South Taiwan Ride 2015: Taitung City

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The view looking northwest from Carp Mountain, Taitung City, across the alluvial plains toward the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

, the administrative capital of , was my final destination on a multi-day bicycle tour around southern in the summer of 2015. Previously I shared words and photos from every day on the road so this post will act as something of an epilogue. Start at the beginning or read the last chapter to get up to speed—or treat this as a singular post about some of what I saw in an extra day of exploration around the most remote major city on the Taiwanese mainland.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Tainan to Pingtung City

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

Bicycle touring is one of the best ways to experience . 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 . 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 to that year—so the chance to explore the backroads of at a more relaxed pace really appealed to me. I started my journey in , my favourite city in , and cycled through to , putting about 70 kilometers behind me. Gathered here are some photos from the first day of this trip, continued here.

An Overnight Trip to Keelung via Jinguashi and Jiufen

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Jinguashi from the Ogon Shrine.

Last weekend I enjoyed a couple of days outside of in the northern part of . I went there with friends, ostensibly to show them around and , the town that famously inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and ended up staying in for the night on a whim. Having recently purchased a great new phone I bombarded Instagram with numerous pictures and plenty of commentary as the trip progressed. This quick and dirty post is a collection of some of my better smartphone snapshots as well as an experiment in blogging with broader brushstrokes. Perhaps you will get a sense of how I travel: spontaneously, intuitively, and with a keen eye for details.

Postcards From Nanfang’ao 南方澳

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A fishing boat cruising through the outer reaches of Nanfang’ao harbour.

Nanfang’ao 南方澳 is a major fishing port in , , on the east coast of . It is located just south of the end of the Lányáng Plain 蘭陽平原 where a rocky headland juts out into the ocean to form a natural harbour. It opened in 1923 after development by the Japanese colonial authorities and is now considered one of the top fishing ports in the nation, often ranking in third place by measures unknown to me, and is particularly known for its record-breaking mackerel catch. Part of why the port is so productive has to do with the nutrient-rich Kuroshio Current 黑潮 (literally “black stream”), which lies just offshore.

Crossing the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan

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High in the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

In the summer of last year I was nearing the end of my first sojourn in . By the beginning of August I would be in 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 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.

First Dispatch From Zhongli

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The grand entrance to Renhai Temple in Zhongli.

Last week I moved from to , a mid-sized city of approximately half a million1 about 45 minutes down the Western Line 西部幹線 in the heart of . I have been all around the island but haven’t explored much of what you might call the “middle north”, the strongly Hakka-influenced area stretching from the rugged borders of south to that includes , , and . Perhaps by staying here awhile I will find opportunities to explore more of this part of and fill in some blank spots on my personal map.

The quirky temples of Lotus Pond 蓮池潭

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A mysterious warrior on Lotus Pond in Kaohsiung.

Lotus Pond 蓮池潭 is a manmade lake in , , widely known for its quirky assortment of pagodas, pavilions, and temples. Earlier this year I made a short stop at Lotus Pond on the way to the old walled city of Zuoying a little further south. I like exploring temples in but was mildly concerned Lotus Pond would be a bit too touristy for my liking. Turns out I had nothing to worry about—and my brief tour of the southwest side of the lake was memorable and fun.

The Old Walled City of Zuoying

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Outside the north gate to the old walled city. This gate is formally known as Gongchen Gate 拱辰門.

A month ago I embarked upon a day trip to to check out the famous temples and pagodas of Lotus Pond 蓮池潭, one of the main tourist attractions of greater . Afterwards I wandered over to have a look at the old city of Zuoying 左營舊城, originally built in 1722 by the ruling Qing Dynasty in response to the many uprisings that regularly plagued Taiwan Prefecture.

Nishinari and the way things ought to be

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Tsutenkaku and the moon.

is widely reputed to be the most run-down, crime-ridden, and dangerous part of —and about as close to a slum as you are likely to find anywhere in . This may explain the preponderance of cheap backpacker accommodation in Shinimamiya, the area just south of Shinsekai 新世界 (literally “new world”), where I stayed for a single night last May before returning to . Although I only had a few hours to work with I couldn’t resist wandering around Nishinari to see just how bad it was. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the , the festering carbuncle of , which I had wandered through on many occasions.

Scenes From Everyday Life: Wenshan, Taipei

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Street art in back alley Wenshan.

I lived in , , from October 2013 until April 2014 when I moved south to . In those six months I captured a great many photographs from in around the area, the finest of which were previously shared on this blog in a post entitled the urban landscape of Wenshan. It was my intention with that post to portray southern Taipei from the vantage point of mountaintops, hillsides, river banks, and pedestrian overpasses, with only a couple of shots from street level. This time around I would like to zoom in and share scenes from everyday life in Wenshan.