Submitted for your approval: Tentative East Coast Itinerary


#1

Hi, all! I plan on cycling Taiwan’s East Coast from Hualien to Kaohsiung this coming April. I’ve spent a good amount of time reading posts/poaching information from this site and so I think I have my routes all planned out. Still, I’d very much appreciate any thoughts, advice, or critiques of my proposed trip. I also have a few general questions that I hope aren’t too annoying. Oh, I’ll be staying in hotels/Airbnbs/etc if you’ve any recommendations.

Day 1: Taroko Gorge. This will be my second time in the gorge but first with my bicycle. Looking at Strava and other maps, it seems cyclists go up the main road, just as the cars and buses do. I imagine there are other little offshoots but am I correct in thinking the main road that my city bus meandered up is the same one I’ll struggle up on my bike? Also, is the “top” of the gorge where the city buses make their final stops? I remember a temple. It was red, I think.

Day 2: Hualien - Ruisui. What route would you prescribe to a guy who likes to take photos: a straight shot along 193 or switching back and forth with 11-A/Fongbin/Shitiping/64? I won’t be carrying a huge bag of lenses but I am open to going a bit askew in order to get a good photo.

Day 3: Ruisui - Fuli. Routes 193 and 9.

Day 4: Fuli - Dulan. Routes 23 and 11. Google maps says this section is about 53kms…true? Seems like it wouldn’t be too hard, even if there is some climbing. Any thoughts? I live in Korea so climbing mountains on my bike is a way of life; however, I am only about a year into transitioning from a commuter to whatever I am now. Anything to look out for on this route?

Day 5: Dulan - Taimali. Routes 11 and 9. Seems pretty straightforward, just making my way down the coast. But maybe I should try to stay in Dawu instead?

Day 6: Taimali - Kenting. Routes 9, 199, 26, 200. Does that sound about right? It’s my understanding that there’s a big ol’ hill at some point, maybe that section of 9 that turns inland before meeting up with 199? With the photos again in mind, do those 4 highways offer the best sampling of the area’s scenery? Also, how many days is good in Kenting Natl Park? Sounds like it might be kinda touristy but hey, I’ll be a tourist too. I’ve also heard of a ferry that goes to Lanyu Island (my friend in Kaohsiung says Lanyu is not to be missed). One or two days there perhaps?

Day 7: Kenting - Kaohsiung. Routes 26 and 1. Or should I just take a bus? While there’s something to be said about cycling into a foreign city to meet a good friend whom I haven’t seen in a few years, that route might be less that fun? Lots of traffic maybe? If so, what’s the best way to get me and my bike to Kaohsiung? I’ll be traveling with a bike bag but my plan is to mail it to my friend once I arrive in Hualien. But maybe I could mail it to whatever hostel/hotel I stay at in Kenting?

Weather stuff: I’ll be arriving the first week of April. I realize that Taiwan weather is very unpredictable and that it basically always rains. Going through those mountain routes, should I be worried about mudslides and the like? Also, will it be at all chilly in the mountains? (I suppose I’ll be huffing and puffing on my bike so maybe it won’t matter.)

I think that covers most of it! Probably not though. As I said, any thoughts about any part of this will be very much appreciated. And if anyone has questions about cycling in Korea, I can offer a bit of info now but a whole lot more in May (I’ll be cycling the east coast and Seoul - Busan). Thanks guys!


Pls help to review Hualien to Kenting Solo Cycling Route!
Bicycle box transportation from Kaohsiung airport to bike shop
#2

Hi @jmward that’s quite the write up, glad the forums have been useful in your planning!

I’ll try to give as much feedback as I can, but I’ve actually never gone down the east coast myself, I may employ my buddy @okonomiyaki to help since he just did his tour a few months back.

You will love going through the gorge on the bike. Here’s some things to keep in mind:

  • It’s all uphill (with one 1km downhill right before the Bilu Tree)
  • There’s only ONE convenient store on this route at Tian Xiang visitor’s center and is also the only place to refill water. Bring extra or ration your food/water if you plan on completing the entire climb.
  • I would suggest saving battery power in your front and rear lights. If you plan on descending, you may need it for the ride down. The road has NO street lights and has A LOT of narrow and blind corners.
  • Start (really) early if you want to get to the top. If you’re waking up and the sun is already up past the horizon, it’s already late.
  • It may be a bit warm when you start in the morning, but it will drop in temp once you get to the top. Bring some extra layers and something windproof for the descent.
  • Give yourself and your bike a break from descending. Your pads may heat up and you will be mentally/physically tired from the climb up.
  • If you don’t plan on going all the way up to the peak, a nice alternative is to ride up to Tian Xiang and head back down. At a leisure pace, this should take you around 3-4 hours round trip from the gorge entrance.

Here’s some stats:

  • You will be ascending one of the only climbs in the world that takes you from sea level to above 3000m elvation on ONE road.
  • From the gorge entrance, it’s roughly 85km with an average of 6% grade.
  • The last 15km from Da Yu Ling to the peak the average gradient shoots up to something ridiculous that I can’t really even comment on how hard it is. The ability to not get off your bike and walk is a feat by itself.
  • At full pace, with support along the way and a lot of stopping in the last 10km, it took me 7hr45m to reach the top (He Huan Shan aka Wuling Peak).

For places to have a beer or meet others in transit in Hualien, check out this thread. @marasan is also familiar with the area.


#3

If you go to Fuli, stop in at Yuli and eat their Smelly ToFu (it opens around 3pm) and the Yuli Noodles (there are very specific stores that do this better). That’s a ways down the street from Fuli (but basically between RuiSui and Fuli)

The thing with Fuli is, they have beautiful fields of flowers but you have to go up the mountain (六十石) to see them. The road’s a bit steep and not really great for bikes just because of visibility around corners. But other than that, you mainly have paddy fields down on ground level. There are some other flowers scattered here and there around Fuli and Yuli, but the best of it is up the mountain.

My wife’s from that area so we visit often enough. I don’t think I’ve ever seen cyclists going up or down that mountain. Most of it is fine, but I can think of a couple of spots that’ll get dicey.

My wife’s aunt lives in RuiSui and they have the Tropic of Cancer marker thing, some cow farms and hot springs. I thought “Butterfly Valley” was a bit of a disappointment. If you go down #9 everything is pretty clearly marked but be careful of the red lights. Not all the lights are working and cyclists like to just breeze through the red lights. Bit dangerous. But the road is better for cycling.

There’s not much to take photos of if you go down #9, but you’ll be able to easily get to places where there’ll be photo opportunities.


#4

Cripes, I knew Taroko was a difficult ride but I didn’t know it was 85km! So no, haha, probably won’t be making it to the top. That visitor’s center area sounds about right for me (I think I’ve been there before actually, via a bus from Hualien). Strava says there are sections before the visitor’s center that are 30% grades. That seems…impossible, despite me living in a mountainous country (Korea) and being from a very hilly city (San Francisco). I suppose I’ll be walking up those bits.

Thanks for all your advice/info! You mention that if I “plan” on descending to use my lights. Is there a way to cycle up the gorge but not down? A bus with bike racks perhaps, or a van service? Not really a fan of zooming down wet and crowded roads, so if there’s a way to avoid it I’ll be very interested to hear about it. Thanks again!


#5

Awesome, thanks for the info!


#6

The GPS signals get pretty whack when riding into the gorge, I’m not sure which segments you’re looking at, but the 30% grades don’t kick up until the last 10-15km to the peak. It’s smooth sailing from the gorge entrance to Tian Xiang visitor’s center. Maybe some stingers that kick up to 8-9% for a few meters, but nothing crazy like 30%

Buses are small and get packed, so it’ll be tough to get on with your bike.

If you start early, roads won’t be crowded going up or down. Actually, it shouldn’t be crowded at all on a weekday morning.

Sorry dude, your only option may be to descend. However, grades are low enough that you won’t be flying. 20-30km downhill can be a bit long, so take rest when you need it. Some parts you might have to pedal because it just flattens out!


#7

Ok, whew! Good to hear. I can deal with climbs in the 10-12% range but anything beyond that gets a little dicey. Any recs on where to stay near the gorge? Stayed in Hualien proper last time and it was fine but thinking of trying a different place closer to the park. Thanks again!


#8

I stayed here a few years ago and it was very comfortable. I got there pretty late, but the front desk stayed open for me and a friend.

I remember they provided light breakfast, there’s a backpacker room with a bunch of bunk beds, but the single or double bed rooms aren’t that expensive either if you want to roll your bike straight into the room.


#9

Hey @jmward,
first of all, great idea to cycle down the East coast! I did it in December and totally loved it. Gonna share some experiences on my thread once I’m done editing the video footage.

Weather: I think April should be very nice for cycling. If anything, I’d rather be worried about heat than cold. Best check the forecasts the day before your flight and pack accordingly.

Route:
Day 2: Road 64 was my first small mountain road and probably the best part of my trip. Not sure about photo opportunities, but the seclusion is amazing.
I went from south of Hualien (highly recommended B&B called 花蓮十二號橋空間海景民宿) to the Hongye hot spring hotel West of Ruisui. I arrived quite late and tired, but didn’t get up that early either. The last bit from Ruisui center was actually tough, as it is a long straight road with a slight but steady grade. I was also surprised by a rather long climb first thing in the morning. Long story short: I think Hualien-Ruisui via 64 is a bit of a challenge, but if you get up early and stay in Ruisui (not where I stayed), you should be okay.
Days 3 & 4: I actually did them in one day, arriving in the dark. Ruisui to Fuli was all flat, almost boring. 23 is a nice mountain road. Unfortunately I had to wait an hour before going up as they were repairing a tunnel. So check the roadsigns carefully and ask someone if in doubt.
Day 6: You’re right, there is quite a climb up 9 before reaching 199. The 9 also goes up quite a bit along the coast before that. It’s a big highway, but unfortunately your only option.
199 is beautiful!
This seems like a tough day compared to days 1, 3, 4. Over 120km according to Google. I did Dulan-Hengchun (146km) and wished I could stop somewhere before. And that was with strong tailwind along the coast. I followed 199 all the way West though, so I can’t comment on 199甲, 26 and 200. Probably a good idea to stay in Dawu or anywhere south of Taimali.
I haven’t been to Lanyu (Orchid island), but everybody says it’s wonderful, not only for snorkelling and diving. But I went to green island (not bad either) by boat from Taidong. About 30% of the passengers got seasick and vomited, so it wasn’t exactly a fun ride. And Lanyu is quite a bit further. Maybe try to get a flight from Taidong instead.
I find Kenting is worth staying 2-3 days. Kind of Taiwan’s only beach vacation destination. Btw, 5-7 April they have a big music festival called Spring Scream.
Day 7: I went from Hengchun to Donggang and didn’t really enjoy the ride. I haven’t tried to take my bike on a bus. You could cycle to Fangshan or Fang-liao and take a train from there. But be sure to check the schedule before you get there, as you can’t take your bike on the express trains. I found the TaiwanRailway app (Android) to be quite useful.

Hope this is any help. Enjoy your trip!

Cheers,
Matthias


#10

Nice! Thanks!


#11

Dang, thanks for all that info! Very useful indeed. I do intend to wake up early and begin my cycling after breakfast; hopefully this will give me time to enjoy the rides and take longer routes when the notion strikes.

Yeah, I think I will stay in Dawu before heading down into Kenting. Do you think most cyclists take 199 west rather than zigzagging to and from the coast with 26 and 200? Any particular reason why you chose to take 199 west all the way? And without having done any deep research on the area, is Hengchun kind of the obvious place for tourists to stay? Also, thanks for the tip about the music festival! I’ll be sure to avoid arriving during that time :wink:

I’ve definitely heard about the puke-o-rama ferry routes to those islands, although it doesn’t sound much worse than when an old Chinese lady next to me barfed into her lunch bag while on a city bus in San Francisco. I’ll pack some Dramamine.

I will install the TaiwanRailway app on my phone now. Thanks again for all your help!


#12

Ah, forgot to ask:

I’m no stranger to earthquakes and am not really frightened of them (I’ve been in some whoppers throughout the years back home). But with the recent shaking and my trip just a couple months away, should I expect any of my routes to be closed off? Just curious.


#13

It could happen. Sometimes Google maps gets updated with road closures or accidents if you put on the traffic filter, sometimes it doesn’t. Not very reliable tbh.

The best way is to ask the bnb people to ask the police for you before you leave in the morning.

Worst case scenario, you go out, there’s a road closure and you gotta hitch a ride because the detour is way too much for you to cover. Taiwanese are normally very friendly and will go out of their way to help you. Don’t be shy and just ask!


#14

I don’t entirely remember why, but I somehow thought you can’t cycle down 26 and 200. So I also don’t know which route is more popular. Hengchun is definitely less popular than the Kenting night market area or even further south. I was just too tired to go any further :smile:
I heard some rocks came down in Taroko last night, but it’s Taiwan’s top tourist area, so they should be cleared by April. Unless we get another big quake before that * knock on wood *.
Matthias


#15

You guys have been very helpful! Sorry I’ve been lazy with my responses lately; work got busy but it’s mellowed a bit now.

I’ve heard that convenience stores offer shipping services inside of Taiwan. Do you know if they accept big ol’ boxes, like one that would contain a bike bag? I’m trying to figure out the best way to arrive in Taipei and depart from Kaohsiung while using my bike bag in both locations. As I have it planned now, I would arrive in Taipei and take the train to Hualien with my bike stowed in a big. Then I would mail the bag from Hualien to Kaohsiung, where I would pick it up some days later. Anyone have experience with something like this? Or maybe there’s a simpler solution?


#16

Yes. You need to fill in your name and cell number to the kiosk because when you pick up the package at the destination store, they will ask for the last three digits of your cell number and confirm by asking for your name and full cell number. So a local cell number will be necessary.

To answer your question about whether your big bag will fit in the box. Here’s dimension limits.

image

They have boxes available for you to purchase at the convenient stores. You can also wrap your bike bag in a paper bag (or even plastic bag) and send it if you want to save money.

If you have trouble just show employees this: https://www.7-11.com.tw/service/accept.asp or point to your box and say 店到店/Diàn dào diàn/shop to shop. You might need a store employee’s help operating the kiosk since it’s 100% Chinese (and the English version of the kiosk doesn’t have all options). Use Chrome translate to translate this page to look up which store is closest to your hotel in Kaohsiung. http://emap.pcsc.com.tw/

If your Chinese is lacking, take a pic of the shipping label to show the destination store. Label looks like this:

image

FYI Give the package at least 2-3 days to be delivered. Normally it takes two days, but I have heard it taking up to 3 days.


#17

Great, thanks for this! I actually have not bought a bike bag yet so I don’t know what dimensions to expect. You mention wrapping the bag in paper or plastic and mailing it off that way; does this mean that if the bag is too big for a box the convenience store will still ship it?

Also, is it necessary for me to ship store-to-store, or can I send it from a store to my friend’s apartment in Kaohsiung? Silly question maybe but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to ask.


#18

It still has to be within the parameters of the box. To be quite honest, most fold up bike bags would not be too big if wrapped up in a paper bag and shipped. Just make sure you buy one that fits your frame!

Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than the store to store shipment. The convenient store pretty much acts like a post office. You ask for the slip, fill it out (in Chinese) pay and they ship it from store. Writing Chinese can be avoided if you have your friend’s address written down and see if the employee or maybe a stranger could help you write it down on the shipping slip.

:slightly_smiling_face:


#19

Thanks once again! I feel like the more I plan this trip the more questions I have.

Do you recommend booking all or most of my hotels/bnbs in advance? I will obviously book a night or two in Hualien to begin my trip, but as I start to advance towards Kaohsiung how difficult is it to find places in the smaller towns (Fuli, Taimali, etc)? If I book all the places in advance but then have to delay my journey due to weather, etc, that kind of throws off my whole plan. Are there enough hostels/hotels/bnbs in these more rural areas for me not to worry? When I arrive in one of these smaller towns, can I just pop into a convenience store and “ask” them (meaning: show them Google translate) where a hotel might be?


#20

That happens! No worries, always willing to help.

For longer stays, like your Hualien and Kaohsiung stays, I would book in advance. Sometimes good/cheap big city hostels/bnbs get booked and then you’re stuck in a 5 star hotel, which isn’t the end of the world, but I take it you want to save as much as you can.

To my knowledge, there’s no shortage of bnbs along the east coast small towns. I remember doing my huan dao in the car and always saw LED signs reading “住宿” which means “stay”. I would take note of that just in case Google maps isn’t showing any bnbs or hostels in the area.

@Matthias anything to add?