Alishan, April 12 - 13, 2010. Click pic for album

Taroko to Kending

Taroko Gorge to Kending, Feb 14 - 19, 2010.

Northern Cross Island Highway

Northern Cross Island Highway, May 19 - 21, 2008. Click pic for album
31st August, 2008

Bikes and trains

train2s.jpgTthe Liberty Times today ran an article (Chinese) about the result of Taiwan Railway Administration's preliminary evaluation of the experiment with allowing bicycles and pets on trains that began on July 1. The article says that pets and bicycles will be allowed in separate, designated cars on all trains, including the ones where it is not allowed according to the current experiment, ie the express trains where you need a ticket for the specified departure time (對號車, ie, Ziqiang, Juguang, Fuxing as opposed to other trains (區間車), where you can buy a ticket that doesn't specify the departure time, 非對號車). The way they plan to do this is to add an extra car to the express trains. In addition, the TRA is considering whether it should allow non-reserved seating in those cars, although express trains currently always require a reserved seat. Currently, TRA representatives also say they are leaning toward not charging extra for bringing a bike, but a final decision still hasn't been made. T he article only talks about folding bikes, and doesn't mention whether they have to be bagged or not, but I'm guessing that this is laziness on the reporter's part, since any other bike, bagged, seems to be included in the ongoing experiment. Anyway, I for one would argue that my bike is foldable since the wheels are off and it's in a bag. We'll just have to wait for some more info before we know for certain. The given reason for using separate cars for pets and bikes is that some people have gone to the extreme of actually suing the TRA for allowing pets on trains. The boss of TRA's Mechanical Engineering Department says it will take some time to modify Juguang train cars to fit these new regulations, but that Ziqiang cars should be ready for use by October, which apparently is the date for implementation of these new regulations, although no specific date is given in the article. Technorati tags: , , , , , Swedish blogs about: , och
22nd August, 2008

Hengchun Peninsula

shouka-mudan7.jpgWe haven't been anywhere biking lately, so we decided to go biking with our friends this Sunday as usual, and then take the Mon-Tue to go somewhere else where we hadn't been before. So of course I had to do some advanced stretching/yoga and almost pull a muscle in my left thigh. Didn't turn out that bad, but it was bad enough that I couldn't put enough stress on the leg, so we decided to forgo the Sunday ride (the others went to Longdong anyway. Too hot, you see.), and do an easier ride over Mon-Tue. shouka-mudan4.jpg Looking at a few maps and thinking a bit, we decided to go down south again and bike across the Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島), from Dawu (大武) in the southeast to Kending (墾丁) in the south. And what a ride it was. I don't know anyone who's done the ride, so we didn't know at all what to expect, only what the maps told us: it didn't even climb above 500m, and the climb wasn't very long or steep. Perfect for my leg. So we bought our tickets for the Sunday overnight Juguang (莒光) to Taidong (台東), where we transferred to a local train to Dawu at 6.37 the next morning. Here's how you do it: From Dawu to Daren (達仁), you're on the flats along provincial road 9. This is the southern link that connects Taiwan's east and west coast so there's a fair amount of traffic, both cars and heavy trucks. It has two lanes in each direction and a wide road shoulder on the flat parts, though, so it's still a tolerable ride. From Daren you continue along the 9 up to Shouka (壽卡) where you enter the lovely county road 199. Daren is where the climb starts, and you climb up to 487m, I think it was, over about 12km. Here at the southern tip of the Central Mountain Range, the sharp, rugged peaks have transformed into a landscape of rolling green hills, and every now and then you get to steal a peek of the clear blue Pacific. We were very lucky with the weather. Dark clouds to the south at 6.30 in the morning soon dissipated and gave way to clear, almost cloud free blue skies and searing sun light over the green hills. It was already really hot by 9-9.30, but hey, the views were good and the riding was great, so what's there to complain about? Just fill your water bottles and load your saddle bags with another three bottles of water and a Supao or some other sports drink (we find that the best mixture is 1/4 sports drink and 3/4 water: it gives taste, but is not sickeningly sweet). shouka-mudan8.jpg Just before we reached the top, a kilometer or so ahead of Shouka, there was a small temple by the road side with a resting place and shelter from the sun. It was 10.30 and hot, and D, who hadn't managed to get much sleep on the train, was tired, so we decided to take a nap and to get away from the heat for a while. I slept for almost an hour and a half on that hard wooden bench, while D once again couldn't sleep because four young kids parked their bikes next to her and didn't stop talking. Such is life. mudan-checheng2.jpg The 199 from Shouka via Mudan (牡丹) down to Checheng (車城) was a great road. With only one lane and almost no traffic, it meanders slowly downward, with so many bends that it is never boring. The scenery changes constantly, and there were plenty of views of the Pacific mirroring the scattered white clouds in the sky. In Mudan we stopped for some lunch at a charming little place in Dongyuan (東源) and a chat with some of the local kids. We then continued on, and the road remained changing and interesting down to Mudan Reservoir where the scenery became a bit more commonplace with more houses and people and traffic for the rest of the ride. shouka-mudan2.jpgBefore hitting Checheng we turned onto Pingdong towship road 151 (屏151), and then 152 to bypass the Checheng urban area. We then continued along the 153 and the very western part of the peninsula down toward Baisha (白沙) where we stayed for the night at White Hotel, a new, clean hotel (a year) with nice rooms, cable TV and wired/wireless Internet access for NT$2600 a night for a double. The somewhat rocky beach is across the road, and it was great to end the day with a dip in the luke warm ocean. The only drawback to the hotel, or so we thought, was that he hasn't opened a restaurant yet, which meant we had to go somewhere else for dinner, at least four or five kilometers away. Unless, of course, you're into ordering pizza or pasta and eating together with the owner, which he offered since we were om bikes. We were not, because when you're on the coast you want to eat sea food. He told us of a place in a fishing harbor 4k away, and we went. A great place. Super good, super fresh sea food, served on a table outside the restaurant right on the harbor so you could see the Taiwan Straits getting darker and darker as the sun set to the sound of waves breaking on the pier below. We loved it. In addition, it was a night with a clear and bright almost full moon casting shadows everywhere, and being so far away from a city, the skies were really black and the stars really bright. Haven't seen a night like that in a long time. And on the way back to the hotel we finally got to try out our NT$5,000 headlight. Bright as a car headlight, it turned out. Now we'll never have to worry about getting caught unprepared on a dark rainy night somewhere where there are no road lights and no way to see holes in the road again. mudan-checheng.jpg The next day we had a slow morning. I had to some work to do (what would we do without laptops?), and then we pedalled the 12 or so km into Kending for a Starbucks triple cappuccino and a cinnamon roll before we went down to Eluanbi and back. We bagged our bikes and got on a bus to Kaohsiung where we bought tickets for the high speed rail just after 8pm and arrived in Taipei again at 9.40pm. Two days well spent. train.jpg
A really, really, really old train
Facts:We took the overnight Juguang from Taipei to Taidong (NT$616) arriving just after 6am. At 6.37, we left from Taidong to Dawu on an old local train. A really, really, really old local train, in fact. We arrived in Dawu about an hour later.

Beginning on July 1, it's no longer allowed to travel with a bagged bike on this train, since new regulations say that it is only allowed on trains with no seat reservations. If you do anyway, you should supposedly be charged a normal transportation fee for the bike. We have done this trip several times and didn't know of the change until we got on the train, but that's exactly what the info on the train said. Luckily, the car host was kind enough not to mention that at all, he just bitched a bit because we blocked up too much space, and then he went on his way.

There are many options to travel from Kending to Kaohsiung: bus, taxi or minivan, all around NT$300-NT$500 per person. We took a minivan to Zuoying HSR station, where we bought seats to Taipei for just under NT$1200. There is a big luggage space at each end of the cars where you can easily put a bagged bike or two.

Distances: Dawu to Daren 9.5km, Daren to Shouka 11.5km, Shouka to Checheng, 38km, Checheng to Baisha, about 25km. In Baisha, we stayed at White Hotel in a double for NT$2600.

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17th August, 2008

Road distances

We're taking a leisurely ride from Dawu (大武 ) via Shouka (壽卡) down the Hengchun Peninsula tomorrow and then rolling around the Kenting area on Tuesday, so I wanted to find a table of distances between different places in Taiwan to make out the kilometer count. And I found what I was looking for at the quaintly named Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau. At this location they have a list of every provincial (yes, they still call them that in official lingo, and I don't think it'll change in the next four years at least) and county road in Taiwan, with distances down to the meter between different locations along the roads. I now know that it is 20km from Dawu to Shouka, 38km from Shouka to Checheng (車城) and 32km from Checheng to Kenting (墾丁), ie 90km all in all. Sorry, the site is all in Chinese, but for those who read Chinese, this is a great resource. Here is post on a blog in Chinese that I found yesterday by someone who did the exact same trip. Lots and lots of pics for those who don't read Chinese. Technorati tags: , , , , , Swedish blogs about: , och
11th August, 2008

On the road again

Let's see...
  • Busy working
  • Typhoons
  • Rain
  • Everyone else was busy
  • Party
That's it, that's all the excuses I can think of for not having been on the bike for six (!) weeks. I haven't even taken it off the wall where it normally hangs. When I did Saturday night, the tyres were empty and the chain dry as a... And the weather has been beautiful the last week. Clear skies and no air pollution to speak of. I have been able to see clear all the way to Luzhou from the paper's offices in Neihu, without the slightest sign of a pollution cap. When we went yesterday, I could hardly see the tall building by the railway station and once again there was this sickening grayish-yellow-green cap all over the city and even 101 was disappearing in the haze. No matter. We took the road past Taipei's Fudekeng municipal cemetary, always a pleasant ride, and at 6am it is full of elderly people walking down (probably took the first bus up) or younger people jogging down. And everyone smiles and says "Zaoa" because there is a secret connection between us all, the kind of people that get up at 5am to go exercising before the city wakes. sifenzi.jpg From Fudekeng we went to Muzha Zoo where we meet up with the rest for the ride up to Xiaogetou, where we had the traditional Sunday mornig double cappuccino. We then went back to Taipei for brunch at Carnegies, where we as always were allowed to park our bikes inside, leaning on the counter behind the door. Oh, and another excuse: It feels as we've done most of the short half day rides around Taipei which made us sort of lose the enthusiasm for a while there. But now we're aiming for another Sunday ride next week, and then a Mon-Tue excursion somewhere in northern Taiwan. Maybe that Hsinchu ride Feiren was talking about, or another ride along the northern cross, or... We'll see. Technorati tags: , , , , , , Swedish blogs about: , och
24th June, 2008

Another turn to Pinglin

After three weeks without even touching the bike I just had to get out on the road this weekend. D was working, but then on Saturday H called and said that we were on for Xiaogetou (小格頭) and Helen's Coffee via Sifenzi (四分子) on route 47-1 rather than the 47, so I even got to try out a new route to an old destination. When we met at 6:30am on Sunday rather than the usual 7am, the weather looked absolutely gorgeous and X suggested that we go all the way to Pinglin (坪林) rather than only Xiaogetou. That was a great idea since I have wanted to do the Pinglin route counter clockwise for quite some time after having done it clockwise a couple of times. There was some hesitation among the others because the first 5-6 km on the 106 from Pinglin toward Shenkeng (深坑) are really quite a steep climb, but in the end everyone came along. break.jpg
Resting in the shade of some trees and a big Guanyin statue at the high point of the 106
The steep incline, though short, was as tiring as expected. Maybe even more so, in fact, given the 37-degree heat. I must have drunk six or seven bottles of water to keep fresh, and that still almost wasn't enough. In summer, it is almost motivated to always hang the bags on the bike just to be able to bring another couple of bottles. In any case, the road between the high point of the 106 and Pinglin is so beautiful with all its tea plantations flung out on the mountain side that it is worth the effort. pinglin8.jpg
Some tea plantations halfway up the mountain on the 106 from Pinglin
Facts: Here's a description of the 75-80km Pinglin loop clockwise and here's a description of the route to Xiaogetou. At the split toward Sifenzi, take that road (47-1). It is a bit longer than the 47, 9k instead of 7k. The first 5k are steeper than the 47, but the last four are much more relaxing, with only the occasional incline. The rest is on the flats or even declines. This road has much fewer cars than the 47 which already doesn't have a lot of traffic, and there are fewer bikes and motorcycles, too. Much of it is shaded by trees, so it is also a cooler ride in summer. From now on, this is the route we're taking to Helen's. The 47-1 is the small loop inside the larger loop in the map.
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26th May, 2008

The Pinglin loop from Taipei

handlebar3.jpgDid another ride down to Pinglin and back yesterday, so now I've been to Pinglin on the bike twice in five days. H, X and four other friends were going all the way down to Jiaoxi because they hadn't biked there yet and they wanted to take a look at the "9 turns and 18 bends" section of Route 9. Since I had to be at the paper by 3pm, I decided to go with as far as Pinglin and then turn back from there after a cup of coffee at Vanilla Sky. D stayed home, and N called the night before to say that he had to finish an article off Sunday morning, so he had to drop out, too. The CWB had promised thunder storms, but the weather looked good at 6am, so I met up with H and X at Linguang MRT station at 7am as agreed. We picked up the others in Muzha, and then in Shenkeng, we went up the 106A as last time. It's less steep than the 47, and the rest of the group wanted to save their strength for the 20km climb from Pinglin up to the high point of Route 9. It turned out to be a great ride, and regardless of what the CWB said, we had a mostly sunny and cool morning with the sun weaving in and out of the clouds.tree.jpg After a cappuccino and a smoked chicken sandwich at Vanilla Sky, I did the 11.5km up to Helen's Coffee at Xiaogetou in 39 minutes, and after a mango sorbet to cool myself off there, I made it back home in just below one hour for the 28 km or so from Helen's to Sogo on Zhongxiao, making it there before the thunder storm hit. H and the others were less lucky, and in the end they spent almost two hours in a pavilion somewhere along the 9 waiting out the storm before going down to Jiaoxi for dinner and a long traffic jammed bus ride back to Taipei. Just like we did on Wednesday, however, they really enjoyed the beautiful ride from Pinglin up to the high point of the road as well as the view of the Yilan plain that suddenly opens wide after you pass the high point and begin to roll down. I've had a couple of pretty active weeks, and have covered 450km in the two weeks up until this Sunday, which puts me just above 1300km for the year so far. A bit less than expected, but not too shabby.
Facts Here's an earlier post about the same ride with a Google map and a detailed description of the route.
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24th May, 2008

Shuangbei — the Northern Cross Island Highway and the Taibei – Yilan road

05_baling.jpgThree days on the bike to get from Taipei back to Taipei again. The Northern Cross Island Highway is the most northerly of the cross-island highways, and the proximity to Taipei means that there is more traffic and pollution on the roads leading to the highway. In addition, some kind of construction project is going on at Shimen Reservoir which meant that the sometimes very narrow roads -- it is often impossible for two cars to meet -- had a string of gravel trucks and cement trucks going back and forth. That is never very pleasant, especially when you consider the fact that the only drivers in Taiwan that are worse and more arrogant than taxi and bus drivers are truck drivers. In this case, I had a compulsion to actually do the whole loop from Taipei and back again, but if that isn't a consideration, then the first part of the road along 110 from Xindian to Sanxia could probably be just as well dealt with by getting someone to drive you there, or even better, all the way to Dapu (大埔) and the intersection with the 7A (7乙). Another way of doing this ride is of course to copyTim, the owner of the Giant store on the NE corner of Da'an Forest Park, who did the whole darn thing in a single day, including time out for a hot spring bath in Jiaoxi. That's 245km from 5.30am to midnight. 01_fruitshopping.jpg
Buying some fruit just before Fuxing
Dapu is where the nice part of the ride begins, although we were caught in the rain long before we even reached Sanxia -- the outer edges of a typhoon -- and that stayed with us for much of the first day. Together with the gravel and cement trucks, that took away some of the pleasure of being on the road. That said, however, there were several nice views along the road up to Baling. The climbs the first day weren't too steep. The ride up to Fuxing (復興) brings you to an elevation of about 450m, which is followed by a 5km long drop down to 300m just before Luofu (羅浮). From here, it is 35km to Baling at an elevation of around 650m, mostly uphill but interspersed with a few descents. In all, the climbs are moderate but extended. 06_bridgeafterbaling.jpg
A bridge just after Baling
In Baling, we stayed at Baling Hot Spring Resort (北橫貫下巴陵溫泉山莊). They had a group tour there, so we had to get a four bed room, but at NT$450 each (NT$1,800), that was a steal. There was a wooden bath tub in the wooden interior room, the kind you see in old Western movies, and that was pretty cool. They also have a public hot spring bath down in the basement, but that was reserved for the group tour, so we had to soak ourselves in the separate rooms (湯屋). And listen up: they have a special (unspecified) discount for people riding there on their bicycles. For us, they slashed another 10% off the already discounted NT$2000 they first asked. From Baling, it is another 20km up to Mingchi (明池) -- 10 km persistent climbing from 650m to around 1175m, followed by a drop over about 5km down to 1050m, and then another 5km or so up to Mingchi at maybe 1150m. From here, it's six or seven km to the high point at just above 1200m before the long descent down to Yilan 45-50km away, where we put R on the bus back to Taipei from the bus station just next to the train station. 15_highpoint.jpg
At around 1200m elevation, the high point of the Northern Cross Island Highway just after Mingchi
We continued on to Jiaoxi a few km away where we stayed at Kelly Hot Spring Hotel (凱麗溫泉飯店) -- a place to be recommended, just like the one in Baling. Clean, nice Japanese style rooms with wooden interior, big bathroom and friendly service. A three bed room was NT$2,300 with breakfast. No dinner in the hotel, but there is a host of restaurants in the streets around the hotel, and we had a nice seafood meal with Gold Medal Taiwan Beer and of course a Heysong Sarsaparilla. From here, there's just a few km to the much dreaded "9 turns and 18 bends" (九彎十八拐) section of route 9. It's not as bad as everyone will have you believe, although it is a long extended climb of about 12km without a single descent. The incline is moderate, however, and it's the distance that might be tiring, not the incline. A bit up along this road, you can get some great views of the Yilan plain. No pics here, because there was a mist that wiped out most of teh view, and we could hardly even see Guishan Island (龜山島) outside Jilong. When you reach the peak, there is a long drop down to Pinglin of about 20km. There will be a couple inclines along the way, but nithing serious. From Pinglin, there's another 11-11.5km climb up to Xiaogetou (小格頭) and Helen's Coffee, which of course was closed when we arrived on a Wednesday noon. Follow the road a couple km and either take rigth at the switchback that brings you onto the 47 and back to Heping East Road via Shenkeng and Muzha, or continue along the 9 down to Xindian where the ride started. 12_thecrew.jpg
At the high point of the road
Facts The Shuangbei (雙北) -- the Northern Cross Island Highway and the Taipei-Yilan road -- is probably of intermediate difficulty: the inclines are not too steep, but often extended, running between 10km and 20km. We did Xindian to Baling the first day, beginning with the 110 in Xindian and then switched to Route 3 in Sanxia and 7A in Dapu. After 84km and just below five hours on the bikes, we reached Baling at three in the afternoon. The second day, we went from Baling to Jiaoxi, another 84km. This is the prettiest part of the road, with quite a few stunning views of bridges over deep valleys, mountains, forest and houses perched periloulsy on the mountain ridge or almost slipping off the mountain sides. From Jiaoxi, we continued via Pinglin and back to Taipei, first in the 9, and then on the 47 through Shenkeng from just after Xiaogetou. That added another 76km to the meter, adding up to a total of about 245km. If you decide to take the bus back from Yilan, get the Shoudu (首都) bus: you only have to take off the front wheel before chucking the bike in the luggage compartment, where as the other company (forget which one that is) requires that you take both wheels off, although you don't have to bag the bike on either of the companies. Shoudu runs buses every 40 min from early in the morning to late in the evening, and brings you to Taipei City Government MRT station in 1.5hrs.
22nd May, 2008

Northern Cross Island Highway

This Monday to Wednesday we did the Northern Cross Island Highway and the Taipei-Ilan road, a loop of about 245km. Here's the map of the ride, and the write-up and a couple of pics will follow in a day or two. Parts of the Northern Cross aren't very detailed because there were only very low res pics in Google maps. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but there is no way I can get that missing section along the road between Jiaoxi and Pinglin to show. We did bike that part as well, though.
16th May, 2008

Arouyang access road again

MirrorYesterday was another nice day, so we decided to go biking again. It had to be a shorter route, since N had an appointment in the afternoon, so we decided to do the Arouyng access road (阿柔洋產業道路), a loop of less than 40km from where we live in the middle of Taipei. We started at the Liuzhangli MRT station and took Chongde St (崇德街) up to the Fudekeng Cemetery (福德坑), an enormous expanse of family graves and mausoleums, Taipei's Muslim cemetery, a cemetery in the memory of 228 and White era victims, and, I'm told, a pet cemetery, although we haven't been able to find that one. I have to spend a day here with the camera some time. Coming down from Fudekeng we took a right and an immediate left to cross the bridge over to Wenshan Rd which has less traffic than the 106 Beishen Rd, and is also a bit shorter. Not much else to say. Take a right at Arouyang and go for about 7km to reach the temple at the high point of the road before taking the very steep road -- about 500m -- toward the trail head for the Ergeshan Hike. It's paved with concrete that can get really slippery, so if it's wet, a walk down is recommended. When you reach the bridge on the way down, you can take a left to go up to Maokong and get some tea or a coffee or a bite to eat, otherwise just continue straight downhill. Now we're hoping for good weather Mon-Wed since we are doing the Northern Cross Island Highway together with a couple of friends.
Facts Here's a map of the route. It's less than 40km and only requires about 2-2.5 hr on the bike. Click the Taipei category in the right column to find a couple other posts aboutthe same ride with slight variations. When you open this map, there is a link to Google Earth, so if you have Google Earth installed on your computer, you can see this map in Google 3D.
13th May, 2008

And yet another one…

me.jpgThe weather was too good today to waste another day working, so I didn't. At least not in the morning. Instead, I took another trip up to Fengguizui, almost completely alone on the road on a Tuesday, only one other biker on the way up. Not a cloud in the skies until I got closer to the peak, and almost complete solitude. The only sound I could hear was my own breathing, the birds and the breeze. If it hadn't been for the wind, I'd probably even have heard the flutter of the wings of all the butterflies, that's how quiet it was. The wind was a bit too strong, though, almost killed me on the final section up to the coffee shop, but the weather was so good that it doesn't matter that I didn't push below 30 minutes this time either -- I ended up at 35 minutes. The great weather and the ride put me in such a good mood that I didn't even try to get out of a "conversation" with the only other customer at the coffeeshop -- "Did you bike here (pointing to to my bike)?" "You must be tired?" Aren't you cold?" "You speak such good Chinese." "How long have you been in Taiwan?" "What do you do for a living?" "Are you American?" "Where are you from, then?" "Are you married to a Taiwanese woman," "Where do you live?" "Yes, but where in Taipei?" "OK, I have to go, bye-bye." Having found Jiannan Rd which allows me to bypass the Ziqiang tunnel, I think this ride is probably the best in Taipei, just because it is so easily accesible from where we live. A short ride down to the river park, which is also an agreeable ride, and then just another 5 or 10 minutes from the park over to Jiannan Rd and away from the traffic and the pollution. Not many cities with several million people where it is so fast to get out in the mountains. jiannanrd.jpg
A view of Neihu and on toward Xizhi from Jiannan Rd
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