Thursday, August 17, 2006
Great Taiwan Bike Rides IV: Taidong Loop
This ride can be done in one long day. As usual though, I spent the night at the Dulan Sugar Refinery first and spent a bit of time the first morning exploring the area around Dulan. It's about 15km from Taidong to Dulan on Route 11 up the coast.
Then it was off to the beautiful Jinzun beach about eight kilometers up the road where I had a refreshing Espresso ice smoothie and a lounge about the beach.
It's just few more kilometers on Taiwan Route 11 through Donghe proper and the turnoff to Route 23. Ride 5 km on a very gentle uphill grade to the farming town of Taiyuan.
There's a sign in Chinese for Taidong County Road 23 which follows the Mawuku River into an incredibly sleepy valley that time seems to have forgotten. Near Shangde Village I saw a waterfall to the east. I didn't have time to check it out though because it was already 3:30pm. There is a junction at Shangde that looks like it would take you to the waterfall.
There are shops every 5km or so until you reach Qikuaicu The road is a gentle grade until about km 8 where you climb for three or for km before a downhill that takes you into Qikuaicu.
After Qikuaicu you will begin a fairly long climb of about 7 or 8 km. There are no shops along this section which was apparently only paved in the late 1990s. The road is in bad shape, so don't think about riding a road bike through here.
Taidong County Road 23 continues on across the Fuxing Mountan Range and over to Taidong County Road 197 on the eastern side of the Rift Valley. There are no kilometer markers after km. 13 or so; I would estimate that it is 25 km from Taiyuan to the junction with 197 at Zhongye. Be careful on the section after Qikaicu. There is a lot of water on the road since it is paved with concrete, the surface can be very slick indeed. Somewhere around km 17 (estimate), a large tree was blocking the road completely. I was able to slide my bike under it to get through.
From Zhongye it is about another 15 km back to Taidong on a beautiful one lane road that eventually takes you over the tail end of the Coastal Mountain Range. I had some beautiful sunset views of the Pacific Ocean from here. At a village called Fuyuan there are several shops with nice views selling traditional Taiwanese mutton hot pots. This would be a great feed at the end of a grueling day if you were with a group.
Monday, August 07, 2006
This ride is best done in three days although we did it in 2 very long days (>100km both days). This is a classic ride through some of Taiwan's most beautiful back country.
[Update 2010-4-2]: Here's a Google map of the route using 159A instead of Route 18. 159A is a one lane beauty of a road with far less traffic. Note that Namaxia area was seriously damaged by Typhoon Morokat last August followed by the earthquake in early March. According to this blog post from a few weeks ago, the roads are passable. Please report road conditions in the comments.]
Fly to Chiayi with bikes. Stay at one of the cheap hotels near the train station. Don't try riding out of town to look for a hotel. We ended up sleeping outside in Chukou because there was nowhere to stay.
This is the toughest day with two grueling climbs if you make it all the way to Sanmin.
Take Route 18 east toward Alishan. You will begin to climb at Chukou. Stay on Route 18 until you reach Longmei. Stop here for a well-deserved break and don't miss the handmade baozi at the first shop on the left-hand side of the road.
At Longmei, turn right onto Jiayi Route 129. This is also known as the Shanmei Access Road (??????). Enjoy the long downhill. Take a dip in the Puyanu Creek near the Chashan suspension bridge or trace the creek east up to the waterfalls. When you get to Chashan, stay left on 129-1. The roads are not very clearly marked here. There may be some guest houses at Chashan. This would be a good spot to stop for the night. Otherwise you will need to push on over the mountain to Sanmin. Make sure you have enough water. Country store are far apart here.
129-1 is not well maintained. It eventually turns into the Chashan Access Rd. and eventually connects up with Route 21. There is accommodation in Sanmin and a couple of noodle shops that close at dusk. Head southwest on Route 21 for a lovely wide out to Jiaxian. Ride over the Neiyingshan Mountains on Route 20 (the Southern Cross) east and drop down into Laonong. At Laonong ride south on Route 27 until you reach the turnoff for Kaohsiung Rt. 113. Ride up 113 a few kilometers north and stay at one of the many hot spring hotels. Alternatively, go all the the way up to Baolai, turn right at the school and climb up to the Shidong Hot Springs ????. This secluded spot is one of my favorite hot springs in Taiwan, but call first because accommodation is limited.
This day will be long but mostly flat unless you do a side trip up to Maolin. Coming off 113, turn right back onto Route 27. Backtrack about .5 km and turn left onto Kaohsiung Route 131. Take 131 down to Liugui, cross the Liugui Bridge, and get back onto Route 27 heading south. Ride down the east bank of the Laonong River on a lovely road through some of Taiwan's prettiest countryside. Notice the distinctive Hakka farmhouses along the way.
If you are making good time, turn left at Dajin and ride up into Maolin. Eat some barbecue at Duona and soak in the hot springs.
From Dajin, ride south on 185, otherwise known as the Mountainside Highway ????. Stay on 185 all the way to Sandimen and then take Route 24 into Pingtung where you can stash your bikes on train and then fly or take the train back.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
If you've been enjoying fine government propaganda commercials like You Are Not Alone and Ilha Formosa: Taiwan will Touch Your Heart, I'm sure you will also enjoy this allegorical look at relations with China entitled, I kid you not, Can You Feel It Coming On. Brought to you by the folks at the Mainland Affairs Council.
Note: I could only get Ilha Formosa to play in IE. Grrr...
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
The China Times today reported that Madame Chiang Kai-shek's upkeep in the US over the last 30 years of her life cost Taiwanese taxpayers NT$1 billion. During the last years of Madame Chiang's very long life, her niece Kong Ling-wei was chaffuered around by Madame Chiang's driver--also at taxpayer expense. President Chen rejected suggestions that Madame Chiang's retinue be reduced on two occasions since 2000.
The story is based on unnamed sources, presumably inside the Presidential Office who fed the story to the China Times with the clear intention of putting recent allegation of corruption over the of a housekeeper at the president's family residence in perspective.
President Chen's disabled wife Wu Shu-chen, in contrast, has no staff assigned to her, and she pays her private nurse out of her own pocket.
This is indeed one of the great mysteries of the Chen administration. Why didn't he shut down Madame Chiang's tax payer-funded lifestyle and make sure his children and relatives were not abusing his office (albeit lesser scale by far)? And why didn't his administration, elected on a reform platform, at least attempt to reform Taiwan's imperial presidency? If he had, he would have easily survived this concatenation of manufactured and trumped-up charges against him by the rabid Blue camp. But since he has failed to carry out his mandate, he is being punished by an angry, alienated electorate.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
In my position as "a just gentleman of intact humanity, and one of the most influential persons in the world," I receive a considerable amount of correspondence from PR firms, from the media realations departments at various corporations and government ministries, and from howling lunatics.
Allow me to quote from a piece of e-mail I received this morning:
"Now, you may have a question: How could an ordinary