Many people recommend starting with the West coast of Taiwan and moving counter-clockwise when riding around the island. There are a few reasons for this – the higher population means more places to stop and fuel up and stay overnight, and more English speakers also helps with easing yourself into the Taiwan way of life, if you’re just visiting short term. It is also much flatter than the East, albeit most of the riding is along a pretty busy highway.
In addition to taking the coastal road that skirts around the edge of Taiwan, there are a few mountain passes as well. We planned to tackle the northernmost road that crosses the mountains, Highway 7, aka the Northern Cross Highway. Our route took us from Hsinchu to Luodong (near Yilan), via Guanxi and Baling, a total of about 160 km. The mountain pass topped out at 1170 m elevation, and Baling and Guanxi are spaced in a way that breaks up the climb nicely.
As I wrote before, the day after I finished teaching at Royal we packed up our bags and started to cycle around Taiwan, something referred to here as 環島 (huandao), meaning ‘circle the island’.
Our trip can be neatly broken down into three sections: 1) the northern cross highway over the mountains; 2) the east coast and 3) the west coast. I want to write about it in some detail for any future interested cyclists, so I will break it down into three posts based on those divisions. But before we get there…
I finished work on Friday, and the very next day, Mike and I headed out on the next installment of our adventure in Taiwan: 我們騎自行車環島. We are riding our bicycles around Taiwan! We started with the northern cross highway over the mountains to the East coast, and I’m currently sitting in a great B&B in Luodong writing this. I have been taking some notes, and I’m going to write a more detailed description of everything when we get back to Hsinchu. Until then!
Cycling is a great way to sightsee, and the conditions in Taiwan for cycling are absolutely fantastic! We’ve done a bunch of day and few-day rides since arriving. Sometimes we bring the GoPro, and Mike stitched together this:
Baseball’s a popular sport in Taiwan, and on Thursday we got out to see a CPBL (Chinese Professional Baseball League) game! There are four teams which rotate play through 12 stadiums across the island. The number of games at each stadium is weighted by population, and Hsinchu’s stadium has 10 scheduled games (out of 240 total) this season. I was really excited for this game, as there won’t be another in town until the end of July.
When you drive around the Hsinchu area, it is not uncommon to see many people sitting in lawn chairs around shallow, aerated concrete ponds. As it turns out, they are shrimp fishing, a popular pastime here!
I’ve been intrigued by it for a while, and a friend just had his birthday party at a shrimp fishing place that is near his house. I should tell you now, we don’t live that close to the coast. It turns out that urban shrimp fishing adds convenience to the joy of fishing… by bringing it right to your doorstep!
It is pretty simple to do. First you rent a rod by the hour, with bait provided. The proprietor at our pond was even kind enough to check that the hooks and float were set to the right length. That’s all that you really need! Stick a small piece of bait on your hook and then be patient. You simply watch your float, and as soon as it moves unusually, you tug the shrimp out of the water and stick it in your net. Here we are giving it a try:
We were told the shrimp weren’t too active because of the cool weather, but each of us landed to manage a few! The best part is that when you are done they’re salted, barbecued and served with soy sauce and wasabi. Yum!
Want to see shrimp fishing in action? The BBC did a story about it in November, which you can watch here.