So, as detailed earlier, I was invited to attend the the 2010 Taiwan Cycling Festival, which officially took place from October 16 to October 24th. Taiwan’s government, with support from its cycling industry, has been working hard to promote itself as a bike-friendly tourist destination. Over the course of two weeks, I had a chance to see the results of these efforts first hand, and now that I’m (finally) back, it’s time to tell you about it.
Taiwan, for those living in the United States, isn’t a short flight away. For me, it was a five hour flight from Washington to Los Angeles, and then another 14 hour flight from LAX to Taipei (TPE). From a US-based traveller’s standpoint, there’s a pretty steep initial cost to any trip to Taiwan: aside from the ticket itself, the 14 hours in a plane (minimum) and the resulting jetlag means that the destination has to be worth all that trouble. And Taiwan? Absolutely was. I was blown away by it. But speaking of blown away . . .
The Plan Meets Typhoon Megi
The original plan for this trip was constructed, in large part, around the inaugural Taiwan Cup. The Taiwan Cup was designed to be a professional road race highlighting the and headlining a week of amateur racing and organized rides. Unfortunately, Typhoon Megi changed these plans, not only forcing the cancellation of the Taiwan Cup, but also resulting in a number of casualties along the eastern coast of Taiwan.
We made an initial effort at sticking to the plan, before the severity of the typhoon was apparent, but ultimately had to retreat back to Taipei and the western side of Taiwan. This was the resulting itinerary:
Come Ride Taiwan With Me
I’ll be posting pieces that roughly follow the chronology of the trip. So, to sketch out what lies ahead:
- Thurs – Taipei. Straight from TPE to the hotel. There was, however, time for a walk.
- Friday – Taitung/Chihpen Hot Springs. Flew from Taipei to Taitung, toured some local markets, and maybe someone fell into the river while rafting . . .
- Saturday – Chihshang. The opening ceremony for the Taiwan Cycling Festival, and our first day of cycling. It started with a short ride with Dr. Mao Chi-Kuo (毛治國), Taiwan’s Minister of Transportation and Communications. After that, we headed over to Taiwan’s first purpose-built recreational cyclepath in Guanshan, and then rode from there up to our hotel. Bonus: portaging was involved. Second bonus: an unexpected jazz concert.
- Sunday – Hualian. Knocked out a metric century (and then some) in the morning with an out-and-back along Highway 9, turning around at one of the markers for the Tropic of Cancer. Finished up the day in Hualian, where we got the first real hints of Typhoon Megi.
- Monday – Taroko Gorge. Another AM ride, this time along the coastline in Hualian, in driving – but wonderfully warm – rain. We then headed back south to finish the day in one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever been.
- Tuesday – Taroko Gorge. With a constant chorus of oh-my-god-look-at-that in my head, the day’s – and trip’s – highlight is climbing and descending through Taroko Gorge. Words will not suffice to describe this day.
- Wednesday – Taipei. Fly back to Taipei, hit some local bike stores, and end up at the one of the team hotels for the Taiwan Cup.
- Thursday – Taipei. Attend the kickoff press conference for the Taiwan Cup, interview three-time world champ Oscar Friere, and – by the end of the day – find out that the Taiwan Cup is almost certain to be cancelled. Instead of heading to Haulian to cover the race, we decide to head south. But not before visiting Taipei 101.
- Friday – Sun Moon Lake. While passing through Taichung, we visit factories for Giant and Mekkem. The day ends at Sun Moon Lake, a popular tourist destination (and, it turns out, where most of the pro racers end up).
- Saturday – Sun Moon Lake. Start the day with a ride around Sun Moon Lake with pros like Amets Txurruka. Enjoy a good chat on the road with Vicky Liu (劉麗珠), president of the Cycling Lifestyle Foundation, about the challenges of cycling advocacy in Taiwan.
- Sunday – Taipei. Late start to the day, which is mostly a road trip back to Taipei, where we reconnect with the rain. Did I mention the rain? End the day with a trip through an amazing night market.
- Monday – China Airlines Flight 8 to LAX. The longest Monday in my life (35 hours, I think). The day’s plan to go for a ride in Danshuei is foiled by more rain, so we end up on a lazy tour of the waterfront and local markets before heading back to TPE for the trip back to LAX. I leave behind new friends but take back a strong desire to return and share Taiwan with others.
Sound interesting? Then check back daily. There will be words, photos, and even the occasional video. All of which I hope will show you what a wonderful place Taiwan turned out to be, and why I’ll definitely be heading back with my bike.
Note: I’ve added a Taiwan category (see sidebar), so all of my posts related to Taiwan will be available here.