Monday, December 15, 2008

Landslides and Discoveries

Rank originally planned to ride from Shuili 水里 to Chiayi this weekend using the route described in Great Taiwan Bike Rides IX: Yushan By the Back Roads. A major landslide though blocked our way out of Lugu's (鹿谷) Phoenix Valley (Fenghuanggu 鳳凰谷) above Xinyi (信義) and we were forced to double back toward Xitou (溪投).

As suggested in the linked above, we started from Shuili this time. Getting to Shuili was an adventure in itself. After a late start on the HSR, we arrived at Taichung Station around 8:00pm. A taxi driver suggested that he could take us to a bus station where we could get a bus to Shuili. He ended up taking us all the way into Taichung, where we eventually caught a All-da (總達客運) bus at 9:00pm at the delightfully funky terminal near Taichung train station. We had to wait for a bus large enough to fit our bikes in the compartment below as most buses to Shuili are small commuter buses. You can call the station on the day you will ride to check when the large bus will be going to Shuili. There is no definite schedule.

Unfortunately, the bus to Shuili goes everywhere in northern Nantou County before arriving in Shuili three hours (!) later. We could have rode from the HSR station to Shuili faster than that. I now realize that the best way to get to Shuili would be to take Taiwan Railways Jiji line (集集線) from the New Wuri Station (新烏日) adjacent to the Taichung HSR Station (Exit 3, Floor 2). The 3821 local, for example. stops in Wuri at 8:15pm and arrives in Shuili at 9:38pm. Bicycles must be bagged for both the HSR and local commuter trains.

After camping in a field a few kilometers downhill from Shuili on County Road 131, we cycled pleasantly up 131 t0 151, where we had lunch in Lugu. 151 is to be avoided wherever possible. It is a two-lane road full of traffic headed for the resort town of Xitou. If you are from northern Taiwan, it is a lot like Yangde Boulevard (陽德大道) heading up Yangmingshan. Fortunatel there are many side roads like 131. 131, incidentally, is a designated bike route that runs all the way from Puli to Lugu. This looks like it might well be a good intermediate ride through hilly but not too steep countryside. The junction with 151 is at about 350 meters. If you look closely at the map of the junction area, you should be able to see some alternative routes that will cut down your time on 131.

Just after Lugu Elementary School (鹿谷國小), we turned left on Renyi Road (仁義), also known as Nantou Route 56, and headed toward Phoenix Valley, which is in fact a beautiful gorge with excellent swimming holes at the bottom. The road eventually peters out at a place called Tiandi 田底 (not shown on Google Maps), and you turn right and go up the hill. Unfortunately, about .5km in there is a massive landslide that now blocks access to Xinyi and Highway 21 (see this this news report in Chinese). The slide is 500 meters across and 100 meters deep but may be passable for the very adventorous since the mountain has slid away leaving mostly bare rock. The main problem would be getting down from the edge of the road to the surface of the slide area about 3 meters below. Note that Google Maps is very inaccurate in this area--the Nantou road map at 711 is much better. Maximum altitude at top of the gorge is around 850 meters.

We doubled back to Renyi Rd. and took a left just after Fenghuang Elementary School (鳳凰國小) at 700 meters on Ertu Rd., which comes out on 151 in the pleasant town of Guangxing (廣興) at 500 meters. From here, we took Guangfu Rd. (光復) at the 711 down to the river and then hung a left after crossing the river onto Aixiang Rd (愛鄉). Guangfu, incidentally looks like a good alternative route to 151 from Jhushan (竹山). A few kilometers before Hanya (和雅) we camped in a bamboo grove off the road at about 750 meters.

The next morning we took Aixiang Rd. all the way to the last junnction with 151 and on to Xitou at about 1100 meters where we had breakfast. From there, Sishan Rd. (溪山) road took us up a series of moderately difficult switchbacks to a pass at 1800 meters. Here we turned right on Nantou 47 (投47線), which is marked on Google Maps as the Da'an Forestry Rd. (大鞍林道) Sanchalun Branch (三叉崙支線). The terraced teafields along this spectacular road are know as the Heavenly Ladder (天梯) and for good reason. Bring your camera. Despite the forestry road moniker, these roads are roughly paved with concrete. Road bikes not advised although my hybrid with 1.25" slicks did fine.

Originally we had planned to take Nantou 54 (投54線) down 36km to 149A (149甲) in Caoling (草嶺) and on to Fencihu, but a landslide before the junction forced us to make a difficult detour through the tea fields above the slide. With just a few hours of daylight left, we enjoyed the long downhill into Jhushan on 47. Note this news report from October of this year reporting another slide further down 54. 54 is marked as the main branch of the Da'an Forestry Rd. on Google Maps. Given the very steep terrain and the many slides, Rank highly recommends placing a few phone calls to local village chiefs in the area or doing other research to find out which roads are in fact open. The slides we saw will probably not be fixed until the summer.

Reaching Jhushan, we quickly located the Ubus Bus Station on Highway 3. Alas, posted prominently in the window was a sign stating that Ubus will now accept only bagged collapsible bicycles. We had send our bike bags home, but the station personnel told us that they were very strict about only collapsible bikes. This is another unfortunate consequence of the biking craze in Taiwan.

But repairing to a local internet cafe to study our options, Rank soon realized that a whole host of secondary train stations now will ship bicycles (託運). This service used to be restricted to main stations that shipped scooters. These services have now be decoupled. As a result, the tiny town of Linnei (林內) just across river on Highway 3 (see area map) was able to send our bikes to back to Taipei. We caught at 4:30 pm train and, after a change in Yuanlin, were back in Taipei by 8:30pm.

The many back roads, the dry, sunny winter weather, and improved bike transportation in this area mean that Rank will be back in this area soon to explore more routes soon.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Yangmingshan Riding Notes

I have never been a big fan of biking in the Yangmingshan area. Sure, it's beautiful. But there is too much car traffic on weekends and so many cyclists speeding around on road bikes that it can be dangerous. Still, since a Shilin-based rider took me up Fengguizui last summer, I've been hooked on the Xiwan Rd. ( 汐萬) that connects Waishuangxi with Wanli.

The problem with just riding up to Fengguizui is that it is too short. But if you ride over to Wanli, you are stuck on a hot, unpleasant coastal highway with a long ride to Danshui or a shorter one to Keelung. Neither of these are very exciting.

Today we tried to ride from Daping (大坪) in Wanli over to Kuangshan (礦山) in Jinshan. The idea was to rejoin the Yangjin Highway (楊金) and then take the Balaka Access Road down to Danshui from Zhuzihu.

We succeeded but may not repeat this route for some time. While the first section off the Daping Access Rd. is a very rideable single track, it later became steep and the bikes had to be carried for about 30 minutes. More skilled offroad riders will be able to ride more of this road, especially if they went in the opposite direction from Kuangshan to Wanli. The problem with doing it in reverse though would be the steep climb up the unpaved and rocky Kuangshan Access Rd. The three-way fork in the trail is on a ridge. Somehow we came out not in the parking lot but rather above the patch of geothermal activity. This forced us to descend down a steep trail and then pick our way through the geothermal activity. This Chinese-language site give s full account with some pictures--scroll down to the post by mosaico.

We left Shiling station around 7:30AM and were in Danshui by 4pm. We rode down to Danshui from Zhuzihu on the Balaka Access Road. This is a beautiful descent from around 1000 meters and has stunnning views of the ocean and the mountains. It's definitely the nicest downhill in the Taipei area.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Hero Returns: Mission Accomplished

Zhang Mingqing shows a different face in Beijing.... Page A6 China Times, 2008-10-23. That's Sun Yafu (孫亞夫) deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office on Zhang's right. Chen Yunlin was also on hand although not in this picture. Apologies for poor quality of scan.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Great Taiwan Bike Rides XII: Taipei-Fulong-Yilan

This ride goes through the back country of Taipei County through Pinglin (坪林) and out to Fulong (福隆). A short second day doubles back to Shuangsi (雙溪) and then down to Dasi 大溪 on the wonderful Shuangtai access road. See Robert's posts on hiking in this area.

From Taipei, ride out to the Taipei Zoo. My preferred route is to ride up to Fudekeng from Liuzhangli. You can also take Wolong St. (臥龍街) out to Jungong Rd. (軍功路) and left on Muzha Rd. Section 5 (木柵路).

Either way, you will want a look at this map when you reach Wanfu Bridge (萬福橋). After crossing the bridge, turn left onto Xinguang Rd (新光) Section 2. There is a little blue arrow on the map that gives the correct direction. Cross under the freeway, staying on Xinguang Rd. until it loops back onto the much larger Wenshan Rd. (文山). Here is a map of this confusing area. Stay on Wenshan Rd. all the way until it crosses underneath Freeway No. 5 and joins Taipei County Route 106. The advantage of this route is that you quickly bypass the horrors of traffic-choked Shenkeng on the other side of the Jingmei River.

On 106, you will quickly come to a junction with a couple of convenience stores, food stands, and, in weekends, a crowd of motorcyclists and bicyclists. Most people will be turning left and heading east to Pingsi. You want to go south on 106B (106乙) toward Shiding (石碇). Here is a map of the junction area. At the junction in Shiding, keep going straight on 106B. Here 106B is locally the Fengtian Rd (豐田道路). Actually you can also go right at this junction and end up on the Beiyi Highway (Highway 9) about 10 km from Pinglin.

I still prefer 106B, despite the fact that this once beautifully isolated road ( early 1990s) has been widened beyond recognition and now winds below the freeway. On the map of the area, it appear that 106B disappears, but if you zoom in you will see that it just goes under the freeway. The climb on 106B goes up to 600 meters on a forgiving grade in this direction. The downhill section into Pinglin is almost completely untouched by the freeway building in the area and the really nice parts of this ride begin here.

Just before Pinglin, turn left and go under the freeway exiting on a small road known locally as Shengsheng Road (上昇). Stay on this road and it turns into the Pingshuang Rd. (坪雙). This dreamy little one-laner is devoid of traffic. Stay to the right at the big Y junction and watch for signs for Shuangsi (雙溪). Map.

After about 15km of riding these hills at around 400 meters, you will descend into the Shuangsi valley and join Highway 2C (2丙). Take this through the impoverished town of Shuangsi all the way out to the coast and enjoy a few well-deserved beers on the beach.

Day 2

Ride back to Shuangsi on Highway 2C. Just before Daping Road (大平) crosses the river, turn left onto the Shuangtai Access Road (雙泰產業道路). Here's a map of the turnoff. If you get to the high school, you have gone too far. There is a fairly difficult climb up to nearly 500 meters, followed by a fairly flat section through a beautiful, isolated valley and then a sharp descent down into the surfer town of Dasi. From Dasi, you have a boring, flat ride on the coast onto Highway 2. In Toucheng, stay to the right and get on Highway 9, which will take you straight into downtown Yilan where you can catch the train back to Taipei and ship your bike back. A stop off in Jiaosi for a soak in the hot springs might be in order to break the dull riding after Dasi. Hint: soon after getting on Highway 9, take a right on Deyang Rd. (德陽) in Jiaosi just after the train station (map). This give access to some backroads that make for nicer riding. Much of the Yilan plain is a pit.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Great Taipei Bike Rides III: Tucheng-Sanxia loop

Here's a great ride that takes 4-5 hours from the Yongning MRT station in Tucheng. You should be reasonably fit and used to climbing if you follow my route

3:00 Arrive at Yongning Station. Ride down Zhongyang Rd. past Foxconn's worldwide headquarters toward the freeway. I have some other alternatives here.

3:10PM Arrive at freeway underpass. Turn left across traffic onto Longquan St. (龍泉街). Start a 5km climb up to abou 200 meters. Lovely shaded road.

3:40 Reach the top. Turn right at the KTVs If you turn left, you will drop back down into Tucheng right back to the MRT station. Downhill to Taipei County Rd. 110. There are some nice views here in the late afternoon. Turn right on 110, and ride for about 1km. Turn left again at the gas station. Here's a map of the area.

4:00 PM Cross the river and head south on Zhulun Rd. (竹崙). At first there are some pretty large stands of betel nut on the slopes on the other side of the valley, but it gets wild and beautiful quickly. I had intended to turn right onto Taipei County Rd. 112 (Also known as Sancengping Rd. 三層坪路) and the ride over to the 4-way junction just outside Chajiao. But I missed the turnoff and went all the way up Zhulun Rd, a ride of about 10km. Again lots of shade in the late afternoon, and easy access to a creek just big enough to have some nice swimming holes. Good views on the way up this single-lane beauty. The United Daily News has a nice writeup in Chinese of the route using 112.

5:30PM Arrive at the Xiongkeng Recreational Farm. c. 750 meters. They have signs with the distance going up the whole way. An incredible sunset view of the entire Taipei basin. Better than anything you will see on Yangmingshan. There is a concrete access road out the back that is closed to regular vehicle traffic and NOT on the maps. This road will take you across the ridge at around 800 meters and then drops very steeply down into Youmu Village (有木). You must have a light for this section. There are a few turnoffs and no signage, but just stay on the road.

6:15PM Arrive in Chajiao. There is a lareg hot spring resort here. Stay on the small road (Tianfu Rd 添福 on the east side of the Dabao River all the way down to Sanxia. Here is a map of the area. Turn left onto Baiji Rd. Take Zongzheng and then Jieshou roads back to Tucheng for 5 or 6km of gritty city riding. You will go under the freeway, passing Longquan Rd. to complete the loop.

7:00PM Back in at Yongning station.

You should allow another hour for coffee, views, and swimming.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Great Taiwan Bike Rides XI: Northen Cross Remix

Update: Here's a Google map. Also, the trail between Taipei County 113 and Taoyuan County Road 119 has been graded and covered with gravel. [2010-3-30]

The Northern Cross Highway is an excellent weekend ride for beginners. But once you've done it a few times, you may feel it is a bit too easy, or you may want to beat some of the traffic that can mar this ride especially during the summer holidays. Here's a variant on this classic ride that is more of a challenge, includes a few kilometers of manageable off road fun, and is almost completely free of any city riding except what you do to get to the MRT station.


6:00 AM. Arrive at Wanhua MRT station.
7:00 AM Yongning MRT Station.
7:15 AM After downing some 711 coffee we're off. The city riding can be even reduced further by just heading straight up Chengtian Road 承天路 behind Yongning Station (it's the one with the arrows), but we decided to have some fun exploring the roads parallel to Highway 3 (Zhongyang Rd. 中央路三段 in Tucheng) and were amply rewarded. I had just been thinking the other day about how little of the 'old' Taipei of the 1970s and 1980s is left. The back streets of Tucheng though are a decrepit but living museum of Taiwan's industrialization--and, I hasten to add, very pleasant and green on a bright summer morning.

From the side of the MRT station, we took a tiny lane (not on the map) parallel to Yong'an St. (永安街). Turn onto left on Yongping (永平) and then right about halfway past the middle school. Left back onto Zhongyang and then left onto Danuan Rd. (大暖路) at the the Foxconn corporate headquarters. If you really zoom in, you can see that it is possible to turn right under the freeway and continue on Zhongyang Rd. Section 4 Lane 67 past Dingpu (頂埔) Elementary School and back onto Zhongyang Rd. Section 4 , where you should turn left again. Stay on Zhongyang Rd. until it goes under the freeway, where you will see the entrance to Longquan Rd (龍泉路). Turn left on to Longquan. This is the end of your city riding until Luodong!

c. 7:45AM. Longquan Road. While that is the end of the city riding, it is the beginning of a good deal of climbing. Longquan Rd. joins Chengtian Rd. at the ridgeline between Tucheng and Sanxia. Longquan is a beautiful road that provides an invigorating climb up to 300 meters followed by a satisfying downhill down to Taipei County Road 110 also known as Ankeng Rd. (安坑路). Road 110 connects Xindian and Sanxia incidentally, but cannot be recommended because of heavy traffic and congestion near Xindian. We turned right on 110 and road for about 1km until we reached the junction with Zixin/Ziwei Rd. (紫微).

8:30AM Ziwei Rd. Ziwei Rd. loops behind Sanxia past the very active Baiji Temple, a regional center of faith at the end of fairly easy but unshaded climb up to 200 meters. After the temple, Ziwei Rd. morphs into Baiji Rd (白雞路) for a cruise downhill to the turn off for Jiatian Rd. 嘉添路. This is a left turn over a bridge after a few hundred meters you will run into a 711 store. Jiatian turns left again and doubles back toward the mountains down a pleasant country lane.

There are a couple of roads with bridges that look similar here, so make sure you are turning on the right road. Here is a map of the junction area. Obviously, you can turn at Minyi Elementary School as well.

9:00AM. We stop for some breakfast at the junction and then head up Jiatian Rd. toward the hamlet of Chajiao. By this time, the weekend traffic from Taoyuan County had really picked up as Taiwanese flocked to the hills to cool off in the Dabao River (大豹溪), which is probably Taipei County's most beautiful patch of undamed water--crystal clear water gleaming green in the sun framed by gorges that look like they are from a painting. While I really enjoy riding up the left side of the river on the Chajiao Access Road (插角產業道路), the steady flow of traffic behind me was, as we used to say in California, starting to harsh my buzz. Next time I will probably take the Zhulun Access Road (竹崙產業道路) to Chajiao which bypasses the traffic by climbing steeply over a 500 meter hill. The turn off to Zhulun Rd. is right by the Ziwei turn off on 110. This map shows the Chajiao area. Chajiao is where the roads intersect by the river on the right of the map.

9:30 AM Chajiao. Elevation c. 200 meters. Roll down the hill and turn to cross the bridge onto Taipei County Road 113, also known as the Dongyan Access Rd. (東眼產業道路). This is a tough climb up to 600 meters over about 7km. Taiwanese blogger Kevin has a detailed account of this road in Chinese and some pictures. The mid-morning sun was brutal, but we found a nice stream to cool off in.

As Kevin points out, you want to turn left at the junction at about the 6km mark. The right fork goes to Wuliao on 7B (7乙), which could make nice loop for a day ride. We turned left and continued to the end of Taipei County Road 113.

11:00AM The trail head. The trail connecting Taipei County 113 and Taoyuan County Road 119 (also known as the Fuxing Military Road 復興戰道) is the key to this route. The trail is about 2.5 km long and rises about 200 meters. Perhaps 40% is rideable going uphill. Real downhill riders could probably do 85% riding down. Bloggers Lao Song and Toujianiang have a full account with pictures (scroll down) in Chinese.

Even if you are not an offroad rider, this trail can still be recommended. There are only a few very short patches where you have to carry your bike--you can push you bike easily over the spots. We managed it with fully loaded bikes and my very poor choice of footwear (slippery leather sandals). I changed my tires to full on mountain bike tires (I've been riding on 1.25s for a while now) and P. was on hybrid slicks. Next time, I'll just leave my slicks on and walk the trail. As bike hikes go, this one one is a breeze. Much easier, for example, than the trail out Tonghouxi in Wulai, for example.

The trail is very clear. The only slightly confusing part is at the last big bend after a demolished shack, there appears to be another road/trail that goes off to the left. You want to go right.

12:45PM Emerge on Taoyuan County Road 119 (Also known on Google Maps as the Fuxing Military Road 復興戰道). 800 meters. Eight kilometer downhill.

1:15PM Junction with Northern Cross Highway (Highway 7). 250 meters. Lunch was river shrimp, cabbbage, salted pork, and fried noodles. NT$500.

2:30pm Northern Cross Star Coffee shop/rest stop. 400 meters. Slept on the benches in back and then chatted with the owner's son who will be studying environmental engineering at Tunghua University in the fall. Some late summer afternoon rains, which seems to be the pattern this year.

5:10PM Start riding again

6:30pm Arrive in Baling c. 500 meters. Stay at hotel next to the hot spring hotel. It is a few hundred NT cheaper than next door and has a very chatty and friendly owner. NT$1,300 for a double.


5:30 AM We are off early to enjoy the cool of the morning. 20 km of one of Taiwan's most beautiful roads. Cross a pass at about 1200 meters a few km after Siling. There is supposed to be a hot spring below Siling in the gorge but still haven't hiked down to check it out. The climb in this section is about 10km and is the hardest stretch on this road. A nice downhill before Mingchi. A buffet breakfast for NT$150 a head is served here.

7:30 AM Mingchi After Mingchi, there is climb of about 1.5 km followed by about 4.5km of fairly flat riding as you emerge above the Lanyang plain. Next is a glorious 18 km downhill from 1200 meters to 350 meters.

10:00 AM Arrive at junction of Highway 7A and Highway 7. 350 meters We double back on 7A to check out the roads on the south side of the river. It's 3 or 4 km to the junction of the road up to Taipinghan. Here is a map of the area. While it appears at the level of detail that the roads do not connect, in fact they do. You want to cross the bridge here from Highway 7A and then turn left onto the Datong Access Road (大同產業道路). There's no traffic at all on this road which winds through one of those seemingly forgotten corners of Taiwan. This was is longer and there a couple of climbs up to 400 meters or so, but this road is a much better choice than juts heading back down Highway 7 on the other side. The Datong Access Road becomes 7C ( 7丙) and soon we are riding through the flatlands of Sanxing (三星) and entering Luodong around 2:00pm. Here are directions to the train station.

I shipped by bike back to Taipei by checking it into the baggage room but P took his bike apart and took it with him on the train. Since it was the summer holidays, the train was packed and we had to stand in the space between the cars balancing P's bike and moving our luggage out of people's way. Finally by 4:30pm we were back in Taipei and rushing off to celebrate a friend's birthday.

All in all, a great new way to do a classic ride by cutting out city riding, beating traffic, and getting a tougher workout by climbing a few more hills.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Great Taiwan Bike Rides X: Wushe-Lishan-Luodong

Here are some pictures of the road from Wushe to Lishan.

Friday 6:30PM Arrive at HSR station and disassemble bikes. Here we made a logistics mistake. We bought tickets online figuring the HSR might be sold out at this popular time. Unfortunately, picking up the tickets took about 20 minutes and we missed the 7:00PM train and our planned connection to Nantou City. I'd been meaning to ride the Lixing Access Road for some time, so the planned changed accordingly.

7:06 PM High Speed Rail Taipei.

8:06 Taichung HSR Station. Catch bus downstairs to Puli.

9:30PM Puli. Stayed at a small hotel just off Zhongzheng Rd. NT$1000 for three. Rank usually stays at the funky Sun Wang Hotel nearby which is about the same price for a double. These hotels are a block or so away from the bus stop, which is critical when you are lugging bikes and panniers around.

8:00AM Saturday After a quick breakfast, we caught the bus up to Wushe (霧社). The Nantou bus station in Puli is at the corner of Zhongzheng and Donghua (東華). This is a local bus with no storage, so we just brought the bikes on board. 

9:30AM. Arrive in Wushe, a picturesque Atayal town perched at 1200 meters above a large reservoir. We saw some other cyclists along the way, but there is too much traffic on this busy two-lane road for Rank's taste. Stock up on water on Wushe.

10:00 AM. We cycle out of Wushe, turning left onto Highway 14A (14甲) at the end of town. Here is a map of the area. Climb up about 200 meters over five km. or so and turn left off of 14A onto the Lixing Access Road 力行產業道路. This is a gorgeous one lane road with no traffic that winds through the mountains. Taiwan cycling at its best. The network of roads back here looks more confusing than it really is. You want to turn right onto the Fushou Road 福壽路 and head down into Lishan 梨山. The first 20km or so stay at about 1500 meters, but there is a brutal climb up to about 2200 meters just before Lishan through some high altitude farming country. There are a couple of villages along the way, but don't expect anything more than a bowl of instant noodles.

8:00PM Arrive in Lishan (2000 meters) tired, hungry, and cold. Stayed at the cheapest of this tourist trap overpriced hotels. NT$2500 for three. We did find a ramshackle Taiwanese-style mutton hotpot (羊肉盧) at the end of town that helped kill the chill.

6:00AM Sunday We hit the road early heading down out of town on Highway 7A (7甲) toward Yilan/Luodong. It was pear season, and although expensive, the snow pears 雪梨 were some of the best I've ever had. Someone also gave us some beautiful fragrant local apples, the best I've had in Taiwan by far. Descend to about 1600 meters.

9:00AM Wuling Farm entrance 2000 meters

11:00AM Cross the pass into Yilan at 2200 meters.

12:00PM Nanshan 1200 meters. The beef noodle place on the left as you come into town is fantastic--huge bowls of hearty soup and noodles that they make themselves here.

2:00PM Junction of 7A and forestry road (map) to Taipingshan (400 meters). If you have enough time (c 2.5 hours) you can turn right, cross the bridge, and take the Datong Access Road (大同產業道路 and 7C (7丙) back to Luodong. No traffic on this route. Otherwise stay on 7A and cross at the Taiya Bridge (泰雅大橋) into Sanxing (三星) and head back to Luodong on 7C. This is the faster route and is a good 10km shorter with fewer climbs. The roads up to the Taiya Bridge on this side have too much fast traffic on weekends including plenty of trucks. It's not horrible, but nothing like the idyllic ride on the other side of the river.

5:00PM Luodong. To find the train station (map), just stay on 7C , which is the local Zhongshan Rd. (中山路), crossing Highway 9 and Zhongzheng Rd. until you hit the railway tracks. Turn left and you are at the station. The baggage room is on the right if you are facing the station.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Not M-Shaped After All: Taiwan's Economy and the DPP's Future

Note: this was written about a month ago when irrational exuberance over the Ma administration's opening to China was still running strong. Since then, the outlook for Taiwan's economy has become much bleaker with higher oil prices, higher interest rates, and an imploding stock market.

One of the great myths of the 2008 presidential election in Taiwan was that the economy was in deep trouble. Other than rising consumer prices, the most important piece of evidence for that thesis was the supposed erosion of the middle class. Taiwan was said to have become an M-shaped society: a society in which the income curve has two peaks, one in the lower middle class, and one at the top. Michael Turton blogged on this myth back in 2006 and it has become entrenched as piece of received wisdom in the Taipei view of the world.

In late May, the China Times ran a series of articles that examined the evidence. Despite a headline blaring the paper's Blue editorial line "Middle Class Suffers Serious Erosion since 2000," the articles actually explain that Taiwan is not an M-shaped society and that its middle class is holding up rather well considering the tremendous changes since 1980.

Let's get to the facts. According to data from the Taiwan Social Change Basic Information Database (台灣社會變遷基本調查資料庫), 44.2 percent of Taiwanese households were classified as middle class. In 2005, 39.68 percent of Taiwanese households were classified as middle class. Over the same period, middle class households' share of adjusted national income also fell modestly from 39.5% to 34.26%. Of the households that left the middle class, 57% moved into the lower class (defined as a household with income of less than about NT$680,000) while 44% actually moved upward to join the ranks of upper class households earning more than NT$1.3 million per year.

Significantly, the number of people reporting that they earn a "reasonable" income has increased from 85% in 1985 to 90% in 2005. Professor Cai Min-chang of National Taipei University explained this by a change in values. Taiwan's educated workers no longer see equate high income with success. Instead, they tend to value having interesting work from which they derive a sense of achievement. This suggests that at least a few of Taiwan's downwardly mobile may actually be highly educated people who are opting out of high income careers at least temporarily.

These figures also suggest a hypothesis that if correct would have important implications for Taiwan's political future. This research does not mean that there are no economic problems. To the contrary, they suggest that the brunt of Taiwan's economic problems are being borne not by the cosseted and fretful middle class, but rather by its working poor.

Taiwan's working poor have traditionally been the backbone of the DPP's political support. When they elected Chen Shui-bian in 2000, they were expecting that their lot would improve. While Taiwan's middle class has fared reasonably well in recent years, the same is probably not true for the Taiwan that works on construction sites in Taichung County, drives trucks in Kaohsiung, and dips plastic in moldings in Taipei County. It can be plausibly argued that the DPP was unable to effect much social change to help its constituents since the Legislature has been (and still is) firmly in the grip of an unholy alliance between some of Taiwan's most reactionary elements.

Still, the DPP's striking lack of imagination after it came to power left it struggling for a veneer of middle class respectability. The party's political elite, whose origins lie in the urbanized professional middle class, turned its gaze away from its working class constituents. The travails of the Chen family with its modest Sogo shopping sprees, petulant dentist daughter, greedy doctor son-in-law, and Berkeley PhD candidate son belonged to a narrative far removed from the concerns of the farmers and workers who supported them.

Ma Ying-jeou promised Taiwan's working people that they will soon have good jobs. Yet given the research cited in the China Times articles, the Ma administration's policy goals are misguided in the short term and politically suicidal in the long term. Premier Liu is promising to "rebuild a solid middle class" and grant salary increases to civil servants, teachers, and military (the DPP supports these as well) while his well-intentioned Minister of Labor is forced to admit that she cannot push for a rise in the minimum wage because that would increase inflation. As if an automatic raise for Taiwan's millions of public sector workers would not also increase inflationary pressure thing while leaving people working at 711 even farther behind.

The hypothesis, then, is that the DPP lost power because it failed to deliver good jobs to Taiwan's long suffering working class. Many of those votes went to Ma Ying-Jeou in March. But it seems that this Ma is ignoring his gift horse.

The Blue media likes to disingenuously recommend that the DPP 'return to its core values.' What they really mean is that they hope that the DPP will endorse the kind of center-left policies that failed to gain the TSU even one seat in the legislature while abandoning the Taiwanese nationalism that binds the DPP together. While the DPP has wisely ignored this foolishness, it would has the opportunity to expand its base again by reconnecting with Taiwan's working classes if Ma's vaunted opening to China and his antiquated developmentalism fail to deliver the jobs that he promised.

where a middle class household is defined by the international standard of a household whose adjusted income falls between 75% and 115% of the

Saturday, June 21, 2008


This Taiwanese phrase, pronounced cualedan, seems to be being used in Taiwan's mainstream media more often recently. It means 'to tremble while waiting for something bad to happen. Here the pro-Blue China Times uses it in a headline:

親綠財團法人老董 剉咧等

Green Chairmen of Foundations Tremble While Waiting [for Ax to Fall]

Perhaps A-gu will jump in with the correct romanization and characters?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

NY Times Ma Interview

An interview with Ma Ying-jeou starts with an interesting reference to technical standards:

He also called for direct sea and air cargo links across the Taiwan Strait, regularly scheduled passenger flights, the drafting of common technical standards and the creation of a system to resolve commercial disagreements.

Why would the 'international' president Ma want to bind Taiwan to China's technonationalist efforts to create special standards for China? There are plenty of more specialized examples (WAPI, CDMA), but just think for a minute about how China has developed its own special version of the Internet. Furthermore, while China may have an interest in protecting its vast internal markets from foreign competition by developing its own indigenous technical standards a la Japan, Taiwan, as an integral part of the global IT supply chain, would be ill-served by common standards with China unless the Taiwan's strategy is to withdraw from international markets to focus in the China market.

Mr. Ma ran on a platform of strengthening the Taiwanese economy through a warming of relations with the mainland while insisting that he would not talk with Beijing about reunification.

This is a grave distortion of the platform that Ma ran on in Taiwan. Take a look at the the Ma-Sieuw campaign site. First of all note the campaign slogan: Taiwan Moving Forward (Taiwan xiangqian zou). Above this slogan is a logo that reads "Ma-Sieuw in 2008" with the '8' replaced by a map of Taiwan.

The Taiwan-first theme is strongly reinforced in the Policies sections of the site which kicks off with three sections on economic policy: infrastructure, industry, and taxation. None of these say anything about "strengthening the Taiwanese economy through a warming of relations with the mainland." Instead, his infrastructure section is about spending US$81 billion on projects such as the Taoyuan Air City, modernizing Taiwan's moribund fishing ports (never mind that the fish are all gone), and yet more industrial and software parks. Or in the section on finance and taxation policy, Ma says in a campaign ad that "633 is not just a number, it is our promise to Taiwan." 633 refers to the Ma campaign promise that under the Ma administration, Taiwan would enjoy 6% annual GDP growth, less that 3% unemployment, and an average national income of US$30,000. Not a word about China.

Wikipedia's summary of Ma's economic platform is far more accurate:

Since selecting Vincent Siew as his running mate, Ma Ying-jeou has announced that the focus of his election campaign is the recovery of Taiwanese economy. ... He also labeled Siew as the would-be "chief architect" to revive the economy, because of Siew's solid economic background.

While Ma's opening to China was certainly an important campaign issue, it was never presented to the Taiwanese people in the way that the New York Times consistently presents it to its international readers.

Mr. Ma also repeated his demand that China remove the more than 1,000 short- and medium-range missiles that it has aimed at Taiwan. Their removal is needed before any peace talks can begin to end the legal state of hostility that has persisted since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, he said. China has threatened the use of force to achieve political reunification.

“The idea is quite simple: we don’t want to negotiate a peace agreement while our security is under the threat of missile attack,” Mr. Ma said.

This a KMT canard. There is no legal state of hostility across the strait unless you believe that the KMT and the CCP are still fighting the Chinese civil war. Ma's 'peace accord' means a peace deal between two political parties, not two sovereign states.

Mr. Ma conducted the interview in flawless English

Flawless? Ma's English is certainly good, but hardly flawless. At least the NYT didn't revisit the sourceless 'Harvard-educated lawyer' myth.

The Times should be commended for the next few paragraphs that give an unusual amount of space to a DPP rebuttal in which it is correctly noted that China previously rejected an almost identical offer by the DPP administration because China ddidn't like the DPP's "broader vision of Taiwanese sovreignty."

Despite the framing of this formulation as an indirect quote from a DPP legislator, I have a great deal of trouble believing that a Taiwanese politician came up with this phrase in either Chinese or English. But just for the record, let's stop pussyfooting around and tell the world what the DPP's "broader vision" has been and is: Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country whose future must be decided by the 23 million people of Taiwan. Why is it so difficult to present this simple truth to NY Times readers?

Next we lapse into uncritical Chinese nationalist formulations of current events.

Lately Mr. Ma’s energies have been focused on smoothing out a diplomatic conflict that caught him by surprise — a surge in tensions with Japan over a June 10 incident in the group of disputed islands that the Taiwanese call the Diaoyutai Islands, where a Japanese coast guard vessel sank a Taiwanese sport-fishing boat. Although Japan administers the islands, which it calls the Senkaku Islands, China and Taiwan argue that they belong to the Chinese people.

Chinese nationalists claim that the islands belong to the "Chinese people." This propagandist formulation needs special critical attention now that Taiwan and China are using it as a code word for a Chinese polity in which Taiwan loses its sovereignty just as Tibet did. Also, when asked what country the islands belonged to in Taiwan, Ma said "Taiwan", not the "Chinese people."

Protesters in both mainland China and Taiwan have demanded a formal apology from Japan.

Another howler. A few extremist protestors in Taiwan have called for a formal aplogy. The whole incident is a mad effort to stir up anti-Japanese sentiment in Taiwan in an intentional effort to derail close Taiwan-Japan relations in recent years that offend Chinese sensibilities. It also probably served the political aim of removing Taiwan's former pro-independence ambassador to Japan who did far too much to improve Taiwan's relations with Japan during his tenure.

The issue is especially delicate for Mr. Ma, who has long argued that the islands legally belong to the Chinese people.

For crying out loud! Not the Chinese people again. What Ma argued just the other day in Taiwan was :

3. SOUNDBITE: (Mandarin) Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan's President:
"Our position is that the Diaoyutai Islands are Taiwan's territory. They belong to Taiwan."

The Presidential Office's "Four-point Statement" from 12 June states:

The Diaoyutai islands are territory of the Republic of China. Geographically, the islands are affiliated islets of Taiwan and are under the jurisdiction of the Dasi Village of Yilan County's Toucheng Township. [my emphasis]

I would bet good money that Ma's doctoral dissertation also makes no mention of the "Chinese people" in this context. So what is the source for Ma's having long argued that the islands belong to the Chinese people?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Nearly Perfect

By way of contrast to the New York Times piece I blogged on the other day, Jason Dean of the Wall Street Journal delivers a nuanced, balanced piece that shows real understanding of relations between Taiwan and China. Unfortunately it is behind the Dow Jones pay wall.

The first formal talks between China and Taiwan in nine years reached deals to expand tourism and to partly roll back a decades-old ban on direct air traffic between the two rivals, extending a burgeoning détente in one of Asia's historical flashpoints.

Note how the political nature of the talks is clearly foreground. The negotiations are about 'burgeoning detente', not strengthening 'economic relations.' The incremental nature of the agreement is also carefully referred: 'expand tourism' and 'partly roll back'. A style grump though is that I can't really see how 'burgeoning', which is a horticultural word meaning to grow or to blossom, can correctly describe 'detente' which means a relaxing or easing.

The two-day talks, which began Thursday in Beijing, are the latest sign that China's government is responding positively to efforts by Taiwan's new president, Ma Ying-jeou, to improve ties despite lingering disagreements about core political issues.

Dean gets the agency of these inherently political talks correct. Beijing is now choosing to respond positively. Implicitly, it did not respond positively to the previous DPP government despite the fact that the same incremental improvements were on the table before. Beijing claimed before that Taiwan would have to acknowledge Beijing's one China principle. However, it is worth noting that other than in the meeting between Hu Jintao and Chiang Pin-kun, the 1992 Hong Kong consensus was never mentioned in the talks, nor did it appear in the agreement reached yesterday.

Back 2006, Chen Shui-bian basically offered exactly the same thing:

First, I have already said that both sides of the strait should handle the "one China" issue on the existing foundation and adhere to the principles of democracy and parity. I have also said that the existing foundation includes the spirit of 1992, which is dialogue, exchanges, and shelving controversial disputes. Today, it is not a problem of what we can or cannot discuss, for there are many things that cannot be avoided. Although we may not talk, we still cannot avoid this issue.

Then Beijing did not respond positively because it had demonized Chen Shui-bian. To their shame, most of the China-based international media went along for the ride.

Back to the Wall Street Journal account:

Mr. Ma took office May 20 promising a "new era" of peace and economic normalization with China. The eight-year tenure of his predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, was dominated by disputes over Beijing's claims to sovereignty over Taiwan and by Mr. Chen's efforts to assert the island's independence.

It probably would have been worth pointing out that Chen also came to office promising the same things and ended up with the same incremental approach based on the method of setting aside the sovereignty issue. Perhaps that is why Dean has placed "new era" in quotes.

In any event, the description of relationship across the straits during Chen's presidency is a model of balance: Beijing claimed sovereignty while Chen Shui-bian asserted independence.

It's also worth pointing out that unlike Wong (or his editors), Dean never uses the politically loaded term 'the mainland' to describe China. Throughout the article, China is China and Taiwan is Taiwan. Confucius would have been proud of this correct
use of names in the face of pressure to use wrong ones.

The rest of article sets out the details with the precision one expects from the Journal. Unlike the Times, the Journal gets the currency exchange news correct. To be fair, they had an extra day to check.

Finally, Dean points out that Taiwan-China relations do not exist in vacuum:

The improvement in cross-strait ties has been welcomed by officials in the U.S., which is Taiwan's most important international friend. The current talks come amid criticism over U.S. arms sales that threatens to complicate relations between Washington, Taipei and Beijing.

If and when Taiwan buys arms from the US, especially the 66 F-16 fighter jets, China's positive response to Taiwan will be tested.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another horrid article by Edward Wong in the New York Times on the talks in Beijing. Which is too bad because he did some very moving pieces on the Sichuan earthquake.

The agreement came on the first day of negotiations over how to strengthen the economic relationship between China and Taiwan, which the government in Beijing regards as a renegade province but which many Taiwanese assert is a de-facto nation.

This is not too bad. But notice how Beijing "regards" whereas Taiwan "asserts." China's views get a cool, rational verb that subsumes thought into the classical enlightenment metaphor of vision while Taiwan has to "'assert" itself. Beijing is a centered subject founded in its rationality while Taiwan asserts its unauthorized unrecognized subjecthood.

And it's just misleading to say that many Taiwanese view Taiwan as a "de-facto nation." The more common view is the one Chen Shui-bian used to put forward at every opportunity: Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country whose future must be decided by the 23 millin people of Taiwan. Those who subscribe to this view do not see Taiwan as a "de-facto" nation. They see it as an independent nation full stop.

Although Taiwan is the biggest investor in China and many Taiwanese businesspeople live on the mainland, there are no direct commercial flights between the two.

Is Taiwan really the biggest investor in China? Bigger than the US and Japan? Not in recent years if you look at recent FDI figures. And who really knows how much Taiwan has invested. The MAC under the DPP said US$150 billion since the late 1980s, but no one really knows. This bald assertion is not grounded in fact and lends an air of inevitability about the supposed goal of these talks--"strengthening the economic relationship." What a hoot! Why does the economic relationship need to be strengthened if Taiwan is already the biggest investor?

Everyone knows that this is not about the 'economic relationship'. It's about affirming the 1992 Hong Kong consensus on One China by the simple fact of holding the talks. Of course these talks are political. Has the Times suddenly lost the ability to explain the news?

I'm not going to bother to say anything about the craven adoption of the 'mainland' terminology.

Mr. Ma, from the Kuomintang party, was elected president on March 22 in a landslide victory on the platform of strengthening economic ties between China and Taiwan. Many Taiwanese believe their economy has stagnated in recent years while China’s has surged forward and that Mr. Ma’s predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, had failed to capitalize on the mainland’s economic growth.

Here's a heavy dose of conventional wisdom current ex-Taiwan. Yes, Ma was elected in a landslide. And yes, it had something to do with the economy. Ma was elected to improve Taiwan's economy just as South Korea's Lee Myung-bak was. Inside Taiwan, Ma presented his China policy as the means to the end of a better economy. But the real appeal of his economic platform lay in his promises to restore the glory days of Taiwan's boom economy in the 1970s and 1980s. Strengthening economic ties with China is certainly something Taiwan's business community wants. What ordinary people want are better jobs and hope for the future. If better economic relations with China help, then great. But a better economy, not "strengthening economic ties between China and Taiwan" was what Ma was elected to achieve.

Mr. Chen, the Democratic Progressive Party candidate who was elected president in 2000, favored steps toward independence, a position that has brought growing anxiety among the Taiwanese public, Chinese leaders and Americans officials in recent years.

Again, Chen did not "favor steps toward independence." Chen said over and over again that Taiwan was an independent and sovereign country and that there was no need for an already-independent nation to declare independence.

Chinese leaders and American officials may have suffered anxiety over Chen's position on Taiwanese independence and sovereignty, but outside deep blue reactionaries in Taipei, the Taiwanese public wasn't anxious at all for the reason that most Taiwanese share Chen's views and find the idea that Taiwan is anything but an independent country ludicrous at best. It is very telling that pro-Chinese nationalists in Taiwan failed to attract significant support for their repeated efforts to depose Chen outside the democratic process until after they hit on the idea of portraying Chen and the first family as corrupt. While Chen's supposed corruption caused widespread outrage connected to deep-seated anxieties over the partial globalization of Taiwan's economy, Chen's position on independence, even as misrepresented here, caused little anxiety in Taiwan.

At the moment, many Taiwanese want neither formal independence nor reunification, and they want warmer economic ties with the mainland. They are still aware, though, that the Chinese government maintains ballistic missiles pointed at Taiwan, occasionally lobbing some into the 100-mile-wide Taiwan Strait

Even pro-China media outlets know this to be untrue. Just a few days ago, TVBS, a Hong Kong owned station with close China connections, released polling data showing that

Q3. If you can choose, would your prefer Taiwan to become an independent country, or unify with mainland China, or become a state in the United States of America?
58%: Independent country
17%: Unified with mainland China
8%: Become a state in the United States of Amreica
17%: No opinion

Now Q2 in the same poll says that 58% of the Taiwanese public prefer the status quo. But this needs to be read in the context of the fact that most Taiwanese think that the status quo is Taiwanese independence. It also needs to be read in the context of Q3, which I have quoted above. Given a choice, most Taiwanese prefer independence, but when asked about the status quo, they read the question as meaning 'what would you settle for if you didn't have a choice?' But again that view needs to be recontextualized for Taiwan. Most Taiwanese think the status quo questions with the absence of any choice are silly because most Taiwanese believe that they do have a choice and expect to exercise it. Hear the echoes? The future of Taiwan must be decided by the 23 million people of Taiwan.

The two paras about the new amendment to allow exchange of the RMB are just plain wrong. The amendment treats the RMB as a foreign currency and authorizes the Central Bank and the Financial Supervisory Commission to regulate exchang of the Chinese currency even before a currency agreement or settlement mechanism has been set up between Taiwan and China. In other words, the Legislative Yuan has made RMB exchange subject to the discretion of the executive branch. All indications are that the Central Bank and SFC will soon allow Taiwanese to buy RMB in Taiwan as soon as Taiwan has an adequate supply of the currency and those agencies have amended their regulations.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Great Taiwan Bike Rides IX: Yushan By the Back Roads

The point of this ride is to ride south from Nantou County down to Chiayi but to spend as little time as possible on Highway 21, the New Cross Island Highway and Highway 18 (Alishan Highway). This ride is for fit experienced riders---you will ride up to 2,600 meters on the second day and there is a good bit of climbing the first day.


7:00PM Bag bikes and catch HSR down to Taichung.

8:00PM Catch Ubus (統聯) bus to Nantou City (南投) from Bay 16 downstairs. Bikes in luggage compartment below. This is the last bus, so don't miss the 7:00PM train.

9:00PM Arrive in Nantou. The Ubus stop is in front of a 7-11. Walk up the street past the Carrefour and the other bus stop. Hang a left and there is a cheap hotel NT$800.


8:30AM Catch bus to Jhushan 竹山.

10:00AM bikes assembled and breakfast eaten. Head east on Nantou County Road 151. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake since there is far too much traffic going up to Sitou (溪頭). Next time I will take the bus to Shuili and ride up 131 instead.

11:30 AM Lugu (鹿谷) take Nantou Route 56 east. The fun riding starts here.

1:00PM Baipuzai (白不仔). Take the unmarked road up behind the farmhouse and wind throughh the hills over to Sinyi 信義.

2:00PM Sinyi. Stay on the west side of the river and take Nantou Route 53 south to Fengguidou (風櫃斗). We were there in late December--the plum blossoms were just blooming. The road now turns into the Sinhe Access Road (信和產業道路) which winds through sleepy little aboriginal farming towns.

5:30 PM Jiumei (久美). Here we have to come down to Highway 21 for a few km until we reach Tongfu Village (同富) at the junction to the road up to the hot spring resort of Dongpu. We arrived late, so we stay at National Taiwan University's Forestry Experimental Station. It's a deal at NT$500.

Sunday--this was a long day
7:00 AM leave Tongfu by crossing a small bridge and riding up a country road on the west side of the river. No traffic at all.

8:00AM Rejoin Highway 21 40km of glorious switchbacks. One of Taiwan's most beautiful roads. Almost no traffic on a Sunday morning.

1:00PM Tatajia 2,600 meters. Lunch at Yushan National Park Visitor Center.

2:30 PM Alishan

4:00PM Shijhuo (石桌). Normally we would take 159A down to Chiayi, but it's late and that road is longer so we stay on the Alishan Highway. Traffic is heavy. You do not want to get stuck on this road in the dark on a weekday by the way. Many dangerous trucks. We were lucky and the Sunday traffic wasn't too bad. Still 159A would have been much nicer (this classic road is the starting point for many great rides out of Chiayi). If you take 159A, you can bag the bikes and catch the bus back into Chiayi at the temple complex called Bantianyan.

6:00PM Chukou. Since we were on the Alishan Highway, we caught the bus into town at Chukou and then transferred to a bus going out to the Chiayi THSR station.

9:00pm back in Taipei

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Great Taiwan Rides VIII: Hsinchu to Taipei

Update: some good pictures of the ride up to Shangyulao by a Taiwanese cyclist.

Update: [2010-3-30]: Here's a Google map of the route. Rank will be riding this in late April.

This short overnight ride takes 1.5 days. Sorry no pictures. On the first day, you will climb nearly 2,000 meters, so this should be for fit, experienced riders. One of the best rides in northern Taiwan!

Sat. 7:00 AM: Taipei High Speed Rail Station (bikes disassembled and in bike bags)

7:45 AM Arrive at Hsinchu HSR Station

8:00 AM Load both bagged bikes into new hatchback-style taxi. These taxis are usually available at HSR stations.

8:45 AM Jhudong(竹東). Take Hsinchu County Route 122 east.

9:10 AM Arrive Wufeng Bridge (五峰大橋) in Shangpingli 上坪里. Taxi fare from HSR station was NT$700. Elevation c. 300 meters

10:00 AM bikes assembled

10:05 AM Cross Wufeng bridge and head east off on Hsinchu Route 63.

10:25 AM Reach Huayuan 花園. Turn left and cross bridge to reach Hsinchu Route 63-1 that winds up out of town. Route 63-1 is also known as the Tianhu Rd. (天湖道路) Note that if you turn right and stay on 63, you will reach the Luoshan Forestry Rd. which offers nice offroad riding. Buy water and snacks here as it is a good 10km uphill to the next reliably open store.

11:00 AM Xintianhu 新天湖. c. 900 meters.

12:00 PM Arrive at junction at Tiandana (天打那) c. 300 meters after a nice downhill through Meihua Village.

12:30 PM-1:30 PM lunch and nap

1:45 PM Head east and up on Hsinchu Route 60. This road is also known as the Jinping Houshan Access Rd. (錦屏後山產業道路). The first four or five km are a gentle climb up to Naluo 那羅. Make sure you get food and water here.

2:30 PM Arrive at Daoxia 道下. The last store is here (not always open), and the real climb begins here.

5:30 PM Arrive at Shangyulao 上于老 c. 1,450 meters. There is an excellent roadstop restaurant on the left across from the police station. Make sure you order the local mushrooms. There is an inexpensive, no-frills place to stay a few doors down on the left next to a coffee shop. NT$700. A more expensive Minsu is down the hill a few hundred meters.

Sunday 6:00 AM Leave Shangyulao heading toward Mashi (馬石) and Lidongshan (李崠山). This is the Mamei Rd. (馬美道路), one of northern Taiwan's best off road rides. While steeply downhill and a bit overgrown in places, even a novice off road rider can enjoy this. Lidongshan is a historical site where a Qing general (Li Dong) established an encampment and a group of Atayal died resisting the Japanese.

8:30 AM Arrive at Sangang (三光) elevation c. 650 meters. Turn onto Shalunzai Rd. 沙崙仔 Rd.

9:00 AM Breakfast in Sule (蘇樂) at the junction with the Northern Cross Island Highway (北橫) also numbered as Route 7. You can check out Great Taiwan Bike Rides VI for details of riding the Northern Cross east out to Luodong. We needed to be back in Taipei by late afternoon, so we headed west on the northern cross toward Sanxia (三峽).

10:00 AM coffee at the Ronghua Dam (榮華大霸).

12:00 PM lunch at the Swiss Chalet restaurant. Nice views, OK faux European food. More info in Chinese and pictures from this blogger.

2:30 PM arrive at Yongning MRT station.

3:00 PM Ximending MRT station

A suggestion--since it is now possible on weekends to take your bike on the MRT's Blue Line, you may prefer to ship your bike bags home from a 7-11 in Jhudong, so that you do not have to carry them during all the climbing on the first day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More MRT Stations Opened

Apple Daily has good news for Taipei cyclists--12 new MRT stations will allow bicycles on March 1st. The combined ticket price for bicycle and rider has also been lowered to NT$80 per trip regardless of distance. Other rules are much the same. All stations are open on weekends and holidays from 6:00AM to 4:00PM. They close between 4:00PM and 7:00PM for rush hour and then reopen until the end of service that day.

The new stations are mainly on the blue line that runs east to west from Nankang to Tucheng in Taipei County. Access to these stations opens up a number of great riding possibilities in western Taipei County including the Northern Cross Highway, Shihmen Reservoir, and shorter rides in the area surrounding Sanxia.

In the other direction, access to Kunyang station makes a number of day rides that loop from the Muzha area back to Nankang more doable in a morning and greatly reduces the amount of city riding. A bike lane out to Nankang would improves things even more.

On the down side, the Muzha line remains off limits due to the small size of the cars. Taipei Station and Chunghsiao-Fuxing are also not accessible. However, Xiaonanmen near the Botanical Gardens is open.

I'll try to follow up with rides that start from the newly-opened stations, but that will have to wait until next week after I get back from riding from Chiayi to Taitung via the Southern Cross.