South Taiwan Ride 2015: Fangliao to Manzhou

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Metal fish in the sky: a monument to aquaculture on the outskirts of Fangliao.

Last summer I embarked upon a weeklong bicycle tour in the deep south of Taiwan. I began in , cycled through to , spent a day hanging out, and then continued on to , where the coastal plain narrows to a thin wedge between the mountains and the sea. There is only one road leading south from here—which meant I covered a lot of ground I had already seen while riding all around Taiwan in 2013. I didn’t mind repeating that beautiful stretch of coastline and, actually, I was looking forward to checking out some places I had breezed by on that first big tour, particularly in and .

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City to Fangliao

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A Tudigong 土地公 statue on the outskirts of .

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 , 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 rumoured to be . I didn’t know it at the time but I would spend almost the entire day riding through the historic Hakka belt of .

Fangliao Factory 枋寮工廠

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An abandoned factory ion the outskirts of Fangliao in Pingtung County, Taiwan.

Bicycle touring is one means by which I discover in . Ride in just about any direction long enough, keep your eyes peeled, and you’re bound to encounter the telltale signs of decay and neglect sooner or later. Such was the case one fine morning in June 2015 when I set out to have breakfast in , a small town along the coast of central , while en route to further south. I had barely been awake for half an hour when I noticed this partially overgrown ruin set back from the road about twenty meters.

Taiwan bicycle tour: Donggang to Kenting

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On the outskirts of Donggang.

My ride from to was a blast! I started my day in but my bicycle was already in . I left it there the night before when it started raining on my way back from the lovely little island of . 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 , 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!