My fifth day of riding around southern Taiwan in June 2015 delivered me to the most remote parts of the island’s 1,139 kilometer-long coastline. On the previous day I rode from Fāngliáo 枋寮, on the southwestern coast, around Héngchūn 恆春 and into the foothills of the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 to reach Mǎnzhōu 滿州, one of the last places to find lodging before forging on to Taitung. I had already taken this route while riding all around Taiwan in 2013 so I was familiar with the territory, but that first tour was so rushed that I hadn’t been able to enjoy the scenery. (Actually, I had been outrunning a typhoon the last time I was here—but that’s a story not yet told on this blog.) This time around my intent was to take it slow and explore more of this obscure part of coastal Taiwan 台灣.
Mǎnzhōu 滿州 in southeastern Pingtung 屏東 is home to the most remote and unspoiled stretch of coastal Taiwan 台灣. The highway system that rings the island is broken at only two points, this being one of them. A rugged trail connects the tiny settlement of Nánrén Village 南仁村 to Jiālèshuǐ 佳樂水 by way of Chūfēngbí 出風鼻, a rocky headland that loosely translates to “Windy Nose”. A little north of the village one will find another headland with a similar theme: Yùbí 鬱鼻 (“Melancholic Nose”), which forms the southern extent of Bāyáowān 八瑤灣, or Padriyiur Bay, where 54 shipwrecked Ryūkyūan sailors were massacred in 1871 in an event now known as the Mudan Incident. Here, while exploring the area on a bicycle tour in 2015, I found these prayer flags, or jīngfān 經幡, fluttering in the assertive winds coming off the vast Pacific Ocean. This is somewhat unusual in that prayer flags are more of a Tibetan custom than a Taiwanese one—but they certainly add something to the already gorgeous landscape. Is this an informal memorial to all those who perished as a result of what happened here more than a century ago? I have no answers.
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.