Have you ever wondered what it’s like to cycle in Taiwan, one of the world’s top cycling destinations? If you have but never really got down to making your dream a reality, then think again. Taiwan has something that appeals to cyclists - excellent road conditions and an extensive rail system that circles the island with trains equipped to transport bikes.
We discovered this in our trip to Taiwan recently to experience the famous Formosa 900 cycling tour, thanks to the Taiwan Tourism Bureau in Kuala Lumpur. The Formosa 900 is a 900km round island ride, crossing beautiful valleys full of natural beauty including waterfalls, clear water rivers as well as colourful fauna. Instead of doing the whole 900km, we only did 333km of the tour. But this was enough to leave us longing for more.
We flew into Taiwan with China Airlines and arrived at 8.00pm after a four and a half hour and flight from Kuala Lumpur. After Customs clearance, we met with our Tour guide and person in charge of handling the media group, Christina Yang. She then had us chauffeured to our hotel in a fancy Mercedes Benz Multi-Purpose Vehicle(MPV).
We spent our first night at the five-star Grand Mayfull Hotel which was located in Zhongshan District of Taipei. The toilets and curtains were automated, the room was big enough to accommodate six and we even received a welcome sign on the TV. The stay was comfortable but unfortunately short, as we had to wake up at 5.00am and make our way to Taroko National Park, Hualien County by bus.
Taroko National Park is one of the nine national parks in Taiwan and was named after the Taroko Gorge, the landmark gorge of the park created by the Liwu River. This was the starting point for our cycling tour. Accompanying us on the trip were journalists from all around the world including the United States, Brazil, and Germany.
The first day of cycling started exactly at The Shallow Grotto of Taroko National Park. The cycling tour guides were from the Taiwan Cycling Travel Association. They prepared a Pacific Cycle Reach T20 for each of the participants along with a helmet and a water bottle. The ride down Taroko National Park was enjoyable as we were able to get a nice view of the Park’s gorge and also the Liwu River. There was not much effort involved cycling in this area as it was downhill for most parts.
Apart from the gorge, we were also able to see the scenic Eternal Spring Shrine and also the Liwu River itself. We cycled 35km from Taroko National Park before reaching Qi Haiwan Restaurant where we stopped for lunch. We had some amazing dishes such as fresh Chinese styled steamed fish and steamed chicken that gave us more energy to complete the remaining 32km to Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch & Resort where we spent the night.
Dinner comprised Hualien local delicacies like traditional Taiwanese cold dishes and soy-based pork ribs. At the Resort, we were also given a chance to use a spa but due to fatigue, all of us headed back to our rooms after dinner to recover for the second day of cycling.
The second day started rather interestingly as we were brought to the ranch next to our resort for a quick view of the zoo on our bicycles, allowing us to be up close with the animals. After the tour, we again hit the road and continued our journey.
The goal was to cycle 96km from Fenglin, Hualien to Chishang, Taitung. We stopped for lunch 49.5km into the journey at the “Hitting The Wall Dumpling” Restaurant, located on a beautiful hill-side. The Taiwanese dumplings served at the restaurant were amazing. After lunch, we cycled on the Yufu Cycling Pathway to visit Antong Old Train Station and also Dongli Old Train Station. The train stations were full-fledged stations about 10 years ago. They have now been turned into cycling hotspots.
The summer season was just right for us to catch a view of the lush green rice fields which surrounded most of Dongli Old Train Station as well as some other parts of our cycling route. At the end of Day Two, we spent our night at Dapochih Vacation Center Hotel. To our surprise, beautiful rice fields also cover most of the area around the hotel which provided a pleasant sight. For dinner, we were served sushi, kushikatsu and chahan at HAYASHI Japanese Restaurant. The Japanese delights, prepared by the chef who previously worked in New York, were different from the conventional Japanese dishes which proved to be more filling and rich.
Heavy rain greeted us on the morning of Day Three, which is a 90km cycling route from Chishang Township, Taitung to Taimali Township, Taitung. The ride started near the rice fields of Chishang. We visited Mr. Brown Avenue, a famous tourist spot because of its scenic view of the vast rice fields. We stopped for lunch after 57km at the Mibanai Aboriginal Restaurant, famous for their fried bacon wrapped baby corn. We finally arrived at our final destination of the day, the East Sun Spa Garden Hotel, after a 33km ride. The highlight of the day was surely the coastal highway route,approximately 10km from our hotel. In this stretch, we could see the breathtaking Philippine Sea while climbing up the steep coastal highway roads.
The East Sun Spa Garden Hotel presented us with a spa which was perfect for cyclists. We were treated to an authentic Taiwanese meal, such as pork belly in dark sauce, Taiwanese spring rolls and fried baby shrimps.
On the final day, we were once again drenched by the early morning showers as we made our 80km trip from Taimali Township,Taitung to Checheng Fuan Temple, Pintung. It was to be the toughest journey. The route was a mix of uphill and downhills with barely any flat road. And faced with strong winds and showers, it was a test of endurance for most of us, not to mention that we had to ride 12km up a mountain road.
In the end, the climb was worth it as we were rewarded with authentic Dongyuan Village style food at Maljipa Aboriginal Restaurant. Of all the food that we had over the four days, the lunch at the restaurant was the best. We were served stir-fried vegetables topped with crushed peanuts, cold seaweed dishes and pork meat slices fried with onions.
We spent the remaining three days of our trip not as cyclists but as tourists. We spent two days in Kaohsiung and two days back in Taipei. It was a great experience for the first-timers to Taiwan as we were taken to some of the most iconic places in the country such as 85 Sky Tower, the tallest building in Kaohsiung, and Cijin Island also in Kaohsiung. Back in Taipei, we toured the tallest building in Taiwan, the Taipei 101 and also the beautiful Yangmingshan.
Overall, we were impressed with the many facilities in Taiwan for cyclists. The cycling routes were very well maintained and safe. They have bike racks in the city and town areas. On top of that, drivers in Taiwan are very careful when they are close to cyclists. They give way on the road and do not drive too close to them. The cycling community in Taiwan is friendly and will cheer you on even when they are on the other side of the road. All of which makes cycling in Taiwan a great cycling experience. Would we want to go back? Definitely. And this time we would want to do the whole 900km Tour.
1) Frame : Aluminium
2) Weight : 10.8kg
3) Gear : Shimano Mix 10-speed
4) Price : RM9200.00