Anyone with the ambition to complete a cycle tour around Taiwan would do well to begin with a shorter trip to learn the ropes. Taitung County, with its pristine beaches, spectacular ocean views and mountain trails, is an ideal place to start.
There is something of a magnetic draw to the glory of the Pacific Ocean. Just enjoying the sea breeze makes it worth the effort, but there are lots of other things to see and do to make a two or three-day trip a pleasure.
I embarked on this adventure on an unusually hot August weekend with the mercury tipping 38 degrees Celsius. Not advisable for the novice un-acclimated to Taiwan’s summer heat, but the advantage is that there is an incentive to stop in the middle of the day and cool off at the beach with a refreshing swim.
Photo: Mark Roche
The beauty of riding on a bike for a day trip or a tour for multiple days is that it’s all about the journey, not the destination. On this particular three-day trip I did, however, have an objective: Caihong (“Rainbow”) Waterfall (彩虹瀑布) in Chenggong Township (成功), which is one of the tallest waterfalls in Taiwan.
TRA MAKES BIKING SIMPLE
Recently the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) has introduced new trains to accommodate cyclists. These are designed with bike compartments or specially designated spaces for bikes. In the past, bikes would have to be carried onto the train in a bag, which is extremely cumbersome if traveling on a touring bike loaded with equipment.
Photo: Mark Roche
A seamless procedure, where the rider can buy a ticket (about NT$150) for the bike and wheel it onto and off the train without having to dismantle and bag it. There is also the option of renting a bike from outside Taitung Train Station.
After departing from Kaohsiung on a 7am train, I arrived two hours later at the Taitung Train Station. Provincial Highway No. 11 has several scenic spots of interest that are worth a stop for the first-time traveler.
About 7km from the train station the first place worth a stop is Xiaoyeliou (小野柳). This is part of the East Coast National Scenic Area (東部海岸國家風景區). The variety of sandstone rock formations is similar to that found at the more famous Yeliou Geopark on the north coast. There is a very well laid-out visitor center explaining the geology of the area.
Photo: Mark Roche
SHANYUAN BEACH’S CRYSTAL-CLEAR WATER
A further 5km up the coast was my second port of call, Shanyuan Beach (衫原). This, in my opinion, is the best beach in Taitung, perhaps in all of Taiwan.
The first thing the visitor will notice is the massive resort hotel right on the beach. The fascinating thing about the Miramar Resort is that, since its construction in 2005, it has never opened its doors due to a conflict with local residents and failure to meet an environmental impact assessment.
Photo Courtesy Nathan Miller
But don’t let this spoil the visit. Public showers and toilets have been installed on the ground floor, the beach is spotless and the water crystal clear.
At the north end of the beach there is an excellent outdoor restaurant, Coconut Cafe (可可娜咖啡), overlooking the ocean and offering Balinese cuisine at reasonable prices. The address is: 22 Shanyuan, Beinan Township, Taitung County (台東縣卑南鄉杉原22號)
My primary destination for this trip was next on the list. At the 113km marker on Provincial Highway No. 11 just before Chenggong Township there is a turn off for County Road No. 18. The signs are directing you to the Malaolou Trail (麻荖漏布道). I spent the night camping in a riverside park 3km up this road.
Early the next morning it was only 2km to the trail head which takes you to “Rainbow” Waterfall. On maps it appears as Hsingang Waterfall (新港瀑布), most likely due to its proximity to Hsingang Mountain (新港山, 1,682m), which is the tallest in the coastal range. The signs tell you that it is only 1.2km to the waterfall, but it’s closer to 3km and takes an hour one way.
The route is marked with red arrows that are mostly easy to follow, but the trail is tricky with several crossings of the stream on slippery rocks. I had worked up quite a sweat by the time I got to the top and as one of the highest waterfalls in Taiwan it’s definitely worth the effort. On the way back down I got to cool off in one of the lower tier pools. Do not attempt this hike after heavy rain, as the river is dangerous and extremely difficult to navigate.
In total this trip involved 150km of riding with a touring bike and camping gear, but it could easily be done over two days. There is no shortage of accommodation options all along the coast of Taitung, whether it’s a boutique guesthouse or more modest bed and breakfast — perfect for both the solo rider by bike or a family trip by car.
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