Last summer I embarked upon a weeklong bicycle tour in the deep south of Taiwan. I began in Tainan 台南, cycled through Kaohsiung 高雄 to Pingtung City 屏東市, spent a day hanging out, and then continued on to Fāngliáo 枋寮, 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 Fāngshān 枋山 and Héngchūn 恆春.
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.
Bicycle touring is one means by which I discover many abandoned places in Taiwan 台灣. 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 Fāngliáo 枋寮, a small town along the coast of central Pingtung 屏東, while en route to Héngchūn 恆春 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.
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!