« Don't Go To University For The Sake Of It | Main | Journey To Hualien »


Saturday, 10 September 2011

Cycling Along The East Coast Of Taiwan

I am an indoor cycling instructor.

I am also an avid adventurer. When I travel, I hate just going to whatever city the international airport is located. I wanna go out of my way, see things at my own pace, preferably in my own vehicle.

On the 1 June, I decide to combine two of my biggest past-times - cycling and travelling - on my trip to Taiwan.

I have long heard about the beauty of Taiwan from many of my friends. The 220km eastern coast of Taiwan is particularly renowned for being the most scenic in the entire island. Add a relatively flat surface, an abundance of bike service stops and a well-accepted cycling culture in Taiwan - I'm looking at a perfect holiday adventure right there. :)

There is only one problem.

I may be an indoor cycling instructor, but I have never cycled long distance outdoors before in my life. This was the first time I'll be making such a long journey on a bicycle, and although I was a little bit afraid, I was also quite excited.

The plan was to cycle from Taitung in the south-east of Taiwan to UNESCO World Heritage listed Taroko Gorge in the north-east. Taking into account rest stops and side-trips, I estimate the journey to take 3 full days.

GIANT is Taiwan's largest bicycle manufacturer, and they are amazing. I had booked my touring bike with GIANT beforehand. When arrived to pick up my bike from Taitung train station, the shopkeeper had already fully equipped it with tools, bags and all.

The rental comes up to around RM150 for 3 days - a bargain for such a good bike.

This bicycle is gonna be my best friend for the next 3 days.

The great thing about long-distance cycling in Taiwan is that you can hire a high-quality touring bicycle from a GIANT shop located at most major train stations like in Taitung, then drop it off at the GIANT shop at your destination. This saves a whole lotta hassle of carrying the bicycle back to Taitung when I reached Hualien.

And so, I was ready to start my virgin long-distance bicycle journey, when sudddenly...

... IT STARTED RAINING! #@%*$!

But what to do? I have already made my plans. Suck it up and continue pedalling, Kenny.

With a helmet over my head, and a yellow poncho underneath that, I began kilometre 1 of my 220km journey.

There are two main highways connecting Taitung to Hualien. Highway 9 is atop the mountains, where the air is cool and the road passes through green paddy fields and interesting aboriginal villages.

Highway 11 hugs the coast and the basaltic rock formations by the sea. Both are interesting, but Highway 11 was the road I took.

"Siaoyeliu" ??? was an interesting stop about 20km in from Taitung.

Here, the rocks look like tofu.

And crabs look like rocks.

A local cyclist saw my bicycle with luggage, and approached me asking if I'm doing the "round-the-island" bike trip. I politely replied that I am a noob (what's "noob" in Chinese?) cycling the east coast only.

It would love to continue chatting, but it was raining and I have quite a distance to cover, so I continued pedalling.

Further down from Siaoyeliu, a signboard popped up in the middle of the road pointing to a visual oddity called "Water Running Up" (????).

When looked from the bridge, it really did seem like the water is running up.

See if you can figure out why.

dulan

The rain was beginning to subside a little bit by the time I crossed the next town on Highway 11. It was a town with an interesting name.

P1060568

"Dulan".

Everything in Dulan is Dulan.

They have Dulan people.

Dulan schools.

Dulan cows.

Dulan Hand Made Bread. For real.

I didn't wanna stay too long in Dulan because everyone was really dulan. But then barely 3km past the town of Dulan, a really dulan thing happened to me.

I don't know if my bike hit a rock or what, but my ride suddenly becomes less smooth as I continued pedalling. Before I knew it, the back wheel started bouncing erratically.

It was so bad I couldn't continue my journey.

And that's when I realised the most dulan thing of my entire trip had happened.

IMG_2708

MY BICYCLE TYRE HAD PUNCTURED.

So there I was in the middle of nowhere, still soaking wet from top to toe because of the rain earlier, as I wheeled my bike into a wooden shack on the side of the road.

Frustrated, I took up a handheld pump in an attempt to inflate the wheel.

Nothing.

I ran my finger through the tyre searching for holes.

NOTHING.

An old man wearing a face mask sauntered out of the wooden shack where I was seeking shelter. Speaking in Taiwanese Hokkien, he asked me what's wrong. I explained to him my predicament. But there was nothing he could do.

A phone call to the Giant bike shop I rented my bike from didn't help either. I was accosted for taking the road less travelled. Giant have plenty of bike service stations along Highway 9, but they couldn't help me since I took Highway 11.

I had no choice but to act quick as the sun was setting. So I did something that no respected adventurer would do.

I hailed down a cab.

The cab wasn't even available when I hailed it down from the roadside. A passenger was already sitting inside the cab, but she saw I was in trouble and therefore let me share the ride with her. She even said because I'm a visitor from outside Taiwan, and it's her duty to take care of me. I was so touched!

Feeling relieved but shameful at the same time, I got inside the big yellow taxi.

So, from Dulan, I hitched a free ride all the way to ChengGong, the next town 37km along Highway 11.

The cab driver dropped me right off at a dingy little bicycle repair shop. It wasn't an authorised Giant bike shop, but what choice do I have?

I was quoted NT150 (RM15) to replace the bicycle tyre.

Barely 5 minutes after I set off from the bike shop, the tyre punctured AGAIN! So I returned to the bike shop once more, paid him NT150 once more before I set off on my journey once more.

The tyre seemed to hold up better the second time round and I was confident enough to pedal my way out of Chenggong and onto the highway. This time I prayed hard that my bike tyre will last me the rest of the 220km journey.

No such luck.

2km out of Chenggong, the tyre went completely flat again as I free wheeled along Highway 11. With no roof over my head, I contemplated staying a night in a tunnel before the fear of being raped by a gang of bored Taiwanese truck drivers quickly put me out of that thought.

I decided not to take any risks any more.

The time was 8pm as I freewheeled down to the nearest shelter to phone a cab. The adventurer in me died a little as a I hopped into the taxi again, but this time to the nearest Giant authorised bike repair shop, 40km across the mountains in a town called YuLi on Highway 9.

Perhaps, being forced to switch to Highway 9 is a blessing in disguise.

YuLi is located in an area best known for its hot springs. After an entire day cycling in the rain, a hot bath and a good bed are two things I desperately need.

This is the cheapo hot spring hotel I checked in. Only NT900 (RM90 a night).

It was obvious the hotel was terribly under-utilised. I didn't have reservation, but that's not a problem because there wasn't even anyone staying at the hotel. I walked right in, paid cash to the owner who promptly showed me my bedroom.

There were lizard poo all over the bed, but that's okay. The owner swept them all onto his hand and threw them outside.

No big deal to do so in front of the customer, obviously.

The hot spring water was piped right into the bathtub. I made sure there were no lizard poo in the tub before I sat in.

It was so warm and soothing. They say the spring water here is so refreshing they could use it to make coffee.

I never tried. I don't wanna accidentally swallow lizard poo.

Using the hair dryer creatively to dry my shoes, gloves and towel.

Eventhough the hotel was basic, dirty and somewhat crappy, I was thankful that at least my bike was fixed and that I have a place to sleep.

Sometimes, all it takes is the thought of being cold and alone to make you appreciate the simplest things in life.

60 Comments

Unregistered

Nice! =)

Unregistered

I don't think i can do what you did.
- Cycling alone.

Unregistered

i dont understand what you mean by water running up..i dont get the video!!

Unregistered

i tried cycling in juz hualien my tyres punctured twice too! and shortly after i changed the tyre too! isit something their roads r made of that punctures tyres? wonder how the cyclists cycle there... =-="

Unregistered

wow.. i'm so superjealous of u... always tot of doing dat, juz don't have the opportunity to do it...

Unregistered

Great post kenny I snorted coffee out of my nose when I saw you in your cute yellow poncho. LOL.

Dammnnn unlucky lar.. u were wearing a skinsuit to minimize resistance also.. I can't even imagine the additional drag caused by that and yet you kept going.

My only complaint is that you didn't mention whether you decided to keep going after fixing your bike!

Looking forward to the next entry~! Knowing your past ventures in marathons, I have faith that you'll finish the 220KM journey~

Maybe.

Unregistered

better learn to change a bike tyre now and bring spares so you'll be ready for the next trip. there was this guy who cycled down from Kelantan back to Singapore at http://pedaldamnit.blogspot.com/ (pity he got knocked down by a drunk). it's a pity taiwan is undervisited; could become a great tourist destination one day.

Unregistered

Any part 2? I'm looking forward to travel Taiwan too so need some advice =)

Unregistered

LMAO at the dulan part LOL!!!!!!

Unregistered

I'm so impressed with this adventure that you chose to embark on. This is something I would never be able to do, summore alone. My hats off to you.

If i were you withal those unlucky obstacles, i would take that as a sign that I'm probably not meant to do thus and just quit. You the man!

Love the city of Dulan. Love your picture with the sideboard the most!

Can't wait for Part 2 of the adventure.

Unregistered

that looks like a good trip. Surprised you didn't have some means to repair your own tyre though - isn't that to be expected when you are doing a bike trip?? or is it too much extra gear to carry.

Like the idea of being able to rent all the gear tho.

Unregistered

Dulan. LOL. A dulan thing happened to you in a dulan place filled with dulan things. I can't stop laughing.

Unregistered

Good to see the punctured tyre. It'll AT LEAST serve as a punishment for u. Reason? For leaving the blog for more than a month. Hopefully next time, your car tyre will be punctured instead of bicycle. Do blog abt it when your car tyre puncture.

Unregistered

RUDE!

Unregistered

Rude is when you dont have a big heart to accept one's comment, and retort in a bad manner.

Unregistered

Rude is when you redefine the meaning of 'rude'.

Unregistered

Well said indeed...

Unregistered

Nice post Kenny, btw noob in Chinese should be ???if not mistaken. Good luck man!

Unregistered

the dulan place really make me laugh like mad

Unregistered

Wow a 220km cycle across Taiwan. Is there going to be a part 2 to this story?? :D

Unregistered

Mr. Kenny, I am impressed!

Unregistered

I love your adventural Blog.
Keep coming!

Unregistered

Very nice, How much it cost for the whole trip?

Unregistered

We did the same path but took the public bus. I still think of Chenggong sometimes, its the small town that we resort to stop by as we cannot get any direct bus to Taitung.

Unregistered

Wow! I love adventure and cycling too! Really hope I'm able to have a trip like this in the future.

Unregistered

this is amazing! kenny, please do advise if i wanna do this trip!

Unregistered

dun gek gek lah...trying to advertise for giant izzit u midget!

kennysia.com

No. I used a Giant bike because it's the only bike rental place available at both my origin and destination. I wasn't asked to advertised for them. I even criticised their customer service in my post.

Unregistered

I love this post! Simply amazing.

Unregistered

Hi Kenny,

Wow, that was very adventurous

Can't wait for your next post on this journey till the end =)

Unregistered

Kenny, why pretend that this is a trip when it's obvious you are being PAID by GIANT to write this? Product placement and full of mentions of this GIANT. Why don't you labbel it as ADV anymore?

You just lost all your credibility Kenny.

kennysia.com

I was not pretending.

It's not labelled an ADV because it was a personal trip. I used a Giant bike because it's the only bike rental place available at both my origin and destination. I wasn't paid by them. I even criticised their customer service in my post.

Unregistered

Look asshole, just becuz he mentioned the company that the bike he's using belongs to doesn't mean he's advertising for them ok. if he was advertising for them, he'd have written it more formally & sing praises near the end. you see any of that??...

Unregistered

the tyres went flat a couple of times, so I highly doubt this was a "paid advert" by Giant. Normal post or ADV, weekly post or monthly post, you will ALWAYS have ppl criticising anything you do....

Unregistered

Give him a break-la... He just wrote a great travel blog, and yet kena kutuk...

Unregistered

Don't feed the troll!

Unregistered

I think it's entirely within his right whether he wanted this post to be an ads or merely another travel journal. So what if it is/is not? At least it gives people who reads this blog ideas and alternatives for future Taiwan trip.

Don't mind them Kenny, I think it's amazing how free-spirited you are, being able to take a trip by yourself let alone on bike. I'm amazed how you can turn your travel to more than mere leisure/shopping trip like most of us do. Keep it up man!!!

Unregistered

Why u so jealous of Kenny?

Unregistered

What makes you made up your mind for taking up this adventurous ride? I always have this idea but apparently alot of excuses hold me up, what if i was run over by a car etc...what really motivates you? I really interested to know. Btw, this is my first post since has been follow your blog for the past 2 years :-)

Unregistered

like this post! keep 'em coming...

Unregistered

kenny, please do advise if I want to do the trip as well!

Unregistered

wow this is seriously boring...btw the reason why your tyre keep going flat is because you're too farking fat. doing all these bs doesn't make you a better person. you're just wasting your time, so get a life...

Unregistered

U should get a life first!! If he is so boring, or rather if u find his blog uninteresting, why the hell u reading it? U r such a loser

Unregistered

Kenny,
Did you finished the trip ?

Unregistered

noob = ??

Unregistered

vegetable bird

Unregistered

a numb boob?

Unregistered

I think I'll cry in the middle of the road if such 'dulan' thing happened to me T_T

Unregistered

Good for you! You are probably the first certified RPM instructor from Kuching. Do you teach Challenge class as well?

Unregistered

Such thin tires for all that weight behind? should have given u thicker tires. maybe that's why the tire keep puncturing.

im surprised they didnt give a spare tube and hand pump since you're doing such a long haul.

interesting post. i ride MTB alot and i own a giant too. didnt know such facilities existed in taiwan.. i will try out this trip one day..

Unregistered

OMG THEY RAPED KENNY!!! I so wanna say that!!!

Seriously, i know you're like all hyped about being fit and everything but mannn. - Safety first LOL. This is one CRAZEHHHH Bike Ride!!. At least keep a tazer or something right?? :O

Unregistered

This is so cool that you have gut to do it all alone. cowboy you ate rock! Try to do it one more time in Singapore as well. Big salute to you bro!

Unregistered

wow kenny! love travel posts like these! Please do more of them!!

and seriously, aren't u too told to give a rats ass about how morons think about u? :P

please direct your energy to those who support you and love your work!!! :) :)

Unregistered

too old*

Unregistered

Wow, Kenny, you are very fit. That is a very long journey and you are riding bicycle. Salute.

Unregistered

1) The Dulan road sign really cracked me up. Good one!

2) Your blog posts since many years ago, that includes your marathon and travelling posts, have inspired me a lot. A sincere thank you for that. In fact, I have recently completed my first 10K and I look forward very much to run my first half and then full marathon in the future.

Keep it up, whatever it is, Kenny.

Unregistered

go Kenny go! I like your positive spirit! That was quite similar to my solo travel to Taiwan in July as well. But I was not as hardcore as you, on the bike all the time. I was taking train and bike along the coast line. It was the greatest time in my life I must say.

Hey, some of your entries are quite jelak. (ha ha) But some of them are amazing. You know your virgin Marathon race was truly inspiring. That was like 5 years ago, right? You inspired me to run marathon too. Though I have not reached the 42km yet but it would not take too long to achieve by end of this year.

keep up all the positive energy and spread them to the youth, the younger generation need a role model like you.

Unregistered

You sure had me in stitches! I was laughing so hard re your Dulan episode. You are one amazing guy!Hats off you!

Unregistered

U are brave bro. Cycling alone.

Unregistered

Hi! What a great motivation to do this after have a long flight from Malaysia. I have did cycling few days ago 01/09-2013-12/09/2013, i was cycling round the Taiwan but not only eastern coast.

Leave a comment

Live Updates


Recent Comments

Monthly Archives


Site Statistics




'Best Travel Blog' Finalist 2011

'Best Micro-blog' Winner 2011

'Best Entertainment Blog' Winner 2010
Close