Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Fenglin to Yuli

Dusky Skies Over Scenic Huadong Valley Rice Paddies

Day three of cycling down the Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 began with a hearty Taiwanese breakfast not far from the train station in Fenglin 鳳林, Hualien 花蓮. I was still recovering from a brush with heatstroke (a story documented in the previous entry in this series) so a traditional breakfast of danbing 蛋餅 (pan-fried egg rolls) and sweet black tea really hit the spot. A glance at the weather forecast indicated another full day of sunny skies and 35°C temperatures on the road—and even fewer opportunities for air-conditioned rest stops. I wasn’t too worried though; my loosely-planned itinerary of former Shinto shrines, industrial ruins, and other historic sites didn’t look all that challenging. Ultimately I ended up putting 60 kilometers of valley behind me, ending the day in Yuli 玉里.

Nantou Road Trip 2015: Sun Moon Lake to Taichung

Xinyi Township Mountain Vista

This post is the final entry in a series documenting several days of riding around Nantou 南投 in October 2015. On the last morning of this trip I woke in Puli 埔里, close to the geographic center of Taiwan. I only had to return the scooter to the rental shop in Taichung 台中 sometime after nightfall so I decided to take a more circuitous route and check out many sights along the way. After a quick breakfast I headed south, briefly stopping by the shores of the majestic Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 (covered in the previous entry in this series), and ascended a winding mountain access road leading into Xinyi, one of several majority Taiwanese Indigenous districts in this landlocked county.

Postcards From Zhushan 竹山明信片

Zhushan’s Shuhuang Clinic 庶煌診所

Zhushan 竹山 (literally “Bamboo Mountain”) is a historic yet obscure township in southwestern Nantou 南投 mainly known for cultivating tea and bamboo. The town itself is one of the oldest in central Taiwan but it hardly feels that way. Many of Zhushan’s most historic structures were destroyed or damaged beyond repair in the devastating 921 Earthquake that struck in 1999, which is why its “old street” is lined with modern buildings. Most travellers pass through Zhushan on the way to attractions deeper into the rugged interior of Taiwan without sparing it a second glance—but I stopped for a closer look in the summer of 2017 while on an impromptu road trip. After staying the night in a sleazy love motel never meant for sleep (there was no way to switch off the lights) I wandered around in the morning haze, capturing traces of Zhushan’s history as it disappears into memory.

Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Hualien City

Originating at Gangtian Temple

In May 2018 I embarked on a multi-day bicycle trip along the majestic Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 of Taiwan from Hualien City 花蓮市 to Taitung City 台東市. Although I had previously cycled parts of this valley during my full tour of the island in 2013 I did so without really knowing what was there—and after five years I amassed quite a collection of notes about places I was interested in seeing up close. Several themes emerged while preparing for this trip: old standalone movie theaters, of which I had located more than a dozen; derelict railway infrastructure including stations, military checkpoints, and abandoned lines; and relics of the Japanese colonial era, particularly former Shinto shrines. This post documents my first day of riding, which only began in the late afternoon after arriving by rail at Hualien Station. I had shipped my bike ahead so all I had to do was pick it up from the baggage room, throw the panniers on, and start riding.

Suhua Highway Road Trip 2018 蘇花公路機車之旅

Looking South Along the Qingshui Cliffs

In May 2018 I seized an opportunity to ride the beautiful and dangerous Suhua Highway 蘇花公路 (中文) from Hualien City 花蓮市 to Su’ao 蘇澳 in Yilan 宜蘭. I had previously taken this same route on bicycle back in 2013—a harrowing trip I’ll never forget—so I was eager to drive a scooter and experience it at a different pace. I also visited a number of historic sites along the way, including several former Shinto shrines, as part of an ongoing project documenting various elements of the Japanese colonial legacy in Taiwan. Much of the highway itself also owes something to Japanese engineering, having opened to vehicular traffic in 1931, but it has been continuously repaired and expanded since then.

Nantou Road Trip 2015: Puli to Sun Moon Lake

Coming Into Harbour at Ita Thao Village

This post gathers photos taken on two scooter rides from Puli 埔里 to the shores of Sun Moon Lake 日月潭 in Yuchi 魚池, part of a multi-day road trip undertaken in late 2015. I didn’t have a chance to explore as deeply as I would have liked, nor did I really know what was so special about this part of the country while I was there, so this post will be somewhat less extensive than most others in this series. I hope to someday return to the Sun Moon Lake area and gather material to make a fully informed post about this fascinating part of Taiwan.

Puli Tuberculosis Sanatorium 埔里肺結核療養所

Within the Puli Sanatorium 埔里肺病療養院

Tuberculosis remains the deadliest communicable disease in Taiwan, claiming approximately 600 lives per year, but great strides have been made in reducing its toll throughout the 20th century. Nearly 5% of the population were afflicted by the disease in the late 1940s—and with an annual mortality rate of 3 in 1,000, it was also among the leading causes of death of any kind in post-war Taiwan. The disease was especially prevalent among the Taiwanese Indigenous people of the remote mountainous interior, who simply couldn’t afford to see a doctor or purchase medicine (even if there were a clinic anywhere nearby).

Christian missionary organizations went to great lengths to expand access to medical services in the late 1950s, founding numerous clinics and sanatoriums in Indigenous territory all across Taiwan. In 1957 this particular tuberculosis sanatorium was constructed next to a secluded lake on the outskirts of Puli 埔里, Nantou 南投, to provide free treatment and relief for people of the mountains. The next several decades saw great advances in healthcare in Taiwan and the sanatorium closed in 1980, its purpose fulfilled. It reopened as a Presbyterian retreat center and campground in the late 1980s and was ultimately abandoned to the elements sometime in recent years.

Nantou Road Trip 2015: Ren’ai

Exploring Wujie Reservoir 武界水庫

My second day on the road in Nantou County in October 2015 was completely unplanned. I left Puli 埔里 and headed deeper into the mountains simply to see what was there, not having done any advance research. From a glance at the map I had a rough idea where I’d be going—deeper into traditional Indigenous lands to the east of Puli Basin 埔里盆地. Ultimately I ended up visiting several settlements and two reservoirs in a few hours of riding around what is now known as the township of Ren’ai 仁愛.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Dawu to Taitung City

Looking south from Taimali along the coastal highway in Taitung

My last big day of riding around south Taiwan in June 2015 began in Dawu 大武, Taitung 台東, with only about 55 kilometers to go before arriving in Taitung City 台東市. I had been out in the sun far too much the previous day and was feeling rather sluggish and a bit sick so I didn’t end up taking any side trips into the mountains as I made my way north. Even so, the scenery was fantastic, and while I won’t have as much to write about this particular day of my trip, I have plenty of beautiful photographs to share.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Manzhou to Dawu

On the road again in Manzhou Township

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 Fangliao 枋寮, on the southwestern coast, around Hengchun 恆春 and into the foothills of the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 to reach Manzhou 滿州, one of the last places to find lodging before forging on to Taitung 台東. 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.