Bicycle touring Taiwan: Heren to Chishang via Taroko Gorge

This week (our second) was better than our first week in Taiwan. We hadn’t fully got away from the traffic, but it was getting better, and of course we visited Taroko Gorge. Two friends had told me that Taroko Gorge was their favorite outing in all of Taiwan. I concur.

This man (below) was one of many people who we met who was walking around Taiwan. Uff, it seems like that would involve lots of walking along busy highways. I can think of better places to walk. Indeed we met one guy from Malaysia who had walked three different Camino de Santiago routes before choosing to walk around Taiwan. The man below, however, is a 64-year-old Taiwanese who had cycled around the island twice before. He knew what he was getting into.

This man was on day 37 of his walk around Taiwan. by bryandkeith on flickr

This section of coast (north of Taroko) certainly has some nice coastal views.

IMG_20231129_093931 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231129_094958 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231129_101716 by bryandkeith on flickr

In Chongde we had a tasty lunch and tried something none of us had ever had before — snails.

IMG_20231129_111134 by bryandkeith on flickr

They were kind of chewy and without much flavor. Later a Frenchman assured us we must try escargot de Bourgogne, a real treat apparently. Snails certainly weren’t the only unusual thing we tried in Taiwan. Stocking up for dinner at a veggie truck one afternoon I bought a bag of kimchi. Wow, that was chewy. Well, it wasn’t cabbage at all — pickled (?) chicken feet skin. None of us wanted to eat that again. And yet a day or two later confused by our translation app we ordered a whole dish of chicken feet skin. Oops.

Another unusual dish that people talk about in Taiwan is stinky tofu. We tried it two or three times. It does sometimes seem to smell (and taste) like a dead animal.

IMG_20231129_093136 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231129_151851 by bryandkeith on flickr

Reminds one of the Kemaliyeliler Taş Yolu perhaps?

IMG_20231129_154037 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231129_154646 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231129_155846 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231130_084839 by bryandkeith on flickr

Accommodation in Taiwan is overpriced. Low end hotels cost more than in Japan and certainly aren’t as good. Campgrounds aren’t much cheaper. We were stunned by the price when we went to stay at our first paid campground. What a surprise then that in Taroko Gorge, one of Taiwan’s major tourist draws, the Heliu Campground was free! There were even hot showers. The hostel a couple kms further up the gorge wants US$90 for a room, and the nearby hotel is over twice that. Go figure.

We ended up spending three nights at the campground and were very happy to have Jason and Daby as neighbors. They generously shared their stove with us. We hadn’t brought enough fuel for ours.

On our first day we walked the Lüshui Wenshan Trail.

IMG_20231130_101653 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231130_101229 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231130_124446 by bryandkeith on flickr

A Taiwanese couple, also hiking the trail that day, shared their chewy black packaged eggs with us. Turns out these are a popular snack in Taiwan. Wikipedia’s entry in English calls them iron egg. Later we had a super tasty version at a restaurant:

IMG_20231204_140550 by bryandkeith on flickr

That couple was also staying at the campground and brought us normal boiled eggs every day for the rest of our stay.

The nearby town where there are restaurants, a relatively poorly stocked 7-11, and the aforementioned accommodation is called Tianxiang. Just above town Xiangde Temple is worth visiting.

IMG_20231130_145952 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231130_151137 by bryandkeith on flickr

The next day was a rain/rest day. However, our campsite was down at 400m, and the road climbs from there (very slowly) to 2400m. I couldn’t resist. I went in and out of clouds with light rain. I pushed on through harder rain hoping I might pop out of the clouds again, but it was not to be. The climbing had been incredibly slow. The average grade was only about 4%. It took me three hours to get up to 1600m. I bundled up and turned around.

IMG_20231201_123927 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231130_154402 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231201_135140 by bryandkeith on flickr

In Tianxiang they advertise “ethnic” food. It looks like this:

IMG_20231201_142835 by bryandkeith on flickr

Back down through the gorge and back out to the coast.

IMG_20231202_094935 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231202_100310 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231202_114518 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231202_164933 by bryandkeith on flickr

I remember reading something about how to solve the vehicle battery charging problem — in the future you’ll just remove the batteries, put them into a charger, pull charged batteries from the charger, and away you go. Well, the future is in Taiwan:

IMG_20231202_120924 by bryandkeith on flickr

The black squares are empty, waiting for drained batteries. You somehow do some magic with the screen at the top. It must tell you which batteries to take (the green handles) and away you go!

IMG_20231202_123935 by bryandkeith on flickr

A few kms south of Haulien was the only free side-of-the-bike-path campsite that we found in Taiwan. In the morning a woman seemed a little surprised that no one had come by and kicked us out (??!!).

IMG_20231203_082710 by bryandkeith on flickr

This day a brilliant tailwind pushed us all the way south to the scenic area at Shitiping.

IMG_20231203_141010 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231203_150921 by bryandkeith on flickr
details of a vase at a roadside temple
IMG_20231203_165646 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231204_071116 by bryandkeith on flickr

We’re getting south. Check it out — coconuts,

IMG_20231204_104908 by bryandkeith on flickr

the Tropic of Cancer,

Crossing the Tropic of Cancer! by bryandkeith on flickr

and banana trees (though really there are banana tress in northern Taiwan as well).

IMG_20231204_111957 by bryandkeith on flickr

It’s amazing the feasts that can come out of little restaurants like this one:

IMG_20231204_142455 by bryandkeith on flickr

We left the coast at Ningbu and started climbing to the west in light rain. A tunnel brought us into the East Rift Valley where it was kind of cold and raining hard. With a little luck (and a bit of money) we spent a comfortable night at the Japanese-style Antong Hot Spring Hotel.

IMG_20231205_081037 by bryandkeith on flickr

We enjoyed the pools again the next day while it was raining and didn’t leave the hotel until about 2pm.

On the way south to Chishang we started to get into the rice field scenery that the East Rift Valley is known for.

IMG_20231205_141602 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231205_160400 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20231205_135324 by bryandkeith on flickr
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3 Responses to Bicycle touring Taiwan: Heren to Chishang via Taroko Gorge

  1. Margaret A Chang says:

    Stunning scenery. You are fortunate to see it close up. Glad to hear you are meeting the locals. I found the Taiwanese very gracious during my short visit there last December

  2. Jennie Werner says:


  3. Mike Painter says:

    Great adventures and nice scenery!

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