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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Touring Taiwan's Tip: Cycling Through Kenting and the Heng Chun Peninsula

Toward Ouluanpi

This weekend Michael T. invited my wife and I out for a weekend of riding around Taiwan's beautiful Heng Chun Peninsula. Until this weekend, my wife, Joyce, had only logged about 150km on her new Colnago, but has been working hard to become a better rider. She has taken to riding like a star pupil in school and has done her reading and research into all sorts of road bike related issues so that she will have a more complete understanding of what she is engaged in. Let's just say she made the bookstore extremely happy this month. She also invested in a pair of Assos biking shorts, which proved that spending a little more... in the right spot... can make a world of difference. This weekend she was ready to try her first extended tour away from home.

The Heng Chun Peninsula is a wonderful place to begin an education, both on the bike... and about this beautiful island. The green mountains, rolling hills and shimmering seascapes between Ping Tung and Kenting are dotted with historic and pre-historic sites that can each unfold a thousand narratives of Taiwan's unique experience with striking depth and poignancy. These quiet treasures are made even more alluring in the backdrop of the rolling landscape.

We felt fortunate to be biking through this landscape, which is best when enjoyed with friends.

Making A Batch of Betel Nut

After evacuating Taichung Friday night, we arrived at our digs at the hot springs just up the road from Che Cheng, which is where the Japanese landed to mount a punitive campaign against the people of Mudan Village in 1874, in retaliation for the killing of 54 Okinawans.


A light rain the night before brought temperatures down, which was excellent for riding. The water droplets that hang on every leaf have way of making the jungle shine in technicolor hues of green. It is absolutely unbelievable.

We headed out along the Ping Tung Local Rd. 199 that leads across the hills to the other side of the peninsula. Along the route we passed through the Stone Gate, where the Mudan and Japanese forces clashed.

A monument high on a hill marks the famous battle.

Battle Memorial

Unfortunately for poor Joyce, the morning started out with a pretty significant hill climb and I hoped it would be the only one. The climb became her first significant climb and was pretty rough on her... but she survived and made it to the top.

Shi men

We could look down on the town of Shi Men, where I once interviewed a very old woman who remembered the days before the Japanese government could enforce the moratorium on head hunting, a practice that had once been conducted by both highland and lowland indigenous groups.

The Interior

A Mountain Lake

When you live in the city it is too easy to forget how expansive Taiwan's wilderness can be. Not all of Taiwan is tamed or paved. For a cyclist it is even more exciting that there are so many forestry roads that traverse the hills and jungles.

Joyce Smokes The Competition

On our way East on the 199, we were periodically joined by other cyclists, who were also looking for a weekend retreat from city life. One couple had their college-aged son follow them in the car for support.

A Water Stop

As we coasted through some of the small indigenous villages that dot central Taiwan, we were often greeted by spontaneous cheers from the local children who delighted in seeing us pass through. They were not stupidly mocking, or trying to be funny, but were genuinely excited. That is such a great thing about Taiwan. People are so supportive of cyclists.

Adoring Fans

At the point where the 199 and 199甲 split, three groups of cyclists converged at the same time and decided to pose for pictures. The couple with the car and a group from Chia yi, led by a guy who insisted on blasting us with Placido Domingo from his bike stereo. Bike stereos should be outlawed... PERIOD!

Cycling People

Despite our annoyance with these clowns, we posed for a picture as fellow cyclists.

The Pacific

Just on the other side of a hill we could see the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Community Center

At the bottom of a screamingly beautiful descent, we stopped at XuHai Village at the police station, where they offer water and supplies to passing cyclists.

A Cyclist's Needs

The Circus

It was time to ditch the circus show and head south on the Highway 26.

Hugging The Coast

The Highway 26 passes through a missile battery and had been off limits to civilians for many years until is was finally opened to regular traffic a few years ago. The narrow road hugs the coast and remains largely deserted except for the occasional military convoy.


The military engineers who designed this road during the peak of the Cold War must have been cyclists as it looks like it was designed with road bikes in mind. The road combined with the fantastic seascape makes for some awesome riding. The emerald cliffs and bright blue seas are simply a sight to behold. The sights are made even more grand on a bicycle that eliminates the artificial limitation made by window frames. If surfers can have "The Perfect Wave", cyclists must have the, "Perfect Road". If this is the case then I have a nominee right here.

The Nag Strikes A Pose

Michael Hammers Along The Coast

After a we stopped in GangZai for lunch, a town that is only on the map to provide dune buggy recreation to tourists, we hit another hill climb. The climbs and rollers were wearing on Joyce, but she stuck them out and gave her full commitment to completing the hills. It was an amazing effort.


We stopped for a break near a little roadside grove where some water buffalo were feeding. They are such weird animals and always interesting to watch. They were once a ubiquitous sight in western Taiwan, but now they can hardly be seen... replaced by machinery and agricultural decline.

Cyclocross Series?

We were nearing the top of the last climb when we ran into a patch of construction combined with a mad rush of tour busses, a rarity on our ride, and Joyce had just about had enough of the madness. We were on "a hill too far."

At the top of the hill we stopped for about 30 min. and took in some snacks and sport drink. Joyce was soon back in good humor and vowed to finish the ride. Soon, she was smiling again and enjoying the scenery as she spun away at an awesome cadence.


The valley into Manzhou is an absolute wonder. The green pastures and mountains can really slow down a ride with too many photo and rubber necking opportunities.

Afternoon Riding

As flavor of the sun shifted to the afternoon, we rolled through Manzhou, where a few remnants of its days as an outpost on a wild frontier were still visible.

The Chemist


We finally stopped rolling for the day in Jialeshui, near the eastern tip of the peninsula. Unfortunately, we were staying at a little hostel frequented by surfers and beach bums. There were a few mattresses on the floor, no sheets, no security, and in the middle of the night we had two more strangers enter our room to sleep.

The other foreign guests were surfers and triathletes. It is a different kind of vibe that you don't feel when you meet other cyclists. It was an atmosphere of cliquishness and facade, with all the weight of a cocktail party conversation. It was as if people were exchanging non-committal pleasantries all night. Just strange. Mostly foreigners from all over. I miss the friendliness exchanged by most other cyclists.

Quiet Night

Still, the views were relaxing and it was a place to stay. There may have been a two or three better hostels, but that wasn't what we found.

Michael's Last Moments At The Winson... EVER!!!

When we awoke, we had a hard time finding food to help us fuel our way to Kenting. We eventually found a truck selling baozi and stopped to eat at a little shop where the locals drop by to stuff a craw full of indigenous style betel nut. This kind is made with the traditional lime paste and fresh nuts... no amphetamine kicker. This is really indicative of many of the villages around southern Taiwan that bast a large number of ex-aborigines and the descendants of some subgroups of Siraya and Makado people who migrated to more remote locations and to the Taidong region. Many of the indigenous traditions and cultures are simply regarded as local without the connection to the indigenous past.

Traditional Betel Nut Kit

We hugged the Highway 26 all the way up to the bluff above the ocean. It made a wonderful vantage point to take in the sights. Joyce was going strong again and enjoying the rolling waves of green hills and blue seas.

Turtonus Maximus

Atop A Climb

Joyce Opens A Can Of Whup-ass

From the cliff-tops we edged West toward the old lighthouse at Ouluanbi, which was bought for $100 by a British expedition and remains one of the world's only fortified light houses. British bought the land from the Mudan people as the Qing empire denied control over the area and several ships owned by foreign merchants had run aground on the reefs and sandbars.


Laying On The Beach

At last we made it to Kenting town. In Kenting it is Spring Break all-year-round. Tourists lounge around on beaches, play in the surf, scour the streets looking for crap to buy out of sheer boredom, and the occasional gang of young foreigners drops in to act like drunken louts.
It is a beach town.
Swimsuit Competition

I brought my bike down to soak up some rays to give it a deeper orange color that might make George Hamilton weepy with envy.

Caesar Park Beach


Cape Town has Table Mountain, Gibraltar has its rock. Kenting has DaJianShan lording over the town below... and it is a wonderful sight. I have climbed up it six or seven times, but I don't know if people are still doing that. The views are incredible... and the fine is only NT3000.

Not As Famous as the Aerosmith Album of the Same Name

Somewhere in the shadow of the rock I got a flat tire and luckily every 7-11 is equipped with a bicycle pump as my CO2 cartridge misfired and I only filled to 40psi. I love this about Taiwan.

Beachey Keen!

We continued on to Maobitou side of the cape where my least favorite beach sits. The beach next to the 3rd Nuclear Power Plant is so wrong in so many ways that it makes me resentful of the place. it is everything I feel a beach shouldn't be.

3rd Nuclear Power Plant: Radiation Licking Good!

The 3rd Nuclear Power Plant is just plain wrong sitting there on a reef. In the mid-80's the KMT authoritarian government decided they needed a third nuke plant and so, I have been told by some reliable sources, the Pingtung County Commissioner and a powerful organized crime figure were awarded a large sum of money and property within the Kenting National Park, in exchange for convincing the people of Pingtung County and the areas surrounding the proposed site, to support the project. There was a lot of strong-arming, fraud, and lying that got the deal passed. It is just sickening!


On the way back toward Checheng, we stopped at the freshwater lake that has wowed visitors for centuries. W.A. Pickering made a reference to this lake in his memoirs.

Best Riding Buddies


For lunch we stopped at the little port town of Shanhai. When we asked the shop owner if they had a menu, we were told that they do not have a menu and only sell whatever comes in that day. At that moment she took the lid off a couple coolers full of freshly caught fish and we just took some guessed and had the most wonderful seafood luch... for NT 350.

Storm Clouds And Rain... All Around My Door

We pedaled on about a half-step in front of a massive thunder storm that would eventually drench southern Taiwan. The clouds loomed above with the occasional droplet of rain threatening to bring the whole sky down on our heads. It just made us pedal faster.

I'll Take The Bottle Of Rum Instead

I did have to stop at the Yoho Bike hotel, which costs WAY too much (NT8000 per night/2 bed) and is nowhere near Kenting town. Not the most conveniently located hotel for riders, but the road is a not bad for biking.


It was all just easy riding back into Checheng, where Joyce caught the sign leading to the graves of the Okinawan sailors killed in 1871. The visit to the gravesite served as the perfect capstone to a wonderful tour of the Heng Chun Peninsula.

Joyce was phenomenal with so few rides under her belt. I can't believe how well she rode. She nearly doubled her total mileage in this single trip.

Okinawan Grave Site

Wet Weather

*Read Michael's post on the ride: HERE

Bike route 720492 - powered by Bikemap


  1. Great write up.
    Thanks for taking the time.

  2. A beautiful cycling destination in southern Taiwan and super photos. You are so lucky to have lovely wife riding with you. I am not so sure about the nuclear power plant being the wrong idea. With the global warming, even environmental activists are flirting with nuclear - 4% CO2 compared with fossil fuel, not a bad deal.

  3. SSF,

    The nuke plant uses old technology and is placed in an environmentally sensitive area on a coral reef. Some of the initial waste was sent out to Orchid Island for the Dao people to sit on. Wrong place, wrong time and wrong methods.

  4. Enjoyed the write up. Every 7-11 has a pump for public use? Huh. Great idea. (And seriously, is there *anything* you can't get done at a 7-11 over there? The ones I checked out in Hong Kong were like Wal-marts in a shoebox.)

  5. 7-11 is great for all kinds of stuff. You can bay bills, order books, send mail and buy a Slurpee, all in one visit. 7-11 is your lifeline on the bike. If you can't find a convenience store, stop by a betel nut stand where you can buy water or sport drink.

  6. Hi Andrew, first time I have taken a look at your blog and enjoyed reading about your Tour de Kenting. We live in Hualien and have done a similar tour by taking the train to Dawu, then doing the climb to the top and dropping down to the old missle base area and finally into Hengchun. It is a great ride for sure. We also go to the Kenting area several times a year so if you, your wife and Michael are interested in having another cyclist along for a ride, let me know.
    My name is also Michael and my email is

  7. THANK YOU for the details. I will be a spectator in Ironman 2013 in Kenting and I thought about renting a bicycle to get around. Kenting sounds like a bike-friendly town, its very encouraging.