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.
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.
Near the end of my first summer in Taiwan I visited Badouzi 八斗子, a rocky headland, coastal park, and major fishing port at the far eastern edge of Keelung 基隆. I went there on impulse, not knowing what to expect, just to see what was out there. Google Maps and Taiwan’s excellent public transit system make random explorations like this almost effortless: pick a point of interest and follow the directions—the digital equivalent of throwing a dart at a map. This post features a selection of retouched photos from this expedition alongside the sort of explanatory text I wouldn’t have been able to write back in 2013. Fair warning for arachnophobes: this post contains several gratuitous photos of giant spiders and other creepy crawlies!
Recently I returned to Cape Santiago 三貂角, the easternmost tip of the island of Taiwan, once again by way of the Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道. The far eastern shoreline is smothered in broken concrete and derelict industrial facilities, the fading legacy of an aquaculture industry in decline. One such facility is this, the most easterly building on the island, a crumbling ruin previously documented in my explorations of the Pacific edge. I suspect it might have been a pump station for there is a network of pipes running through jagged holes in the floor to the ocean sloshing around in the darkness below. This small room is infested with Ligia exotica, a cosmopolitan isopod known to locals as Haizhanglang 海蟑螂, literally “sea cockroach”. This place has changed since I was last here. A chamber on the rooftop has collapsed into a heap of red bricks and twisted metal. Perhaps a close encounter with debris blown in…
My last big day of riding around southern 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.
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.
Last summer I embarked upon a weeklong bicycle tour in the deep south of Taiwan. I began in Tainan 台南, cycled through Kaohsiung 高雄 to Pingtung City 屏東市, spent a day hanging out, and then continued on to Fangliao 枋寮, where the coastal plain narrows to a thin wedge between the mountains and the sea. There is only one road leading south from here—which meant I covered a lot of ground I had already seen while riding all around Taiwan in 2013. I didn’t mind repeating that beautiful stretch of coastline and, actually, I was looking forward to checking out some places I had breezed by on that first big tour, particularly in Fangshan 枋山 and Hengchun 恆春.
Last January I shot this uncertain scene of a man looking over his shoulder as he crosses a curved bridge perfectly dividing the Sanchong 三重 skyline from the tranquil Tamsui River 淡水河. This is one of many images I have captured along the riverside bikeway on the western edge of Taipei 台北. Actually, this picture was taken not far from where I shot this more minimal skyline that same day, and it’s only a little north of the scenic stretch of river depicted here and here. There is something enticing about the unseen shoreline on the opposite side of the river……
The southwestern coastal region of Taiwan is salt country. From Budai 布袋 in Chiayi 嘉義 down through Beimen 北門, Jiangjun 將軍, and Qigu 七股 in Tainan 台南, an incredible expanse of manmade salt evaporation ponds sprawl across a completely flat and almost featureless landscape, much of it reclaimed from the briny lagoons that line the coast. Salt has been produced here for more than three centuries by channeling seawater into artificial enclosures and letting the strong tropical sun do the rest. Taiwan’s accession to the WTO in 2002 doomed the industry and all remaining salterns (or salt fields, if you like) were decommissioned that same year. This led to the abandonment of the unique Qingkunshen Fan-Shaped Saltern 青鯤鯓扇形鹽田, now a surreal reminder of the history of salt production in southern Taiwan.
This is an old picture from 2013 that I never got around to posting for one reason or another. I captured this dusky scene while taking a spin up to Shezidao 社子島 on what was—at that time—my new bike. I am not entirely sure where this was shot but it’s probably somewhere along Yanping Riverside Park 延平河濱公園 in Datong District 大同區, pretty much the same place I captured this photograph on my first visit to Taipei 台北. The distinctive bridge on the horizon is the New Taipei Bridge 新北大橋, built in 2010, and that would be Sanchong 三重 off to the right.…