to be. I certainly had looked forward to their company.
The reason for me to do it was simple. I had wanted to do it but never had the time. It was also
an excellent way to burn off the "diplomatic paunch - not pouch". I would probably never have the
chance to do such a thing again, although a New Zealander friend is asking (tempting) me to
bike with him in the South Island next year. I wanted to rediscover a sense of adventure.
As part of planning, I searched on the internet for other peoples experiences and routes. There
were a range of skill, fitness, purposes and motivation and hence a wide range of routes and a
differing numbers of days. I adopted a touring mode, trying hard to keep my competitive spirit to
go fast in check. I selected roads hugging the coast as much as possible as I had wanted it to be
truly Round Island trip.
I use a Garmin Edge 800 bike
computer, so I used the web-based
Garmin Connect to plan the routes.
The base maps of Garmin Connect
suffered from certain inadequacies, so
I had to reference Google maps and
Google Earth to select routes, search
for accommodation and hospitals and
clinics enroute. My 3-monitor PC
configuration came in very handy, with
the left monitor displaying a referenced
route, the centre monitor was the
working space where I planned my routes in detailed, and the right monitor displayed Google
maps and Google Earth for detailed searches.

D-2 (5 NOV) DEPARTURE FOR KAOHSIUNG

managed to put all my stuff with my disassembled bike into


the bike case at the risk of being seriously over the weight limit.
The outcome was a massive excess baggage charge. Guess
that is the price to pay for bringing your own bike.

The heavy thunderstorm in Singapore inadvertently caused the


flight to be delayed and resulted in an arrival in Kaohsiung
way past midnight. After a quick check in at a local hotel, I settled
in for the night but had difficulties falling asleep. Perhaps it was
the excitement of the coming adventure. Perhaps, it was the
concern as to whether I could complete the ride.

Not visiting Taiwan for the last 3 years produced many


pleasant surprises. One, the Taiwanese is so much
better mannered as compared to the Mainland cousins.
The behaviour of the Taiwanese when the aircraft landed
was starkly very different from what I have encountered
on my domestic travels on the mainland. There was
respect for personal space and there was a distinct lack
of loud chatting either to a fellow passenger or on the
phone. The disembarkation was orderly and there was
no pushing and shoving to get off the aircraft.
Two, I had several Taiwanese men coming up to me at
the airport and asking if my luggage was a bike case.
They spoke to me in their local dialect and I was taken
aback and didn't know how to respond. When I replied
positively,
in
Mandarin,
some
offered to help me
carry it to a taxi. I
then realized that I
have forgotten about
the kindness of man
and that not all
people are out to
take advantage of
you.
Three, the young lady manning the check-in counter was
polite despite the early hours. She even told me that I could
assemble and place my bike in the lobby. She even told me
that I could go to a nearby Giant bike store to pump my bike
tires.
It was a good feeling to meet such nice people. It was a
good start.

D-1 (6 NOV): FINAL PREPARATION

he main task was to rig the bike. I brought my wheels to the nearby Giant bike store to
pump air. Although the store was not yet opened, there was an air filling stand outside the
store. Highly impressed and it says a lot about this society.

Rigging up the bike in a small room was difficult but you get what you
paid for. For those planning a bike tour, do not underestimate the
weight of your load and the change in CG. You need to train with the
load.
Next was to get a SIM card with a data plan to use the smartphone
as a backup GPS. For those planning a long holiday in Taiwan, it is
worthwhile to go to the main offices of Chunghwa telco. The staff
manning the counter asked about my needs and configured a plan
for me. She suggested a 15-day unlimited 3G data plan with voice.
There was no prepaid 4G plan yet. The data plan cost NT$700. The
SIM card cost NT$300 with corresponding stored value. She was so
nice to suggest that I purchase two NT$300 top card cards as there
is a promotion which gives me extra NT$80 per NT$300 card. The
remaining value of NT$360 for voice was more than enough for me. Only the voice
plan remains after 15 days. If need be, there is a number to call to activate a 1 Gb data plan for
NT$180. The experience left me wondering if Singapore telco staff would do the same.

D DAY (7 NOV) DAY 1 135 KM KAOHSIUNG TO KENTING

t might be a little ambitious but I thought being fresh would allow me to push as far as possible,
stay outside the Kenting strip and to stage for a shorter 88 km uphill ride on Day 2.

Departing at 0630 hr was great but I encountered the scooter horde for almost 2 hours within
Kaohsiung city limits as the locals head to work. Policemen and policewomen manning
road junctions gave me a friendly wave as a sign of encouragement as it was evident that I was
on a round island trip. Many others traveling on tour buses or workers repairing roads that I
passed also encouraged with a "jiayou" and cyclists I met traveling in the opposite
directions all gave me a friendly wave or words of encouragement such as "hao" . Others
remarked loudly to their friends in the local dialect that "he is doing the round island trip".
The strong headwinds in excess of 15 knots proved to be a very big challenge from Donggang all
the way to Kenting. When it became a side wind, I had to slow down to maintain my balance on a
CG-shifted bike. Passing familiar hills features in the vicinity of Fangliao and Fangshan triggered
an emotional response that I am glad it is all passed me.
I

started near the


Kaohsiung Train station
and rode on Hwy 17 till
just north of Fangliao
train station where I
joined Hwy 1 and then
Hwy
26
heading
southwards. Hwy 1
branches into Hwy 9
heading eastwards to
Taitung and Hwy 26
southwards
to
Hengchun. I stayed on
Hwy 26 till I arrived at
my accommodation. I
stayed on the planned
route without deviation.

Day 1 Kaohsiung to Kenting GPS Map - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/7993066


With last light approaching at 1700 hr, it was a quick dinner and replenishment of supplies before
I headed to the minsu . This was located on the eastern coastal road north of Eluanbi
lighthouse leading to Manzhou . Already fatigued, the road leading to this minsu was uphill
all the way. The rain lowered visibility and made the climb harder. When I arrived, I was greeted
by a friendly elderly lady and her husband. I paid NT$800 and they showed me to my room. I
was still panting as I tried to reply her queries. As I was climbing the slope to the minsu, I could
only think about the uphill ride tomorrow from Hwy 200 to Hwy 199. I have travelled this route
many times during training exercises and know how tough it will be. The only good thing is that I
can look forward to some downhill ride too.

The minsu where I spent the


first night was very comfortable. I was the only guest and
the elderly couple decided to give me one of the larger
rooms so that I could place my bike inside the room. The room was
clean and comfortable, and equipped with wifi too. Breakfast was buttered toast sprinkled
with sugar (much like the way I had toast when I was a kid) with hot instant coffee. A house after
this minsu operates a small restaurant where the owner could cook simple local fare like fried
rice, beef noodle, and dumplings.

DAY 2 8 NOV 88 KM KENTING TO DAWU

his was probably the most challenging leg in this entire bike trip. It was to be a very
physically and mentally challenging day.

Day 2 Kenting to DaWu GPS Map - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/7993105


The route followed Hwy 26 northwards along the coast, pass Jialeshui before turning inland
along Hwy 200A () and then Hwy 200. It was necessary to ride along Hwy 200, as there is no
coastal road from Jialeshui , to where Hwy 200 meets the coast again and become Hwy
26. After a short ride along Hwy 26, it would turn inland again along Hwy 199A () before joining
Hwy 199 running northwards. I followed Hwy 199 till it joined Hwy 9 at Shouka and stayed
on Hwy 9 till I arrived at DaWu to spend the night. As evident from the elevation chart, Hwy
200 and Hwy 199 snaked through two huge mountain ranges.

Departing
the
minsu at 0630 hr, I
climbed a short
slope and decided
to stop at a look
out to catch my
breath and at the
same time to take
in the sights. I was
breathless from the
climb, but the view
from the lookout
would have taken
my breath away
too. This would be
my view of the
Pacific Ocean for
the next few days.
Listen
to
the
howling
winds

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10205327916743655
As I continued along Hwy 200A, the familiar sight of Jialeshuis Swing Bridge came into view.
After a short ride passed familiar hill features that many soldiers would be fondly remember, I
arrived at a 7-Eleven in Manzhou for a pit stop.
Over my second breakfast at a local breakfast
franchise, I spoke to local cyclists (on road
bikes) on whether to stay on Hwy 9 or to take the
coastal road along Hwy 11 towards Hualien
The NE wind was starting to pick up and it would
be headwinds all the way along the east coast. I
was warned that I would face strong headwinds
riding along Hwy 11 and that there were many 7Elevens along Hwy 9 as compared to Hwy 11
(actually only 2 which I would later find out). They
zoomed off on their road bikes to Taitung as I went to the
adjacent 7-Eleven to get my caffeine fix and bought a small pack of biscuits,
confident that I would reach DaWu for a very late
lunch.
Enroute Hwy 200, I would pass another familiar
landmark at Fenshuiling , where the familiar
Bayao road and Gaoshi road meet
Hwy 200. The nearby community hall with its large
basketball courts are still there, looking exactly the
same as I remembered them. The small church
located on the slope of the road on the left was
no longer there. The journey so far, triggered
memories, some fond and some super tiring, of
those days when we were soldiers and young,
for me and those following my journey on
Facebook. Fenshuiling, in particular, reminded a
fellow officer of an establishment called Full Moon,
located on the right of the Fenshuling junction,
where a Taiwanese aborigine singer, Tang Lan Hua , a super diva from the 1970s used to

live. I was reminded that present day diva, Zhang Humei or A-mei , another Taiwanese
aborigine, supposedly grew up on the western end of Bayao road in the Mudan township .
After two really long uphill and nice short downhill, between the 20 to 35 km marks,
Hwy 200 leaves the mountains and re-joins the sea. This is the view that greeted a pumped out
body. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10205328321393771 Look at the sand dunes
towards the end of the video. Highway 200 turns inland again into the mountains after this.
Hwy 199A was
relentless as the
climb was steep
and the road
curvy. It was
difficult to build up
momentum
for
the ride uphill,
having to turn
hairpins
and
stopping to avoid
on-coming cars
negotiating
the
bends. This is the
notorious stretch
where many have avoided or given
up. I was not spared either. There were times along this stretch
when I wanted to give up as I saw slopes after slopes especially
after each bend.
However, I kept telling myself that I have been through worst and
to keep on pushing, as it would get easier with each slope. I
probably shifted through all my rear gears - cassette -and use the
biggest and middle gears of my crank. I knew if I use my smallest
front gear, I would be mentally defeated. The temptation to get off and push the bike was so
great but then it would not be a bike ride anymore. The thigh muscles ached and felt as if they
were on fire. It became a mind over matter thing, as I sweat, puffed and pedalled, and went no
faster than 10 km/h on some slopes. As I arrived at the 55 km, where Hwy 199A meets Hwy 199,
I had almost finished drinking all the water I was carrying. After a quick replenishment at a house
at the junction operating a drink stall, I continued the climb along Hwy 199, knowing that the
steepest climb was over.
The next 15 km of uphill
ride did not get any easier
as leg muscles were
already fatigued and aching.
Indeed, just as I hit the limit,
there would be a very short
downhill or flat stretch
offering brief respite. I
passed what I presumed to
be a tourist attraction at
Dongyuan , an
aboriginal stone house, but
was too tired to explore it in
depth. A few quick snaps and mouths of water, I continued my way.

And
so
it
continued
till
almost
my
culmination point
when a brief
glance on my
Garmin
Edge
800 showed a
change
of
elevation profile.
I had arrived at
Shouka
and the end of
Hwy 199. (See
blue arrow)
I recognized the old mountain pass station which has been repurposed as a cyclist rest station. I
met several cyclists who were readying themselves after a rest. The long downhill stretch of 20
km to Daren along Hwy 9 was happiness and a small reward for the very long uphill climbs.
I admired the perseverance and endurance of the cyclists,
both men and women who were riding uphill towards Shouka.
If not for the multiple bands and turns, I would have let fly
and hit over 60 kmh. Conscious of the load, I kept it under 45
km/h, taking into consideration the many motorists that
passed me less than a foot way.
Seeing and hearing the Pacific Ocean again was sweet
reward as I rode into DaWu town. Seeing this signboard
boosted the confidence of a battered body. Little did I
realised, I would be taking photographs of many more
signboards to come.
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10205329262657302&l=7576158003129335391
I arrived at the planned off the main road, Hwy 9, run by an elderly lady catering mainly to
cyclists and motorcyclists doing round island trip. She charges between NT$500 to NT$1000
depending whether you are from Kaohsiung or Taipei. I was too tired to ask her why she charged
those from Taipei more. It was conveniently located along Hwy 9 and between a 7-Eleven and
local restaurants. The spartan made carrying the comfort items worthwhile. It is going to be
squeamish sleeping on the bed, but a shell scrap has been my bed before and being so tired, I
don't think l will have time to even think about it. It is a trade-off for not carrying a small sleeping
bag. Yes, the red spot about the size of a first generation SG $1 coin on the bed sheet is not
decoration, and request to change it was met by excuses from the elderly lady. Clearly, one
cannot trust internet feedback about sweet old lady.

There is indeed a special bond among cyclists doing the round island trip. Besides encouraging
one other or giving a thumb up, they would chat and asked if you are going the same way and
would ride together for company. I also realized that most of them would be shouting jiayou
to cyclists going uphill. Besides encouragement, I am inclined to believe that there is an
element of sadistic pleasure in seeing the other cyclists suffer. Most of cyclists I met were riding
road bikes. I made a mental note to bring my road bike and lessen my load if I were to do
another round island trip.

DAY 3 9 NOV 114 KM DAWU TO SANXIAN

s I was eating my breakfast at 0630 hrs from a local shop across the road from where I
spent the night, and a cup of hot coffee from 7-Eleven, the old lady from the minsu bide
me farewell as she walked slowly to the bus stop to go home to Taitung . She was
nicely attired and was indeed grand old lady. She advised me to ride safely. By the way, 7Eleven sells fresh grounded coffee and there are tables and seats for customers. I would soon
realise that 7-Eleven also sells a large variety of microwavable food.
As I sipped my coffee and disposed the chocolate wrappers I have accumulated, I reviewed the
route for the day. I would continue on Hwy 9 till north of Taitung before continuing on Hwy 11
along the coast. Hwy 9 would continue to run parallel to Hwy 11 but on the other side of a
mountain range. The northern tip of this mountain range ends at Hualien . There would
several uphill rides for the first 40 km and the last 35 km of the 114 km ride.

Day 3 DaWu to Sanxian - GPS Map - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/7993121


Leaving DaWu town, I climbed up the first of many headlands I would encounter that day. I took
photographs of the sunrise. Sunrise was quick and before I knew it, the sun was quite high
already. As I watched the sunrise, I decided to look back and take a photograph of Dawu. I am
glad to have made good progress so far, and after a few more climbs up the headlands, was glad
that I did not take up the offer of a cyclist I met the day before, at a traffic light junction just
outside DaWu to ride to Taitung which was another 40 km away.

10

The coastal road along the eastern coast of Taiwan is indeed an engineering feat, cutting into the
side or tunnelling through the mountains. To think there are no slope along the coastal road is
definitely so wrong. I cleared some massive climbs as the roads cut into the headlands. The road
is being improved to expand the width of the road. The road works do increase the numbers of
hazards and lay-bys were taken up by work site machineries. There were no place safe to stop to
capture the magnificent views or take a rest. It was also difficult to take in the sights as I had to
concentrate on avoiding pot holes and on-going construction, especially on the downhill stretches.
There were road repairs almost everywhere in Taiwan. The locals shared that it is probably the
upcoming elections and hence an attempt by the incumbent office holders to win votes. Some
locals have more colourful theories of the road works.
All the cyclists I have met were traveling in the clockwise direction whilst I am traveling in the
anti-clockwise direction. They certainly knew about the NE wind and it was something I had not
factored. In deciding to go anti-clockwise, I wanted to keep the boring stretch from Taipei to
Kaohsiung to the last. Hoping to be motivated by the end point, I would not be paying much
attention to the scenery anyway. In doing so, I had to content with the headwind since leaving
Kenting, and wind speed would increase as I head towards Hualien. The winds can be so strong
that it decelerates my attempts to maintain a speed about 24 km/h. All my previous mechanics
lessons on acceleration, velocity, vectors etc occupied my mind to keep it off the headwind. I
became concern about the 110 km ride to Hualien tomorrow. But if the wind maintains its
heading, I would be rewarded with tailwind on the west coast. So it is all even.
Just before passing Taitung, I arrived at the split point where Hwy 9 continues slightly inland and
where Hwy 11 starts and runs along the coast. This was at the 45 km mark. As I continued along
Hwy 11, I hoped that I had made the right decision to ride along the coastal roads. After Taitung,
I managed to find a lay by and took a photograph of one of the many bays on the east coast.

11

The ride was more mental than physical as the long gradual uphill was not rewarded by a nice
downhill run. The headwind also produced a lot of resistance. I had to stop once in a while where
it was safe to catch my breath and stretch my hamstrings and calves before continuing to push
against the wind. Wandering off to see some of the sights also helped. A sunflower field amidst
the rice fields provided a break from the ocean scenery. I also rode past an attraction at the
147th km marker where the water runs uphill . I decided to give it a miss when I saw a
large number of tourist coaches and I didn't want to leave my bike unattended.

Inadvertently, I made 7-Elevens my pit stops to replenish water and even grab a bite. The 7Elevens in Taiwan sell an amazing variety of food that is easily warmed up in the microwave
before serving. I tried one for lunch. At the rate I was burning calories, I needed a second lunch
about 2 hours later. Surprising thing was that I skipped lunch for the first two days, as I didn't feel
hungry at lunch time. Over the few days, I ate minced beef spaghetti, seafood spaghetti, beef
and onion rice, chicken chop rice and many other offerings.
The business model of 7-Eleven in Taiwan is
indeed very interesting. It has evolved to meet
the needs of the community where it is located.
7-Eleven provided a range of services from
topping up a phone card paying bills or
parking fees, to getting lunch or dinner, freshly
brewed coffee and sandwiches. All 7-Elevens
have toilets, Wifi (for members only) and even
pumps and basic repairs for cyclists. It is truly
a convenience store. It deserves a case study.
I deviated from my planned route that day and stayed on Hwy 9 and Hwy 11. I had plotted the
route along minor roads for some stretches and saw little need to leave Hwy 9 or Hwy 11. I was
rewarded by some interesting sights and avoided some unnecessary massive climbs. Guess one
needs to be nimble enough to adapt. It was not a very long ride of 113 km that day and so I took
it a little easy to take in the sights, and to ease the pressure off the bottom. These were some of
photographs of one the many bridges and the river mouths I crossed and passed. The train
tracks switch sides of Hwy 9 and Hwy 11 many times.

12

I rode through a tunnel near Sanxian . With


the headwind, the tunnel literally became a wind
tunnel. It took additional effort to ride through it
and I started to wonder about the tunnels
between Hualien and Yilan . I passed a
popular local delicacy restaurant Donghe Baozi
but did not stop as there were coaches
of tourists swarming the restaurant. The
restaurant is located near the junction of Hwy 11
and Hwy 23, at 131th km marker. I would get to
sample it later in Hualien when the owner of the
minsu offered me one of the popular meat buns.
It tasted like our meat bun but it was the
very best of the best. The photograph of the
buns is from the internet. I enjoyed the ride today
and look forward to the ride to Hualien.

DAY 4 10 NOV 124 KM SANXIAN TO HUALIEN


stayed in a minsu located at Sanxian overlooking the Black Rock Bay . It certainly
looked very nice and the wooden cabins located to the left of the yellow building are the
rooms. Across the road, were seafood restaurants and other minsu. When I tucked myself
under the duvet to go sleep the previous night, I felt every single spring in the bed. I had to
sleep on top of the duvet. You get what you pay NT$500 for. The folks running the minsu were
very friendly and even helped me to operate the washing machine. It has become a routine to
wash the biking apparels after dinner each day. It was nice to smell good at the beginning of
each day.

13

Breakfast was served in the main building next


to the yellow building. While waiting, I walked
out to the verandah and the view of the Black
Rock Bay was magnificent.
While I have planned to go through the
tunnels from Hualien to Yilan on Day 5, recent
accidents in the tunnels between Hualien and
Yilan suggested the need to adhere to the
traffic rules of no bicycles in the tunnels.
Even though I had secured a get-out-jail
card, in case I get arrested by the traffic
police for riding through the tunnels, I made
adjustments to the plan to give up this 80
km ride through the tunnels for safety
reasons. The risks of riding through the
tunnels far outweighed any boasting rights
or the desire to cover the distance of 80 km.
The adjusted plan would entail catching a
train with my bike from Hualien to Yilan,
from where I would resume my ride.
Instead of riding to the north of Hualien city
as originally planned, I would ride towards
Hualien train station. A quick search on the
internet revealed that the accommodation
near Hualien train station was not good but
yet expensive. I decided that I would stay
outside the city, along the coast and then
ride into the city the next morning. I plotted
my adjusted route to Hualien train station
on the Edge 800. It was a challenge for my
stubby fingers.
This would be the first time I adjusted my
planned route but it was a simple
adjustment of trimming the distance to a
new endpoint.

14

The
weather
has been nice
and hot for the
last 2 days.
The exposed
parts of my
legs
were
getting nicely
tanned.
Weather
forecasted rain for
the next 5 days and it would literally be
wet till I returned to Kaohsiung. Wind speed would also
increase in these 5 days. As final preparation I checked
my waterproofing of my equipment and replaced batteries
in all my lights.
I continued along Hwy 11 to Hualien. I had a good start
as I was well rested and it was a scenic route. The
headwind remained strong and I had to push hard to
maintain the pace. I had to stop at a scenic spot after 1
km or so, as the view was simply too nice to miss. I also
noticed the dark clouds ahead and made a mental note to
get to Hualien as quick as I can to avoid the rain.
Passing
several small
towns, schools
and
coconut
plantations,
the ride started to feel monotonous and my stomach
started to tell my mind to look for a 7-Eleven. I had
eaten two bowls of porridge for breakfast but felt
hungry. Using my IPhone and Google map, I found out
that there was a 7-Eleven at Zhangbin village
near my current position. I eagerly pedaled on. As I
passed more coconut plantation, I wondered how the 7Eleven corporate honchos decided which small towns to
locate a 7-Eleven. Some towns were so small that I
passed through them in under one minute. Hunger pangs
started to hit and I started to look out for shops selling
breakfast in these small towns. I guess the market
was just too small or I was passing them too fast. The
mind became focused on getting to the 7-Eleven as
quickly as I can. I kept a lookout for street signs and
distance markers to countdown the distance. Finally, the
familiar 7-Eleven signboard loomed in the distance.
Arriving at the junction of Hwy 11 and the main street of
Zhangbin village, brought disappointment as the 7-Eleven
was closed for extensive renovation. I decided to ride
through the village, hoping to find something to eat. The
main street was not more than 1 km lined with shops.
Fresh produce was being sold along the road. I was
drained and was surprised that I had only covered 20 km.
I had to stop to eat something. As I chewed on my mini Mars bars and drank water, I searched
for the next 7-Eleven. It was 36 km away, at the junction of Hwy 11 and Hwy 11A. I then recalled
my conversations with the cyclists at Manzhou, and chided myself for checking the night before.
Indeed, there are only two 7-Elevens (the red dots) along Hwy 11 and tons of them along Hwy

15

9. I then psyched myself, 36 km is not that bad. Two hours or less and a late lunch. After a
couple more mini Mars bars, I continued on Hwy 11 as if pulled by the next nearest 7-Eleven. I
was to regret not stopping to buy banana from the fruit stalls in the market in Zhangbin village too.
I had to take my mind off food, and stayed focus on covering the
distance no matter that the body was telling the mind to stop and rest.
I stuck to my routine of a short 5 minutes rest every hour of riding or
20 km covered and a longer 15 minutes rest every 40 km. The tourist
attraction Baxian Cave - Caves of the 8 Immortals,
became an intermediate objective. Baxian Cave is one
of the many sea caves in the mountain ranges facing
the Pacific Ocean. Baxian Cave does resemble the
mouth of a face resting on its left cheek. As I stopped
to take a shot, tourists getting off the coaches could
be heard laughing away as they pointed at the cave
and some men commented on its resemblance to a
certain part of the female anatomy. It is all in the
minds eye.
I was drained and had to stop about 1 km after Baxian
Cave. I sat down on the side of the cycling track, ate
several Mars bars in between sips of water and rested in the
cool breeze. I envied the lone man on the beach, oblivious to
the world and enjoying his fishing. Even the roaring waves and
sea spray did not bother him. He was focused on enjoying
himself.
The Tropic of Cancer marker became the next intermediate
objective. Seeing it getting closer was morale boosting even as the first drops of rain started to
fall. By the time I crossed the Tropic of Cancer , it was raining quite heavily. It was an
emotional achievement and I wondered if sailors perform any rituals crossing the Tropics as they
would when they sail across the Equator. I also wondered if there
was any Tropic of Cancer monument along the west coast. Later
that evening, I googled and found out that there is a big museum at
Chiayi City . As it is too far inland, I would not be visiting it.
There is also another marker along Hwy 9 on the other side of the
mountain of this Tropic of Cancer marker.
Even with my gortex jacket on, I was soaked by the time I rode into a
town, Fengbin (). I was surprised when I rode pass a 7-Eleven
on the left. I quickly made a turn and made a much needed pit stop for
lunch and water at about 1430 hr. I never knew that I would be so
happy to see a 7-Eleven. I had sought shelter twice after passing the
Tropic of Cancer as the rain became very heavy and it was difficult to
climb the slippery slopes. While waiting for the rain to lighten, I spent
the 1.5 hour replacing the cable ties securing gadgets and equipment
to my bike. As the rain lightened a little, I continued riding in the rain.
I met a local cyclist on a Merida road bike at the 7-Eleven. He was also
doing a round island trip and was travelling in the same anti-clockwise
direction. He started from his home in Keelung. He shared that road
from Yilan to Keelung has suffered several rock slides and it was not
safe. Furthermore, the rain in the last two days would make it worst and
he was taking the train from Hualien to Keelung, bypassing Yilan.
Noting his advice, I also contemplated a time step jump to Keelung
train station too. Apparently, there are specific trains each day for the
carriage of bike and riders. For the next day, 11 Nov, there is only one at around 1300 hr. I had
more than enough time to catch that train. As it was getting late in the day, I contemplated

16

switching to Hwy 9 via Hwy 11A to make up lost time. Hwy 9 would hug the river bed and the
route would be flat as compared to Hwy 11 which climbs several foothills and even two
significant peaks before descending to the coast again. An added plus factor in favour of Hwy 9
was that there would be several 7-Eleven enroute versus none for Hwy 11.

Day 4 Sanxian to Hualien GPS Map - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/8895974


Despite the factors in favour of switching to Hwy 9, I decided to stay on Hwy 11 and ride out the
challenge. After all, I didnt come to Taiwan for an easy ride, and I wanted to hug the coast as
much as possible. It would turn out to be the most difficult climb in the entire trip but the most
fulfilling. The twin peaks of Beijialu Lanshan and Niu Shan will never be
forgotten.
I encountered my first tunnel, () at
the 41 km mark along Hwy 11. It is 841m long
and replaced () on the old Hwy
11 as a new series tunnels were built to
replace the old series of tunnels along the
newly improved Hwy 11. The photograph
of the old ( ) is from the
internet. Besides replacing the older tunnels,
some these new tunnels were built through
hills and slopes to straighten Hwy 11.
At the top of the first peak of Beijialu Lanshan, I encountered the tunnel
(167 m long) at the 33th km marker. Descending from the second peak of Niu Shan towards
the coast again, I encountered a series of tunnels closely spaced and linked by bridges. From
these bridges, I could see the old Hwy 11 hugging the coast and snaking its way around the hills.

17

The first was the () (824 m


long), 200 m later the (512
m long), 10 m later the (484
m) and 40 m later the (435
m). The tunnels were well-lit and the
warm yellow glow was strangely
comforting.
By the time I descended from the
mountains and rode along the coast, it was
approaching last light. I decided to rest at a
scenic lookout and enjoyed the cool sea
breeze as the last bit of daylight faded away.
It was another 20 km
before I found a
suitable minsu for the
night. I had ridden
108 km that day.
The route for Day 4
was difficult. The
strong
headwinds
made it worse. The rain caused delays. The choice of
route increased the challenges and tested my logistics contingency plans. The many slopes were
challenging but when the road turns into the mountains, that's where the ride became super
challenging. The downhill runs through the tunnels were great and at least the drivers gave me a
wide berth. Rigging the bike for night rides and putting new batteries into the lights provided
added safety as I rode through the various tunnel.

DAY 5 11 NOV 16 KM + 6 KM HUALIEN TO KEELUNG


his was the minsu Horizon where I
spent for the night. It is
located on the outskirts
of Hualien along the coast. The
owner was very nice. I
bargained NT$200 off the price
to keep to my budget of
NT$1000. After I showered,
some guests arrived and
were talking very loudly and
excitedly. A couple of men
sat in the balcony to smoke
and chat. One of the staff
came and told them to lower
their voices as there were
other guests. A short while later I sought assistance from the
front desk to sort out my room's door. The same staff from the
minsu asked if I was disturbed by the loud talking and smoking.
He said he has told them to lower their voices and to smoke
outside and away from the building. Later he asked me if I
would like breakfast earlier than the 8 am start time, adding that "
so that you don't have to eat with the PRC guests, as they can be so
boorish". As I returned to my room, I could hear them loudly at the
beach which is a stone throw away from my room.

18

Till then, none of the minsu has asked for any identification or passport for registration. It was
payment upon checking in. At least, this minsu asked for my name and mobile phone number.
The minsu staff thought I was Taiwanese or Hong Konger as only crazy Taiwanese or Hong
Konger would bike solo round-island. They thought that I was probably the first Singaporean they
have encountered cycling around the island.
The local owners were very hospitable and house proud as
most Taiwanese are. As this is the low season, they were
renovating the place, but yet the minsu was clean and neat.
I watched them prepared breakfast, like a hungry vulture,
and everyone including the lady owner, knew their roles
very well. This was an excellent team at work. The
moment the last item was placed on the buffet
table, the lady owner invited me to have
my breakfast. As I ate my Taiwanese
porridge, the lady owner brought me
some buns . When another staff
brought the rest of from the kitchen
and placed on the table with the rest of
the food, the lady owner told him to take
it away as it is not for guests. Later as I
was about to depart, she offered me
some Donghe Baozi (meat buns). The
lady owner told me that there are long
queues every day for these popular buns. It was very tasty.
Her kind gesture made the buns so much nicer.
Feeling well rested and no pressure of time to catch the
1253 hr train from Hualien to Badu
which is the nearest station to
Keelung city, I bid farewell at 0800 hr
and cycled leisurely to Hualien train
station. I was happy that I was
leaving the hilly slopes of Hwy 11
and the mountainous ridge which has
accompanied me since I got onto
Hwy 11. The northern most end of
this ridge was a sight I had longed to
see. As I rounded the northern tip of the ridge, I could see the Hualien Bridge and the
massive mountains on the eastern side of Hualien city. The cloud covered mountains -
and () are truly impressive and almost fairy tale like as they came into my view fully
when I rode on the Hualien Bridge.
After a quick 16 km ride, I arrived at Hualien train station at 0835 hr, only to discover that the
1253 hr train to Badu near Keelung is full. I could not get a ticket for both bike and rider. The
next train was 2000 hr arriving in Badu at 2300 hr.
There are specific trains that allow the bike on board but limited to carry 10 bikes only. After
some checking and discussion with the train station staff, I realised that if I disassembled and
packed my bike, I can check it as an over-sized baggage and I can catch any train. Else, I had to
wait for the special trains. The ticket teller was amazingly patient as she explained and explored
various options for me. The other passengers in the queue were equally patient too, in stark
contrast to train stations on the Mainland. An optimal solution was reached. I would catch next
available train to take bike - not as luggage - at 1545 hr arriving at Yilan train station at 1828 hr
and then find ticket for bike and rider or ride to Keelung. I paid for my tickets, an adult-priced
ticket for myself and a child ticket at half the price of an adult ticket for my bike. I had almost 6
hours to wait and using my IPhone, I worked out various plans.

19

If I could ride from Yilan to Keelung the next day, I would then stay over in
Yilan. I searched for accommodation near Yilan station and decided on an
ROC Military Hotel .If it was not possible to ride from Yilan to
Keelung due to rock falls along the road, then I would catch the next available
train to Badu, either that evening or the following morning. The Hualien train
station staff was not able to check availability of tickets from Yilan to Badu
and I had to do so at Yilan itself. I tried to check and book tickets online. My
poor understanding of traditional Chinese, and the small IPhone screen made
it a frustrating and futile exercise.
Hualien train station is relatively smaller and more
rundown than I had expected. Perhaps, I am used to
the grandeur train stations on the Mainland. This is a
simple and functional train station.
I saw a lot of other bikers in their
riding apparel, arriving or departing,
and assembling or disassembling
their bikes at the train station. Each
had a soft skin bike carrying bag to
store their disassembled bike, and clearly,
many were experienced cyclists as they
collected paper carton boxes to line their bags
to provide additional support and cushioning.
This was an important lesson for me. Having a
soft skin bike carrying bag is essential for biking
in Taiwan, especially if you need to use the train for
whatever reasons. You can then catch any train rather
than wait for special trains.
Hualien train station is a very convenient start or end
point for biking trips. There is a bus station for day trips to various
attractions in the Taroko National Park. There is a Giant Bicycle shop located at the Hualien train
station. Many bikers rent bikes, panniers and helmets for the bike tours. The shop also
organises bike tours. It was a great place to get supplies and accessories for biking trips. It was
doing brisk business.
I chained my bike to a railing post at the train station, and went off to
explore Hualien city on foot. I had lunch at this Hualien Biandang
that serves the food in a Hello Kitty tiffin. I am sure the Hello Kitty
fans will love this. Alas, the Hello Kitty tiffin cannot be taken away.
The train to Yilan was not a high speed train but a slower commuter
train. The seats are by the sides of the car facing inwards, like our
MRT trains. Bikes could only be carried in designated car and was
secured to one of the poles together with other bikes, if need be. The
train made several stops and was soon filled with young school
children heading home after school.
Arriving in Yilan at 1828 hr, I was tempted to ride along Hwy 2 to
Keelung. A check with people in Yilan suggested that it was
probably best to skip this stretch, due to rock falls along Hwy 2,
caused by the recent rain. I managed to get tickets to Badu that
evening on the 1930 hr train. It was a 1:45 hour journey, arriving at
Badu at 2115 hr. I called the ROC Military Hotel to cancel my
reservation and waited for the train to Badu.

20

It was a 6 km ride to a hotel in Keelung city. The train station


staff at Badu was also helpful and ensured that I followed Hwy
5 into the city, and repeated the instruction twice. I was grateful
for their clear directions as it was already 2130 hr.
This was a day of short rides and there was ample time for
reflection. It was also good to let the aching thigh muscles
recover from the many long uphill rides. There were times
yesterday traversing the twin peaks of Beijialu
Lanshan, and Niu Shan when I thought that I had hit a
culmination point and would take train all the way back to
Kaohsiung. Yet, there was a strong desire of not wanting to be
defeated. Perhaps, the planned rides were too ambitious, and
having a break day to see the sights might be good, especially
for a first timer round-island rider. Meeting the other cyclists
tend to stir the competitive spirit to match them. I had to
remind myself that I was in a semi-touring mode while they
were in a race mode. There were other cyclists who were in
100% touring mode and have
taken 15 to 20 days from
Taipei to Hualien via Kenting,
and have hopped on and off
trains for various legs to make up for lost time. I had to remind
myself that it was essential not to lose the joy of riding, be it fast
or slow.
There was a nagging feeling of incompleteness arising from not
riding from Hualien to Keelung. Some have done it before and
not doing it took away the satisfaction of doing a complete loop
around Taiwan. I had prepared adequate bike lighting and
brought along reflective vest and strips, but yet, I knew it was
the right decision in not undertaking a venture with unnecessary
risks arising from narrow roads, and no bike lanes along Hwy 9
from Hualien to Yilan, long tunnels (up to 1.46 km), large
numbers of fast moving trucks and cars, and wet weather
conditions. Google Street View is an
excellent aid to preview and review the
routes and it confirmed the unnecessary
risks of riding along this stretch of road.
There were 4 sounds that kept me company throughout my rides along the east coast of Taiwan.
These were: (1) the roar of the seas, (2) the headwinds, (3) my panting, and (4) the voice inside
my head that keeps telling to push on. Up in the mountains, the roar of the seas and the
headwinds were replaced by (1*) the grunting engine of passing vehicles and (2*) the chattering
of the monkeys. I never knew about or encountered monkeys in the mountains in the south of
Taiwan before.
Stretching exercises before and after the rides are important to prevent muscle aches and
cramps. At the end of the ride each day, it required discipline to stretch and not let the stomach
take control.
With the prospects of tailwinds on the west coast, my confidence was renewed.

DAY 6 12 NOV 81 KM KEELUNG TO TAIPEI

checked into a simple hotel in downtown Keelung the night before. It was an old quiet hotel
next to a series of flyover, costing NT$1200 per night. By the time I arrived at the hotel, it was
already late at night, and the streets around the hotel were dark and devoid of activities. I was

21

greeted with a completely different sight when I went


out for breakfast at 0630 hr. The walkway, streets and
even spaces under the flyover were deeming with life.
There were food stalls, people selling meat,
vegetables and collectibles. The Taiwanese really
have an early start.
Dark rain clouds loomed and it was another wet day
as I rode round Yangming Shan () , along
Taiwan north coast. Northern Taiwan is known to be
the most scenically varied. There would be a series of
uphill rides and a last bit of headwinds before I
rounded the northern tip of Taiwan Island and ending
this leg somewhere south of Taipei.
Getting out of Keelung city was a complicated affair of avoiding the morning traffic and
negotiating the one way streets. The traffic din made the audio cues from the
Garmin Edge 800 inaudible.
Eventually, after a couple of
loops and back tracking, I
managed to get out onto the
coastal road Section 1, Huhai
Road before Hwy 2
which is designated as the
Northern Coastal Highway
. The GPS is as good as
the currency of its map. I had a
2012 edition map loaded. The
iPhone and Google map provided excellent backup with most current
detailed street information. I plotted an alternate route on my IPhone to
the coastal road avoiding Freeway 3.
Keelung is a fishing port that seems to be caught in a time warp. There
is a mix of dated buildings and modern ones. The fishing boats in
harbour provided a new sight as well as smell.
The northern coastal road offers scenic views of the Pacific
Ocean meeting the East China Sea and Taiwan Straits. It
was just reward to mark a significant milestone in the
journey. The original intention for that day was to ride only
80 km to a motel in New Taipei City. As I rode along the
Northern Coastal Highway, taking in the sights, I projected
that I could ride an additional 40 km or so to Taoyuan ,
I was making very good progress. Riding uphill and
against the winds the last 6 days have indeed
strengthened the spirit and body to ride the final stretch
round the northern tip of Taiwan Island
Taiwan was in the midst of a national election and
banners of candidates lined the roads throughout Taiwan.
Till then, these banners were fluttering in the strong
winds towards me. It brought joy to see these banners
changing direction and fluttering away from me. The
moment came just after a deafening silence when
banners were still and others further on started to
change direction as I rounded the northern tip. Shortly
after, I was rewarded by the splendid sight of the Shimen

22

Arch , a great natural wonder on the northern coast, just as the first rain drops fell.
Although its Chinese name means Stone Doorway Cave, this rock formation is now
more appropriately referred to as an arch as it was formed by tidal erosion. There are steps
leading to the top of the arch which holds a small viewing platform, and remnants of a gun
emplacement. As it had started to rain, I didnt climb to the viewing platform.
There is a concrete bridge on some rocks in the shallow waters. This was a bit of a puzzle. I
wondered who built that stone bridge. Were there land features that the bridge connected long
time ago before they were similarly eroded over time?
In my haste to beat the wind, I had ridden passed
the Yehliu Geopark or the Yehliu
Promontory, famous for its rock formations such as
the Fairys Shoe, Mushroom Rock, Japanese
Geisha, Candle Rock, Leopard Rock and its most
iconic formation The Queens Head. I didnt
realise it till I checked just before leaving Shimen
Arch. Somehow, I had wrongly remembered that
I would see Shimen Arch first and then Yehliu
Geopark. I had passed Yehliu Geopark 20 km
back. I decided not to go back as the rain
started to fall. I had visited Taiwan extensively
on my previous trips but have not visited
Yehliu Geopark. The photographs of the rock
formation are from internet sources.
The rain became too heavy and I had to take
shelter in a bus stop near the black and white
Fugui Lighthouse or ,
about 5 km from Shimen Arch. The Fugui
Lighthouse is located at the end of the Fugui
Cape and is considered the northernmost tip of
the Taiwan Island.
After 30 minutes or so, I decided to ride on in the rain as I didnt
want to lose more time. I passed some strange looking buildings and
soon was forced to stop as the rain became heavier. I sought shelter
at Qianshuiwan Coast Park and sat next to a drinks
vending machine to keep warm. I
soon left, hoping to make up for
lost time and passed three 7-Eleven
before I decided to stop for a very late
lunch at 1430 hr at the fourth one
located at the junction of Hwy 2 and
Hwy 2B().
I knew I had to spend the night in Taipei City as the rain
continued unabated. I made arrangement to catch with some
friends working in Taipei that evening. They kindly obliged even
at very short notice. Chua Eng Keat kindly met me in Taipei City
along the road side outside my accommodation (NT$2000 per
night) and helped me check in quickly, before we met Lee Wei Cheng for dinner. Eng Keat also
took a photograph of a rain-soaked me to mark the milestone. Wei Cheng has been tracking my
progress and has been sending me weather updates regularly. It was great to catch up with
buddies. That evening was definitely one of the high points () of my round island trip.

23

Contingency planning had paid off handsomely so far, from


waterproofing, spare batteries, chocolates to carrying two power
banks for power hungry GPS and smartphone. My gortex jacket
provided excellent insulation against the rain and wind and kept
me warm as I whizzed around Yangming Shan. It was definitely
worth the weight to be prepared. Carrying lightweight and quick
drying clothes has been useful too. The Army Day pack is
excellent but the newly bought sandals and PT shoes were not
quite all-weather proof. The sandals gave way and were
disposed when the entire outer sole dropped off. Pieces of the
outer soles of the PT shoes were left somewhere enroute as
route markings. The detailed route planning and survey of
accommodation had paid off well. Being familiar with the route allowed me to make
adjustment to the route and seek alternate accommodation.
I had covered 81 km along a very scenic route. Although progress was slowed by the rain, it
provided me an opportunity to meet my buddies working in Taipei. It was a fun evening of
catching up and lively banter. It was an excellent break in my evening routine. The map showed
the route taken rather than the planned route.

Day 6 Keelung to Taipei - GPS Map - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/635800684


Getting out of big cities in the morning was quite a challenge. I took considerable time to get out
of Kaohsiung and Keelung. I would expect the same for Taipei, and thats one of the
considerations to stay on the outskirts of big cities. It can be frustrating trying to get onto the
planned route, but getting momentarily "geographically challenged" brought opportunities to see
things or sights which you would have never seen. There are fewer sights to visit on the west
coast, and weather permitting, I might cover more distance, especially with a tailwind.

DAY 7 13 NOV 87 KM TAIPEI TO HSINCHU

fter a quick breakfast, it was back to the room to put on the still wet bike apparel, shoes
and socks. It was the same feeling of putting on your still wet uniform the following
morning in the jungle of Brunei. It didnt make a difference because it was raining and it
got heavier by the time I mounted the bike and left the hostel. I had studied Taipeis road network
in greater details, and was able to choose less busy streets to get out of the city. I rode
northwards along Hwy 2B to get out of Taipei city, cross the Guandu Bridge () to get
on Hwy 15 and then to Hwy 61 along the west coast all the way to Hsinchu . Hwy 61 runs
alongside and under the new elevated Expressway 61. The route southwards was generally flat

24

except when climbing slip roads to get on elevated sections of Hwy 61. Climbing various flyovers
was a slight challenge as the wet road did not offer good grip.

Day 7 Taipei to Hsinchu - GPS Map - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/635800698


I had some difficulties figuring out which exit to take at
the major interchange to get on Guandu Bridge as
there were signs that two-wheelers had to take certain
exits. I covered two clovers on the near bank before I
decided that I should not pay too much heed to signs
or else I could not get where I want to go. It
could be a combination of not noticing
signs at certain places and cases of bad
signs markings. It might not have
happened had I previewed the route using
Google Street View the night before. I
would experience this again south of
Hsinchu along sections where the
elevated Hwy 61 is being built. I was not
able to take photographs of Guandu
Bridge when I rode into and out Taipei city
as it was raining heavily those two days.
Photographs of the Guandu Bridge are internet
sources.
It was still raining and I was soaked through by the time I
rounded Hwy 15 to get on the western coastal road. I was
making good progress especially with good tailwinds and I wanted to push south to Miaoli
beyond my planned stop at Hsinchu, weather permitting. I was suffering from another bout of
mission creep.
There were many underpasses beneath the elevated Expressway 61 to allow lateral transfer to
the other side of Hwy 61 running northwards. There are traffic lights at each of these lateral
transfer junctions. I knew progress would be too slow if I were to stop at each junction when the
traffic lights were red. The traffic lights along Hwy 61 were set to red as a default. What's
amazing was that the Taiwanese drivers and riders of scooters would stop even though there is
no lateral traffic. Of course, there would be some truck and bus drivers who would zoom past
these, and I would follow suit.

25

There was nothing much to see other than the windmills, rice fields
on one side, and the elevated Epy/Hwy 61 on the other. When the
elevated Epy/Hwy 61 ended, it was on-going construction for
elevated Epy/Hwy 61. Hwy 61 joins and becomes Hwy 15 for a
short stretch where I rode through a 2250 m semi-open tunnel
() before arriving at Hsinchu.
I
arrived
at
Hsinchu in very
good time at about
1330 hr, with the
assistance
of
a
strong tailwind. The
rain has stopped after I passed Taoyuan. I was
very tempted to push another 80 km, leaving
about 240 km to Kaohsiung. I could
feel that my inner thighs were starting to chafe,
due to wet gear. I risked walking like a cowboy if I continue to push on. Feeling hungry, I decided
I would decide after I have eaten. I ate a bowl of instant beef noodle and enjoyed my coffee in
the sun at 7-Eleven, while I contemplated whether to push on. My still wet socks and chafed
thighs became the co-deciders. Although I had stopped to wring my socks many times along the
way, they were still wet. I decided to stay in Hsinchu as originally planned and see the sights. I
took off my wet socks, tied them to my bags and rode around to see the sights in the vicinity.
As I rode over the bridge into
Hsinchu, I had noticed a park at
the river mouth of () and
decided to look for it. The park
made me feel
that I was somewhere on the
coast of the Aegean Sea it
sounds like or Love
Sea
in
Chinese.
The
Taiwanese are sentimentalist
and have a pageant for cute,
romantic and cosy. You see
many examples literally out of
the blue all over Taiwan.
In stark contrast, the other
parks in the vicinity of the coast looked very wild and
unkempt. The main Hsinchu city and an industrial park
are located on the eastern side of Hwy 15. Nothing much
left to see, I decided to check out the accommodation I
have shortlisted. There are only 3 accommodations in the
vicinity and all were motels. These motels can be found all
along the western coastal roads. These motels were
notorious for sleazy activities as they offered discretion by
letting you drive your car straight into a garage and you
enter the room located above. Left with little choices, I
checked into one. The price for an overnight stay ranged
from NT$1000 to NT$1500 depending on theme. I requested for a very clean non-smoking room.
Despite their notoriety, they are value for money as my room and I assumed for other rooms too,
was decorated like a 5-star hotel. The bathroom with its tub, to fit two persons of course, and
massaging shower, was bigger than the rooms in the minsu I have stayed along the east
coast! I guess it is a matter of overcoming the feeling of queasiness.

26

There are significant differences between the east and west coast of Taiwan. It is
predominantly minsu along the east coast and motels along the
west coast. The population on the east coast is predominantly Aborigine while it
is mainly Chinese on the west coast. I saw a lot churches on the east coast
while it is Taoist/Buddhist temples on the west coast. But the warmth and
hospitality of the Taiwanese from both coasts were indistinguishable.
Taiwan is very bike-friendly. There are dedicated bike lanes for motorcycle,
scooters and bicycles on all major roads and highways. When it is not
possible to have a dedicated lane for the two-wheelers, there are markings
on the road to indicate dual use. This is a possible model to make
Singapore a bike friendly nation. Besides, these bike lanes, there are water
refilling points and rest points. There are also lots of Giant Bicycle shops
and local bicycle shops all over Taiwan. Many are strategically located along
popular biking routes and offer repairs or required mechanical adjustments.
Most drivers of cars, including huge trucks would give cyclists a safe berth
when passing or patiently trail behind a cyclist along a narrow road. I have
encountered only a handful that would park their cars in the bike lane,
overtake using the bike lanes, or come very close to the cyclists along dual
use roads.

DAY 8 14 NOV 159 KM HSINCHU TO MIAOLIAO


he original plan for the day was to end near Taichung Harbour
(the black dot) at the 83 km mark. I arrived at Taichung just before
noon, with the assistance of a good tailwind, and decided to push on
another 80 km, saving one day off the trip. So, it was a day of relentless pedalling.
Departing Hsinchu at 0700 hr after a light breakfast, I followed Hwy 61 southwards. After lunch at
Taichung, I continued on Hwy 61 which became Hwy 17, at some stretches to Miaoliao ().

Day 8 Hsinchu to Miaoliao - GPS Map - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/635800708


This route didnt offer much in terms of sighting seeing, so it became a rush to cover as much
distance as possible. I met some Taiwanese riders on road bikes and they provided an added
motivation to chase and close the gap. I managed to get to within 50 m of the last two riders in
the pack when all riders disappeared from my view. They had ended their ride and were eating
food supplied by a support vehicle. Some of the riders handed out bananas and sandwiches as I
rode passed them. I was simply too surprised to react and could only shout out my thanks.
Otherwise, it was a quiet and lonely ride that day.

27

I had some excitement later when I found


myself on the elevated Expressway 61 instead
of Hwy 61. I was riding on Hwy 61 which ran
on the ground as well as elevated Hwy 61 next
to the Expressway 61. I was riding on the
elevated Hwy 61 but had to turn off and
descend to the ground level Hwy 61, pass a traffic light junction at an
underpass before ascending the ramp again to the elevated Hwy 61. I did
this countless number of times. While riding on an elevated section, I
soon realised I was on the expressway instead, when I noticed that the
signboards were bigger and were on a gantry spanning the entire road.
Signboards along highway are usually on a pole or a traffic light pole
(See top photograph of series). Traffic was surprisingly very light and I
cycled as fast as I could and got off the expressway at the next exit. I
had ridden about 20 km on the expressway. I never figured out how I got
on to the expressway as there were concrete dividers between the
expressway and highway on the elevated sections.
I had been wondering how they differentiate between the Expressway 61
and Highway 61. I believe, the new elevated 61 is designated an
expressway, including those subsequent sections to be built, while the old
61 retained its status as a highway. In elevated sections where the new
expressway runs side by side with the old highway, concrete road dividers
are used to segment the road.
It turned out that I was wrong. The
expressways are divided into the
main and secondary thoroughfare.
The secondary thoroughfare is
equivalent to a highway. There are 4
classes of roads in Taiwan: (1)
Freeway where no bicycles are allowed;
(2) Expressway where bicycles are not allowed on the main
thoroughfare; (3) Highway; and (4) County Road. Bicycles
are allowed on both Highways and County Roads. I was
lucky to get away with riding on the expressway. Further, I
was riding on County Roads 200 and 199 on the first day,
and should not have labelled them as Highways but you
know how it happened. (Wink!)
I was looking for a place for lunch at Taichung when I spotted a
Pizza Hut delivery outlet. It was a welcomed change from the
food from 7-Eleven. When possible, I had also eaten dinners at
local restaurants. I searched for accommodation in Miaoliao,
marked it on the Garmin Edge 800 and set a course for it along
Hwy 61.
The scenery stayed pretty much the same and after a while,
I felt that I was on a stationary bike with computer
generated scenery. The scenes do change when riding
over bridges. When the scenery became monotonous, I
selected intermediate objectives 10 km apart and
concentrated on getting there within 30 minutes. I finally
arrived at the planned motel and was third in the queue.
You register and make payment while in the vehicle (or on
your bike). There was a cyclist in front of me and he took

28

last budget room. I was left with the higher priced one where the room is above a private garage.
At least, my bike will have its own garage tonight instead of sharing a space with other bikes and
stores. The room was just under NT$2000. As expected, the room was well decorated and
bathroom huge. It is indeed value for money.

DAY 9 15 NOV 144 KM MIAOLIAO TO KAOHSIUNG - ON HOME!

Day 9 Miaoliao to Kaohsiung GPS Map - https://connect.garmin.com/modern/course/8976567

he final 144 km ride to Kaohsiung started later at


0800 hr instead of the usual 0630 hr. I didn't know I
was so fatigued from the 159 km ride the previous
day and had woken up later. In the final leg to complete my
round island bike trip, I would ride along the Highway 61. I
had to ride laterally eastwards to get on Hwy 17, which
runs parallel to Epy/Hwy 61, several times as I could not
find Hwy 61 to get over a river or when I wanted to get to a
7-Eleven. The 7-Elevens were located off Expressway 61,
along lateral roads or the parallel Hwy 17. After my lunch at
a 7-Eleven in Budai , I decided to stay on Hwy 17 as I
had enough of the monotonous views along Expressway 61. I rode around Tainan city to its
south and eventually continued on Hwy 1 before branching off to smaller roads to get to my end
point near Kaohsiung train station. I had switched to Hwy 1 for nostalgic reasons and wanted to
see the changes along that highway.
The light early morning rain has made the road wet but has also produced a rainbow. It made me
felt that as if I have been chasing rainbows on my bike since Day 1. It was a great feeling to be
on the final leg of the trip but at the same time I wanted it to continue. I wanted to continue
chasing rainbows.
The scenery was the same as the previous day. An
interesting thing I saw at various construction sites along
Hwy 61 was an animated mannequin wearing a reflective
vest and safety helmet, waving a baton or flag to warn traffic
to slow down and to be aware of road hazards. I named him
with the first Chinese name that popped into mind and
called him Mr Chen. Elsewhere, a set of portable traffic
lights at each end of a road with only one passable lane,
was used to regulate traffic. It made me wonder why we

29

would deploy one or two workers to do the same in Singapore, instead of using these animated
Mr Chen.
It was a slow morning ride and I had covered only 60 km by the time I stopped for lunch at noon
at Budai. I was riding at a slower speed than usual. I felt fatigued and hungry and had to stop 10
km earlier than planned for lunch. There was a distinct stillness throughout that morning. There
was no wind at all. The trees, the election banners, the pieces of
trash on the road were still. Where was my tailwind? I felt cheated
as if the tailwind was my entitlement. I felt I could have
gone faster with my tailwind.
I felt better after a quick meal and a hot drink. I got
on my bike and pushed on along Hwy 17, hoping to
make up distance. I took it easy as I had just eaten
but I felt fatigued. I finally decided to stop 7 km
later at a small park at the Beimen rest area
to have a complete rest of 30 minutes. What a
huge difference the 30 minutes made. I felt
recharged and was able to maintain a speed of 30
km/h or more.
I zoomed past a tourist attraction sign Jingzaijiao
Tile-paved Salts Fields , and
decided to make a quick detour of 2 km. I took
some quick photographs and returned to Hwy 17.
The scenery along Hwy 17 started to change and I passed a lot
of ponds and rivers. There were strange looking structures in
the rivers and I wondered what they were. There were two
different types of structures in the river. One had nets floating
close to the surface and vertical long poles at each corner,
stretching out the net. The other had shorter vertical poles
supporting horizontal poles. I also wondered what the locals were
farming in these ponds. My guesses
were that the structures were nets to
trap fishes and shrimps or prawns were
being farmed in the ponds. I found the
answers later when I rode through
several small villages.
I saw a lot of oyster shells. They were
everywhere along roads, in front of
houses, at the sides of houses, and in open fields. There were baskets
full of them. There were heaps and heaps lying in any space available.
Later, I would encounter trucks transporting these oyster shells along
the road. It was quite a sight and smell.
I passed many houses where groups of people sat in small groups to
open or clean the oysters. I attempted to take photos of them but
every time I approached, they would stop work and look expectantly
at me. I would sheepishly greet them
and asked them how the oysters are
farmed. One used a knife to
demonstrate how the oysters would
grow on a rope tied to a horizontal pole.
Oysters are also farmed in the ponds.
Besides oysters, the area also farmed

30

seaweed for consumption. The seaweed is farmed using those nets with long vertical poles.
There were many houses drying seaweed shaped into a disc, ready to be packed.
I left the oyster farms and the communities farming the oysters
and quickly approached Tainan. I would become obsessed with
the road signs as the distances to Tainan and Kaohsiung became
smaller. I arrived at Tainan city centre at 1530 hr which boosted
my confidence to arrive in Kaohsiung which was about 50 km
away before last light.
I had relied on these road signs throughout my ride to motivate
myself. I wondered what do these road signs really tell. Do the
numbers indicate distances to the city centre or to the city limits? I
have come to realise that it is the city limits. The road sign along
Hwy 1 was the one I had wanted to see the most. I was really
happy that Kaohsiung was 8 km away. Traffic started to become
heavier as I enter the Kaohsiung city limits, and the number of
traffic lights started to increase. Soon, there were lots of scooters
on the road as I entered the city centre. Kaohsiung City is really a
City of Traffic Lights, because of the grid-like network of roads. I
had to stop frequently. The good thing is that it would be green
lights for several junctions which allow traffic to move a substantial
distance before the next segment of the traffic lights become red.
The last 10 km in Kaohsiung city became very slow but the last 5
km towards the train station was painfully slow. I finally arrived at
a park near Kaohsiung train station at 1830 hr.
I had completed my
Taiwan island bike trip!

round

A quick check on Garmin Edge


showed that I have cycled a total
of 954 km.
I was both happy and hungry. I
headed to the nearby night
market to look for food.

D10 - THE DAY AFTER A VERY LONG BIKE RIDE

woke up early as usual and was glad I didn't have to put on any damp clothing. It was a day
to relax the body, stretch the leg muscles and to feed the lingering thirst and hunger.

I had done some preliminary cleaning of my bike and equipment the night before. I cleaned
what I could and threw away the poor quality panniers. I didnt have a sense of elation,
achievement or pride. There was a sense of relief and feeling humble. I had just gone on a very
long bike ride. That's all. I would feel a sense of achievement much later.
So what did I achieve? During my journey, I met many Taiwanese who were biking, walking,
running barefoot, and riding a fixed gear bike round island. There was even one man on a bike
with a 45 litres backpack on his back. The trip was about overcoming mental limits, getting out of
one's comfort zone and liberally just doing it. It was also about having a common experience and
understanding the experiences of those who have done it.

31

The sense of achievement kicked in when I was washing and


cleaning my bike at a tap near the hotel I stayed. People from
houses next to the hotel came by in ones and twos and asked if I
had gone on a round island bike trip and would congratulate me
on the achievement. I felt truly happy.
I reflected on my overall experience and had one word to
describe it wonderful. Almost everyone, whom I shared my
thoughts with, felt that it was risky and boring to go on a solo
bike ride in Taiwan, but it had turned out well. I believed that it
was more than just luck.
I made the decision to ride alone so that I could have the
freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. It can get lonely
and complicated if you run into trouble. However, there are a fair
number of people circumnavigating Taiwan Island or riding
selected popular routes, and it is always possible to ride with them for short stretches. It can get
lonely on the road and boring not to have someone to chat with over dinner. I overcame the
loneliness by mentally focusing on arriving at intermediate objectives within the time I set, and
used my smartphone to talk or video chat with friends and families during extended rest periods
and in the evenings. Posting my progress on Facebook and receiving encouragement from
friends tracking my progress made it less lonesome.
Taiwanese are so friendly and compassionate, and the people I have encountered all the way
around the island were more than ready to extend assistance and words of encouragement.
Taiwan society has developed a high degree of social grace and I felt safe riding alone. There
was no danger or threat to my personal security or property. I met weekend cyclists and
members of cycling groups who would ride along side and provided much needed conversation
and encouragement. I met fellow cyclists doing the round island trip, eagerly sharing tips,
information of the route and concerns of my well-being. I met women who were riding solo roundisland and they shared that there was probably nowhere else where they felt safer to do so.
Taiwan is very bike friendly with its dedicated bike lanes or properly marked dual use lanes, bike
rest areas and bike shops along popular routes. Drivers showed proper road etiquette and
respect to cyclists. Hotels were easy to find along the coastal roads and there is a range to fit
your budget. I agreed that there is probably no better place to bike long distances than Taiwan.
I had experienced their warmth,
hospitality and compassion. An
incident during my dinner on arrival in
Kaohsiung became the defining
experience of how I feel about the
Taiwanese. I leaned my bike on a
wall outside a noodle shop and it
toppled after 30 minutes or so, with a
loud bang, startling customers and
stall holders alike. The
stall holders helped me to upright my
bike and even offered to clear a spot
for me to park my bike. I certainly
didn't expect that kind of reaction.
Meals enroute and in the evenings
were least of my concerns. Even if
you are not adventurous with food, Taiwan provides a huge variety of food to meet a wide range
of palate. Although 7-Eleven provided a good selection, I would recommend heading to popular
local eateries and sampling the local favourite. Almost all that I tried served food that was
cheaper and tastier.

32

I reflected on my routes and consideration of hugging the coast and not going into the cities.
Other than Kaohsiung, Keelung and Taipei, I stayed outside the cities. Besides being cheaper, it
was easier the next morning to resume the ride and save time negotiating the morning traffic.
The choice of staging from Kaohsiung was a good one. Riding along roads and passing areas
which I am very familiar with in the first leg, provided added confidence and assurance of a good
start. Going counter-clockwise would remain my preferred choice as I would be continuously
riding next to the coast (It is left-hand drive in Taiwan). I was rewarded by spectacular views
throughout my journey. I didnt consider the wind direction and encountered headwinds for most
part of my ride, but the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean more than made up for it.
The question to ride or not to ride the leg from
Hualien to Yilan along the infamous 118-km Suhua
Highway () (Hwy 9) is a matter of personal
choice. The Suhua Hwy is considered as Taiwans
most dangerous road because it is narrow, steep
and full of long dark tunnels, heavily used by heavy
trucks and tour coaches. The road condition
becomes worse when there is a typhoon or heavy
rains as there would be mudslides and falling rocks.
Although the roads in certain stretches are quite
wide, there are also many stretches where it is
narrow with no bike lanes, including the tunnels. I
had made more than adequate preparation and had brought reflective vest, strips and enhanced
lights and was mentally more than prepared to ride the Suhua Hwy. The risks of riding this
stretch are high and were increased by the heavy rains then. While I would continue to have the
lingering feeling of not doing a proper island circumnavigation, I am glad that I had heeded the
advice of the experienced local cyclists to skip it. I know there are plans to improve Suhua Hwy in
the years to come, and I certainly look forward to riding on the new Suhua Hwy.
This solo bike ride around Taiwan Island was one of my greatest experiences. I enjoyed the hard
grind of the ride, the pain and aches, the discipline to keep to a schedule and the opportunities to
improvise and adapt to overcome challenges I encountered. The sights and the people were
amazing. As I came to end of my ride, I wanted it to go on. I have enjoyed every moment of the
trip.
My spirit and soul feel renewed.

I was searching for a final photograph to complement the first photograph in this journal but could not find one of reasonable
quality, amongst the many I took with my IPhone 5S. I found and decided to use this photo that showed a cyclist along Hwy 26
heading southwards, very near the spot where I took the photograph on the cover when I was heading northwards.
http://taiwanincycles.blogspot.sg/2010/10/touring-taiwans-tip-cycling-through.html

--- The End ---

33

KEY EQUIPMENT

34