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Sunday, 23 October 2011

Taroko Gorge, Taiwan

Taroko Gorge ??? is the number one must-go destination for any visitor to Taiwan.

The name "Taroko" means "magnificent and beautiful" in the local Aboriginal language. According to an article I read, a long time ago, an Aborigine climbed into this canyon and upon seeing the beauty, he cried "Taroko!" - and so this became the name of the place.

Funny. That's the same story I heard about how Singapore got it's name.

After 2 days and 220km of cycling, I contemplated giving my legs a rest and rent a scooter instead.

Unfortunately, all the rentals here only rent to local Taiwanese. I had no choice but to do the uphill climb on my trusty bike once more.

But before that...

... an obligatory Taiwanese bubble tea stop! :D

Taroko is located 20km north of Hualien. It is a distance I can comfortably cover within an hour. On a flat road.

Due to the uphill nature of the terrain, it took me three gruelling hours just to get to the entrance gate of Taroko. It was nothing of course, compared to the rain and cold and darkness I had to battle the night before. The human body adapts, and I see the uphill climb more as an exercise than anything else.

Once I'm inside the Taroko Gorge, it was like entering a completely different world.

The Shrine of Eternal Spring ???.

Bridge of the Kind Mother ???.

Marble white rocks on the dried-up riverbed, washed and cut by the erosive power of the Liwu river they turn clean and white. Rising above them are granite covered by subtropical rainforests.

P1070196

And this is the type of landscape that continue to hug the road for the next 16km uphill. With little traffic, cool temperature and a stunningly majestic scenery to enjoy, Taroko Gorge was my slice of heaven.

As giant tour buses swerve past me, I have the luxury of taking in every detail of the stunning scenery by cycling slowly uphill.

On occasions when I found water in the river, the colour was clear and turquoise. Almost good enough to make me wanna jump in it in my cycling gear.

On other occasions when I have to cycle through kilometre-long tunnels alone with my bike, I use the loud music in my earphones to motivate me to spin my wheel as fast as I can see the sunlight.

Rockfalls are common in this area, and the authorities regularly close off walking and cycling trails for safety reasons.

People have gone missing before. With Taroko Gorge being such a large area, it would be almost impossible to get help if anyone were to get lost.

Even being in the area without a helmet can be dangerous. At one point, I was prevented from proceeding any further unless I wear their hard hats.

My plan was to visit The Tunnel of Nine Turns ???, the most spectacular of several walking trails. Also the furthers away uphill.

Yet, the further I cycle inland, the more apparent it became that I was never gonna see the top draw of the Taroko Gorge.

Many of the walking trails surrounding the area were closed due to danger of rockfall.

When I finally did arrive at Tunnel of Nine Turns, I was the only person there - a rare sight for such a top tourist draw.

P1070203

The floor was littered with stones of various sizes. Obviously, nobody is risking their lives to clean up the debris here.

The only glimpse I had of the Tunnel of Nine Turns was this.

P1070216

It was quiet. I could shout and the echoes would go on for several seconds.

As expected, the walking trail is closed. And the warnings are severe for those who go against the advice of the authorities.

Part of me felt, "Dammit! I did not cycle 220km across the entire East Coast of Taiwan to be stopped by some stupid warning sign."

Honestly, I toyed with the idea of just going down the hiking trail to have a look.

But common sense got the better of me.

Although I was disappointed, it ain't worth it to risk my life just to look at some scenery. I gotta be accountable for my loved ones back home.

So I did the sensible thing to do - I turned my bike around and proceed to ride downhill all the way back towards Hualien.

The uphill ride took me 3 hours. The downhill ride took me just 55 minutes.

Very quickly, my first every long-distance cycling journey have come to an end.

I arrived back at the Giant bike store at Hualien Train Station, ready to return my rental bicycle - which has been my sole companion for the past 60 hours. After cycling so much, somehow it felt weird to walk with my two feet again.

This is gonna sound awfully stupid, but a wave of emotion suddenly washed over me. For a moment, I actually very quite sad that I have to let go of my bike and go back to my old travelling routine of taxis, trains, buses and flights.

It was almost like breaking up with an ex-girlfriend. Very sad.

One thing I was sure of is that I had a brilliant, enjoyable and very "different" type of travel experience. Seeing Taiwan on two wheels gave me the freedom to explore. It also forces me to slow down and appreciate the finer details of this amazing country better than any other vehicle can.


I missed my bicycle as soon as I left Hualien on the train back to stuffy, overcrowded and over-commercialised Taipei.

First thing I did when I returned to Kuching...

... I went and bought myself a bike.

32 Comments

Unregistered

Kenny, why don't you try a bicycle trip from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu? :P hehe

Aww~ You make Taiwan looks so beautiful! :) My Taiwan trip wasn't that good, but I do like to visit there again for free and easy trip. :)

Unregistered

Thanks for sharing your story Kenny. You made me feel like I was there throughout the entire journey :) Absolutely beautiful...

Unregistered

Wow... worth it man.

Unregistered

so u bought a new gf (bike) to replace the ex (bike) haha. just joking. well written post and lovely pics :)

Unregistered

that's one fantastic journey!

Unregistered

Good Job.. Man

Unregistered

I entertained the idea of getting a bike (engine mounted on my legs, not on the bike) myself, but the year-long terrible heat of the country kept me from doing so... anyways, nice trip you've got there. more people should be doing something like this instead of confining their entire trip in some overcrowded city burning holes in their wallets, & getting themselves fat...

Unregistered

hahaha... i am not surprise at the end of this post that u were going to get a bike!!
anyway another very enjoyable post to read.. thanks kenny

Unregistered

Been waiting for this post too long ! haha.. nice posts kenny :)

Unregistered

Oh boy now I'm so tempted to start traveling with two wheels!

Unregistered

your whole trip is damn awesome man! i feel like having one on my own too! =D

Unregistered

aiyah... why buy new GF buy exitway? should have gotten a giant ma....
exitway bad geometry not good position for cycling..

Unregistered

Hi, Kenny.

I have a question. I recently took up brisk walking/jogging, so I want to know what are the best running shoes for a beginner like me.

Also, I have flat feet and my budget is RM250. I stay in Kuching too, so it would be better if you can recommend me shops.

If you can reply, I would appreciate it :)

Unregistered

Flat feet normally works well with wider shoes, New Balance has wider size, rounder front. although nowadays most running shoe company makes the wide shoes, my experience is NB always has the best feel for flat feet.

Unregistered

unfortunately, there's no New Balance in Kuching.. huhuhu.

Unregistered

Epic bike journey! Well done Kenny

Unregistered

Great posts!
I once visited there too but as I can't rent a motorbike as well, So my friend and I got a cab instead. The scenery just flashed through the windows very fast, too bad I didn't get to see and enjoy the place at a slower pace like you did :(

The taxi driver is a great guide though XD

Unregistered

heh now u know its a no no to cycle alone (see poster of missing boy)

Unregistered

It's such a bummer Tunnel of Nine Turns is still closed. You've got the shrine name right: Eternal Spring Shrine (???) Did you climb over a K to the top? View is magnificient there. And... LOL @ Bridge of Kind mother.. Direct translation huh? They just called it "Cimu Bridge" (???)

We were told by the car rental rep that "Seven Star Beach"(???) is a MUST SEE, little did he know coming from NZ myself, it's nothing new, really... Nevertheless, a clean leisurely spot with airforce training ground just opposite the place. Awesome!

Great job, Kenny!


Unregistered

wah seh.. so syiok arr ! seem like it is a great place to visit but cycling is never my type of sport..

but the tunnel of nine turns is definitely amazing

Unregistered

Beautiful pictures and an excellent decision you made in buying a bike. Have more fun trips with that trusty mode of transportation. ;D

Unregistered

You should try to ride a bicycle up your arse and see if it feels as good as your Hualien trip.

Just joking!

Unregistered

good going

Unregistered

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Unregistered

nice to see your cycling trip in taitung/hualien. btw i always see those warning signs when i go to taroko national park. they're there 24/7 serving as disclaimer, just in case. but people walk through those trails anyways, especially on weekends when families go on picnics.
so maybe.. haha maybe you could have walked in.. well all the more to visit again?

Unregistered

Hi Kenny
TAIPEI is not really over commercialised.
Its a fantastic place. Where else can you find people that will be kind enough to follow personally to help you out when lost for directions? And it is so safe. No fear of bad people even on lonely streets. Can't say the same for KL...

Unregistered

love this post. thanks

Unregistered

Kenny, your Taiwan postings inspired us to cycle in Taiwan. We went in January, and cycled from Hualien to Taitung on Highway 11.

The locals were very hospitable, and it really made the trip more enjoyable.

I was very glad we had better luck with the GIANT bikes. In fact, I was very impressed with the Giant service. They even had shower facilities when we dropped off our bike at Taitung. Definitely will cycle in Taiwan again!!

kennysia.com

I love your comment! Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!

I hope Highway 11 wasn't too busy with traffic for you. I prefer to cycle in quieter Highway 9 more.

Unregistered

Wow, you cycled there. I love that place too and I just blogged about my trip here: http://life-bite.blogspot.sg/2012/09/taroko-national-park-taroko-gorge.html

The Leader Village Hotel I stayed in was perfect!

Unregistered

Taroko Gorge still looks magnificent as ever. We explore the Hualien and Taroko by hiring transporter at that time. But it looks more fun to go around with a bike :)

Unregistered

Hi, thanks for sharing your story! My friend and I are planning our cycling trip down Taroko George and your post is immensely helpful! Could you please let me know the contact number/email address of Giant Bike Shop? We are going there on a weekend and was thinking that we should contact them up to make a reservation first. Thank you so much!

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