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Synapticism

An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Road Trips

Hit the road, Jack. See also: travelogues.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City to Fangliao

Tudigong statue on the outskirts of Pingtung City
A Tudigong 土地公 statue on the outskirts of Pingtung City 屏東市.

After spending a day riding around Pingtung City I was ready to hit the road again. With no specific destination in mind—only an intention to head in the direction of Héngchūn 恆春, far to the south—I checked out of the vintage homestay I lodged at the previous night, stopped at Eske Place Coffee House for a delicious and healthy vegetarian breakfast, changed into cycling wear, and exited the city to the east. I knew almost nothing about where I was headed or what I might see on the third day of my south Taiwan ride in 2015. I only had one stop planned in advance: a hospital in Cháozhōu 潮州 rumoured to be abandoned. I didn’t know it at the time but I would spend almost the entire day riding through the historic Hakka belt of Pingtung 屏東.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Tainan to Pingtung City

Tainan country roads
Riding through the countryside in southern Tainan 台南. This looks remarkably like the area near where I grew up.

Bicycle touring is one of the best ways to experience Taiwan 台灣. I don’t have an opportunity to go touring as much as I’d like but managed to find some time last year, in June of 2015, to embark upon a multi-day bicycle trip around southern Taiwan 台灣. My intention was to cover some of the same territory that I had rushed through on my first bicycle trip down south in 2013. I ended up racing a typhoon from Kenting to Taitung City 台東市 that year—so the chance to explore the backroads of Pingtung 屏東 at a more relaxed pace really appealed to me. I started my journey in Tainan 台南, my favourite city in Taiwan 台灣, and cycled through Kaohsiung 高雄 to Pingtung City 屏東市, putting about 70 kilometers behind me. Gathered here are some photos from the first day of this trip, continued here.

Postcards From Meinong 美濃明信片

On the road somewhere between Qishan and Meinong.
On the road somewhere between Qishan and Meinong.

I briefly visited Meinong in July of 2014 while cycling around southern Taiwan 台灣. I hadn’t done any planning prior to arrival and knew nothing of what I was getting myself into nor what sights I should have made an effort to see. I was navigating almost exclusively by instinct, riding in whatever direction seemed interesting, simply to see what was there. Gathered here are several of my photos from a few uninformed hours in this bucolic rural township in Kaohsiung 高雄.

Crossing the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan

High in the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan
High in the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

In the summer of last year I was nearing the end of my first sojourn in Taiwan 台灣. By the beginning of August I would be in Canada for a wedding in the family with no idea what I’d be doing after that. Since I wasn’t sure if I would be returning to Taiwan I made vague plans to go on a road trip. With only about a week to go before my departure the weather took an ominous turn as Typhoon Matmo 麥德姆 barreled toward the island. On July 20th, with the pressure of time bearing down on us, my girlfriend and I hopped on a 125cc scooter—the same kind of dinky, puttering scooter you see people riding around any Taiwanese town—and set out from Changhua 彰化 with the goal of crossing the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 at Wǔlíng 武陵, the highest paved (and publicly-accessible) mountain pass in Taiwan at 3,275 meters above sea level. With luck, time and weather permitting, we’d be able to visit Héhuānshān 合歡山 and maybe even drive down into the amazingly scenic Taroko Gorge 太魯閣峽谷 on the east side of the island.

Nantou’s Misty Lotus Forest 忘憂森林

Into the misty mountains
Into the misty mountains we go…

Collected here are a series of dreamlike photos from a road trip into the misty mountains of Lùgǔ 鹿谷 in Nantou, central Taiwan 台灣. I undertook this trip with a friend in July 2014. Our goal was the Lotus Forest 忘憂森林 (pinyin: Wàngyōu Sēnlín), also known as the Misty Forest 迷霧森林, a high mountain bog formed in the aftermath of the catastrophic 921 earthquake when a landslide altered drainage patterns, forming a small lake and drowning part of the existing forest. At an elevation somewhere close to 2,000 meters, the Lotus Forest is often shrouded in thick fog, imbuing it with an eerie mystique that attracts Taiwanese people from all over the island.

Taiwan Bicycle Tour: Donggang to Kenting

On the outskirts of Donggang
On the outskirts of Donggang.

My ride from Dōnggǎng 東港 to Kenting was a blast! I started my day in Kaohsiung City but my bicycle was already in Dōnggǎng 東港. I left it there the night before when it started raining on my way back from the lovely little island of Liúqiú 琉球. That meant I had to take public transit for about two hours before hitting the road for real.

After a small but expensive Western-style breakfast near Kaohsiung Arena 高雄巨蛋1 I went underground to Xiaogang MRT to catch the bus, route 9117, back to Donggang, with all my stuff. Since it was a holiday I had booked a hotel in Kenting, about 80 kilometers down the road. I also arranged to meet a friend of mine down there later in the evening. So much for going with the flow: on this particular day I had a specific destination and a schedule to stick to!

A Long Ride Across Central Taiwan

Outside my front door in Tainan
Outside my front door in Tainan.

I have been working very hard these last few weeks—a little too hard, at times. To break the monotony of laying code every day I elected to go for a proper ride yesterday. Since moving to Tainan City 台南市 I haven’t gone on any long rides whatsoever—so I geared up for a day on the road, preparing for almost any eventuality. I had several destinations in mind such as the badlands to the east of the city but struck out to the north on a whim, intending to make it to at least Chiayi City 嘉義市 by sundown.