Road Trips

Hit the road, Jack. See also: travelogues.

Nantou Road Trip 2015: Puli

A stone lion at the Puli City God Temple remains blindfolded until renovations are complete.

Pǔlǐ 埔里 was my home base for several days of road tripping and adventure around Nántóu 南投 in October 2015. Recently I decided to publish my findings and impressions from this trip despite not knowing much about what I was seeing at that time. Most of the other posts in this series document trips from one place to another but in this post I’m focusing on some of what I found within city limits, starting with some history to put everything in context.

Nantou Road Trip 2015: Ren’ai

Descending Into Wujie Village and the Zhoushui River Valley. This is the view after passing through the Zhoushe Tunnel.

My second day on the road in Nantou County in October 2015 was completely unplanned. I left Pǔlǐ 埔里 and headed deeper into the mountains simply to see what was there, not having done any advance research. From a glance at the map I had a rough idea where I’d be going—deeper into traditional aboriginal lands to the east of Puli Basin 埔里盆地. Ultimately I ended up visiting several settlements and two reservoirs in a few hours of riding around what is now known as the township of Rén'ài 仁愛.

Nantou Road Trip 2015: Taichung to Puli

The sluggish Wu River sweeping through the eastern plains of Caotun Township, Nantou County.

In October 2015 I set out from Taichung 台中 to attend a music festival in Nántóu 南投, the landlocked county in the mountainous interior of Taiwan 台灣. Since I don’t often have an opportunity to ride a scooter I allocated some extra time for onward exploration and ended up visiting many interesting and wonderful places, many of them quite obscure. What follows is the first part of a mostly visual record of this road trip around the geographic center of Taiwan…

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Pingtung City to Fangliao

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

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 墾丁 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 Qíshān 旗山 and Měinóng 美濃.

I briefly visited Měinóng 美濃 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.

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 we go…

Collected here are a series of dreamlike photos from a road trip into the misty mountains of Lùgǔ 鹿谷 in Nántóu 南投, 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 2013: Donggang to Kenting

On the outskirts of Donggang.

Eleven days into riding all around Taiwan I reached Kenting 墾丁 at the southernmost tip of the island. I started my day in Kaohsiung City 高雄市 but had to retrace part of my route to reach my bicycle in Dōnggǎng 東港. I had left it there the night before after a rainstorm struck on my way back from the lovely little island of Liúqiú 琉球. This ensured I’d be off to a late start—but I was in no particular rush. I had around 70 kilometers of road ahead of me and few stops planned.

A Long Ride Across Central Taiwan

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.