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 .

Tsai Ing-wen Historic Home 蔡英文古厝

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Tsai Ing-wen’s childhood home in the village of Fenggang.

One of the more unexpected finds on my recent bicycle tour through the deep south of was the childhood home of Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文 (pinyin: Cài Yīngwén), current chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party and presidential contender in the upcoming 2016 general election. I was vaguely aware that she was born in in , the southernmost county in the nation, but hadn’t known any more than that prior to taking a short detour through the old fishing village of Fēnggǎng 楓港, founded in 1765 according to Chinese language Wikipedia. Imagine my surprise when I saw a small sign on the main road through town that directed me to Chairman Tsai Ing-wen Historic Home 蔡英文主席古厝!

When I arrived the courtyard was initially littered with trash. Several locals noticed my arrival and one quickly went to fetch a broom and clean up. I made what little conversation I could manage, not even knowing if my Mandarin was understood, and we all laughed about the absurdity of some random white guy on a bike riding over and taking an active interest in such an obscure place.

Anyhow, there you have it: the childhood home of the woman who might be the next president of Taiwan. And if that’s the case they’re going to have to get a new sign!

Update: Tsai is Taiwan’s president-elect and, just as I predicted, her childhood home is already in the news!

A False Tunnel on the Coastal Plains of Pingtung 嘉和遮體

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A railway tunnel on the coastal plains of Pingtung.

Here is yet another roadside curiosity in the deep south of : a false tunnel on the coastal plains of , . It doesn’t cut through any mountainside nor is it built to withstand landslides. It’s just an 1,180 meter tunnel that trains pass through for no discernible reason. I first read about this on Michael Turton’s blog and later saw it on my first round-the-island bicycle tour. More recently, which is to say just a few days ago, I took a spin through the southern loop once again, and spent a little extra time examining this concrete oddity in an attempt to divine its purpose.

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!