Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Riding the Tawu/Longxi Industry Road

The evening we stayed in Tawu we ran into this amazing man, TX Wong, from Hong Kong. Tex was walking around Taiwan, a 30 day tour, 30-40 kms a day. He was two weeks in and expected to take another two weeks. This was his second trip. I am hoping to interview him in early May about his experiences.

Busy as heck this week, and then took three days off to go cycling. So that explains the lack of posts...

A lovely weekend on the east coast as my friend Michael Cannon and I headed out to explore the Tawu-Longxi industry road. Two days of fun in the sun, with plenty of beer, great scenery, and even a trio of pole dancing babes. Click on READ MORE to read more...

ROUTE NOTES: A (map of the route). Our route took us up from Tawu, 20 kms of up, mostly 4-6% grade, very easy, with excellent views. After you pass through Shinhua (14-15 kms) and the next little hamlet, Yagge (a few hundred meters further), the road becomes empty and gradually deteriorates. The peak is at about 20 kms, then you go 20 kms downhill to the ocean. The downhill side becomes increasingly awful until at last you are riding on long stretches of gravel. This is definitely a great road, worth doing once, but do it from the south, as the graveled sections are steep and might be difficult to climb, and finding the spot where the turn off to the gravel is will be difficult, since naturally it is not marked (you are not a local? What are you doing on that road?). Recommend a good set of tires and trustworthy wheels for this one. Not recommended if rain is expected. The desolate section after the peak is gorgeous, and we saw nary a vehicle and only scant sign of human habitation between Shinhua and the aboriginal villages above Daxi/Longxi. Hence, be sure to pick up water at the shop or police station in Shinhua because there isn't any after that. Why the gravel? My man Michael Cannon found this street view of the road's destruction. The gravel road bypasses that, so we never saw it.

Friday we met in Fangliao and stayed in the dorm run by the Giant shop owner. It was cheap, 400 a person, and right next to the train station. Ask at the Giant shop. There's a miniature arts village on the left side of the station as you exit.

Saturday morning we rode down to Fenggang and took the 9 over to the east coast. Here Michael climbs out of Fenggang onto the 9.

The 9 sucks. The scenery is meh and the traffic is appalling. If you are heading over to the east coast, you are better off continuing to Checheng and then taking the 199. It's much prettier and there are few cars.

Here Michael reaches the top, where the 9 intersects the 199 coming up from Checheng and Mudan. There's a police station there which serves up water to the thousands of cyclists who come buy.

The only good thing about the 9 is descending off it to reach the east coast.

I was afraid of bad weather, but the bike gods were generous.

We ended up staying in Tawu at the "bike bed and breakfast" next to the 7-11. $400 a night. The towns on this part of the coast have little to commend them apart from having plenty of cheap hotels. From Taimali on north everything is better.

We hung out in Tawu all afternoon, relaxing. These pole dancers....

...came by to distract me from my work.

Walking around in the evening, Michael snapped me with my new Xperia C smartphone. Pics are acceptable enough.

In the morning we passed TX Wong on his way out of town just before the turn onto the Tawu-Longxi industry road (tall brown sign on left). Wong was headed to Chihben.

A very leisurely grade takes you steadily up with excellent views out over the town and the ocean.

The first seven kilometers are basically forested, but after you reach the first section where it flattens out for a while, it shifts to gardens and fields.

Up we went.

There are many good places to stop and take photos.

Offering excellent views.

The road flattens but continues upwards.

Walking sticks are so gorgeous, and I always feel lucky to have spotted one.

Seeing into rolling ranges off to the west.

Slowly stands of betel nut and fields of corn appear.

After approximately 15 kms you enter the small villages of Shinhua and Yagge, where there are two shops that sell water. The police station has boiled water as well. There's nothing after this, so get water here.

Me at the police station above Shinhua.

After Shinhua the road conditions slowly deteriorate.

Sections of the road have slid off the mountain.

Barriers are often missing.

Of course a pretty spider picture.

Finally you reach the peak after 20 kms of climbing.

Downhill you fly but wait! On many of the corners the road has dropped away so gravel has been laid.

Just you and the hawks and the mountains. The scenery is magnificent.

The stretches of gravel become longer and longer.

As I pause to let my overheated rims cool, Michael takes a turn.

One more run of gravel...

Yay! Back to pavement.

We zoomed down to the river, crossed a suspension bridge...

...and stopped in a local aboriginal community for water.

The remains of a suspension bridge.

Looking back the way we came.

We headed towards the ocean.

And picked up the train at Longxi station for the trip back to Kaohsiung.

We were pretty damn beat and looking forward to beer and ice cream.

Watermelon fields on the riverbed between Chiayi and Tainan.

The rest of the story is quickly told. Monday I rode up from Kaohsiung to the Chiayi HSR (~110 kms) just for the exercise, cursing Taiwan road planners the whole way. The signage veers from nothing to insanity. On the 17 riding into Tainan successive signs inform you that "Tainan" is 16 kms, 12 kms, and then 16 kms away. Turning onto the 163 to go to Luocao to pick up the 167 to the HSR there is of course no information telling you how far Luocao actually is, a problem endemic in Taiwan signage. Hence I thought I had overshot it and turned north, heading on what I thought might be the 167 but was actually the 170 going west. I was practically to Cambodia before I discovered my error. The haze was so awful it was like being in the middle of the ocean; the horizon was near and featureless and the HSR line could only be seen when you were close to it. The whole west coast plain is boring, but the Kaohsiung/Tainan stretch of it is a nightmare. Avoid at all costs.

Hope to see you on my next ride!
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Unknown said...

Great ride!

Mike Fagan said...

To avoid the west coast road from Kaohsiung to Tainan, you could have taken the train to Gangshan, then rode east to Agongdian reservoir in Yanchao and then taken the little farmers roads through Alian districts into Tainan via the 39, crossing the Erjhen river under the HSR. Very quiet traffic-wise.

From there you could have either taken the HSR, or continued north on the 39 into Xinhua and then switched to the "other" 19 which will meander its way up through Xinshih, Sanhua, Madou and Xiaying where you could switch over to the 1 through Xinying and Houbi and eventually straight into Chiayi city. Much longer route, but you wanted exercise.

Michael Turton said...

Thought of that, but needed to get home earlier.

Anonymous said...


Unrelated comment, just a request really.

My in-laws are in Taichung and my wife and I come back each year. It would be great if we didn't have to rent a car each time we come back.

Would you consider doing a post on the MRT and BRT projects in Taichung and whether any progress has been made in this area? If they've actually build anything already I'd love to see some pictures.

Anyway, it's just a request, but if you happen to be out near any of the building action I would love to read and see more about what's going on with these projects. There's so little online about what's happening with all of it!



Michael Turton said...

I will do such a post but it will be at least two weeks. The construction is extensive but expect three years or so before system is in operation. I think if you search for Wade Kaardal's blog he has a post on it. SkepticTaiwan, it is called.


Steve said...

Wow, got to try that route sometime.

Anonymous said...

Wow thanks for that, Michael. I took a look at Wade Kaardal's blog and it was an interesting update.

I still look forward to seeing your post though. I'd be interested in seeing any stations if they've been built yet. All the BRT ones online seen to be artist renderings only, although I did see a mock-up outside the science museum one time in the middle of last year.

Anyway, I'll keep checking back for the post.

Thanks again,