Taiwan is probably the only place in the world you can say about:
There is a greater chance that your bike was already there than that you were there.
Or us, cyclists, Taiwan is also clearly associated with a unique event: TAIWAN KOM CHALLENGE. The famous road race starting from sea level and ending at 3275m above sea level. No matter how you look at it, 90 kilometers of non-stop climbing is not a common occurrence. Our plan did not assume that during the nearly 2-week trip we would reach the summit 3 times, or that we would drag the hill to 3417m above sea level.
I invite you to post about colossal mountains, great buddhas, strange food and how we spent 85 hours in saddles in 11 days, traveling over 1,200 kilometers and covering nearly 25,000 meters vertically. For the first time in the history of the blog, the entry was divided into parts. This describes logistics and preparation - the boring part. if you want meat I invite you to:
Is it worth going to Taiwan?
Taiwan with a very critical eye
Contrary to appearances, this is not an easy question. It is not difficult to guess that everyone who returns from such a holiday replies that of course - worth it. I'm not so sure. I will say more - for most people, from a cycling point of view - not worth it. I mean I can't say: yes, go to the end of the world, because that's the best you can do. It is not so.
and why not
If you're interested in visiting cities, I'll say it straight away: Taipei is one of the ugliest cities I've seen (at least during the day). The west of the island is a complex of several interconnected metropolises, whose structure resembles our Silesian agglomeration (you do not know when you are passing from one city to the next), only slightly larger. For example: Taipei - 2.7 million inhabitants, Nowy Taipei - 4 million inhabitants, Tajczung - nearly 3 million inhabitants, Taoyuan - 2.2 million inhabitants, Tainan - almost 2 million Each of them full of scooters, ads and large blocks. Combined, this gives you several hundred kilometers (like 300 in a straight line) of an endless city, with lights crammed in as densely as possible. Cool right?
If you are interested in unusual landscapes, then it is generally as if in Tenerife stretch Park Anaga to the whole island, in particular to Teide. Only everything is much more and a bit more exotic. With the exception of the highest peaks, I can't say that the views are super-unique bars, worth traveling to the other end of the planet. To a large extent, you have to count on the right climate to create the weather. Only on Teide you can also be at the sea of clouds...
If you are looking for an all-inclusive holiday with a pool and relaxation - this also does not seem a reasonable direction. Even more so if you want to leave your family in the pool and jump out for a 2-3 hour loop.
From a cultural point of view, I can't speak, because as I often stress, I am ignorant in these matters. There are certainly many buildings from which decent tourists come out fulfilled.
And no matter how you look at it - is disgustingly far away. On the other hand, does it matter if the flights are still overnight? Does it make a big difference when you leave in the evening and arrive in the morning (or vice versa: you leave in the morning, you arrive in the evening) compared to departure at 12 and arrival at 16? In any case, a day out of life.
and why so
It is nice and there are many hills and are high. People can be liked from the first meetings, prices are low and car traffic is friendly.
Taiwan is the 4th highest island in the world - Wikipedia claims that the island has 165 mountains (and 275 peaks) above 3000m above sea level. If you like ramps (or walks) - you'll be in paradise. Despite this, the most famous route (basically the route grid) is "1"; running around the island on a relatively flat - but I don't know why anyone would ride it.
In Taiwan, there is an unimaginably large, perfectly even asphalt, with little traffic. I dare say that nowhere in the world is there such a density of asphalt serpentine as there. It's ridiculous, because when you look at these roads, the question arises: what is the miracle and why ?!
People are extremely nice and helpful. The young speak English, the elderly do not necessarily, but it does not interfere with communication at all. Everyone wants to help you selflessly and we have never encountered a situation where we would feel like walking money.
Although the cities do not sin with beauty and at first glance look terrible crap, there is no trash here. Just like - rubbish on the streets, sidewalks, in cities or outside is simply not there.
It is disgustingly nice and nice. Everything is green, tall, impressive and you have a nice feeling that it is something new: a different culture, different people. Such Tenerife, only many times larger, with a slight admixture of the Azores and in a version that you have not got bored of yet, by watching an infinite number of similar photos with your friends. And the palms are so different, better, and the forest so that without a machete, do not approach.
We'll be back for sure, but we're weird.
Taiwan and the roads and life of the cyclist
Laying routes in Taiwan is a drama. There are so many possibilities that more often decisions are made what I have to skip than what to see. Roughly it works like this: you don't drive in the west because of the city; in the east there are cliffs and coastal roads, in the north it is raining, in the south it is warm and beaches, in the center are huge mountains.
Already at the planning stage, I decided to completely let go of the lower half of the island. At that time I didn't know that, limiting myself to midnight, my list would also contain more items in the section what i missed than what i saw. I suffer a lot. FOMO doesn't let you sleep.
When calculating routes, it is necessary to check which roads are passable (especially for those crossing the island across) - details in the next section. Road construction is a continuous process and boils down to rebuilding fragments collapsed with avalanches.
There are rather few cyclists, the traffic outside the cities is low (and on many roads is negligible), drivers are usually friendly. Trucks and buses are an exception, and they should be passed through narrow roads, otherwise we will be pulled under the wheels at the bend -however, these are sporadic situations. You have to take into account that you just drive here - the margin left to the rider is minimal, as is the scooter, but it is easier for the rider to knock off.
In cities, there is also no rule for left-hand traffic for two-wheelers, so when turning left, turn right, turn back and stand in front of cars.
After the first shock and several dozen kilometers traveled, we felt safer in cities than with us. What looked like huge chaos at first turned out to be a good solution. Regulations in cities are strictly observed and we have not been able to see anything that would resemble road aggression. On mountain serpentine there are sometimes very expensive and very fast two- and four-track vehicles (most often Porsche).
To sum up: on the roads, after the initial shock, it is very pleasant. Taiwan better than home.
Taiwan: a short comic about the roads
You look at the map, you think: there is a bit about roads, something can be marked out - I wonder if the visit will last for two weeks.
Let's throw Google Street View guy: o you bright Anielka - this not
you paint przejeździsz. And what's left on the left?
Our route looked as follows, and in the context of the whole island was embarrassingly short, limited and incomplete. I marked the blue ones, which I treated as mandatory and were omitted. Burgundy (the brighter, the more times traveled) what zaliczyliśmy. As you can see, there are not many options for getting across the island. In fact, during our visit, the road was one.
Taiwan: how to prepare, what to know?
Lack of money:
First of all: inform your bank about your departure. There is a good chance that your card will be blocked the first time you use it. The attempt to buy a camera for ~ 3000 PLN was successful only with the 5th card. I do not know why.
Second: you must have cash. Only 2 of the nights could be settled by card. The 7-eleven cards accept, but in most ordinary stores and stalls no longer.
Third: Revolut does not have such currency as the Taiwan Dollar. However, this does not change the fact that paying it out in a Taiwanese ATM is at least as profitable as a visit to our exchange office (at least within the free limit - I don't know later). In my opinion, regular withdrawals from Revolut ATM are the best way to have the right amount of cash. In our case, they worked well with Bank of Taiwan ATMs.
You go to Taiwan in autumn or winter, because at other times it will be too warm and too wet. It rains on the island anyway, but in this way we increase our chances. During our November (apparently the best kolarsko month) visits daily temperatures ranged from 20 ° C to 30 ° C degrees. In the mountains, of course, it is slightly cooler and a few minutes after sunset at 3200m above sea level. we already had about 2 ° C.
In the north it rained almost all the time, in the south it almost never. There is nothing to check the weather for the whole island, because it is too different, and weather radars are often wrong, because they treat the thick fog as rain. The rule is that it is nicer in the morning than in the afternoon.
While in the cities some places suggest a bit ordinary letters, in most food booths the traditional Chinese alphabet is used. Google Translation Translator Live from the webcam works funny, but enough. I can't imagine how we would use a washing machine without it. It also facilitates contact with many people if we want to receive an accurate answer. Lokalsi they use the translator well and can read their questions in English from the phone. Communication in the 21st century is simple. In addition, sign language also works well because you can see that the other side is also trying.
There is no such thing as trash on the island. They just don't exist. If you eat a candy bar and need to get rid of the packaging, it remains to wait for the appearance of 7-eleven. A big attraction are the garbage cans, which will mix with the melody similar to Family Frost trucks. For example, a garbage truck is playing nothing strange "For Elise". Despite the lack of trashcans, rubbish on the roads is simply gone.
If you want to have a route planned in advance, check the roads carefully. Interestingly, in our case Strava and Ride with GPS turned out to be much more current than Google Maps. Where Google let us through the mountains, Strava said there was no road... and in fact she wasn't there. In the center of the island, east and west connect only 3 roads, two of which turned out to be impassable during our visit. The renovation will take several years. At first it seemed strange to me, but it only takes a few kilometers to understand that building any road through these mountains is pure abstraction.
I mean impassable, impassable. It's not Gran Canaria that you can walk on the wall with the bike on your back.
If you are not sure if the road is passable, I have a suggestion. In such cases, I am looking for a segment on Strava somewhere in the area, I check the last trips of this segment and either I see that someone has recently traveled it, or I ask about it in a comment under the activity that took place nearby. Works in 100%.
Everything is difficult:
When planning anything in Taiwan, everything is disgustingly difficult. Are you looking for an answer if it is possible to travel by train with a bicycle, you will get several: that it is possible; that it can't be done; that it is possible, but you will not fit because it is crowded; that only in the cover; that only some. And it really is, but it doesn't matter. When you arrive at the station, even if the staff do not speak a word of English, they will explain everything (you will not understand anything) and take care of everything. Taiwanese are extremely friendly and helpful, and with every translation you will feel like a crowd because they repeat everything too many times. For example, they were able to explain to us for 2 minutes how the door lock works: That you twist it once, ok? Then you twist a second time, ok? That it slams itself from the outside, okay? That there is an intercom, okay? That try it yourself ok? That the key is put in here, okay?. So if you can't plan something remotely, leave it there and someone will help you there.
When we asked about the ride hitchhiking in the parking lot, after the first question the family who could not help us, walked around the parking lot and asked this question in Chinese.
On the other hand, there is no such thing as "bending the rules, because you are a tourist" - if something is not allowed, then it is not allowed. Lokalsi They will help you, but without making exceptions, which we painfully learned the first day at the airport.
All this makes Taiwan one of the friendliest places we've visited. To the set, let's add the fact that from the second day we no longer attach bicycles and sometimes we leave them even at night, based under the block (just unpicked at the entrance), although there would probably be no problem with carrying them inside. Nobody here even considers that they could be stolen.
There are a lot of dogs in Taiwan. They are either tied with a short chain somewhere under the house or lie in the middle of the road. Each of them looks like meeting him would be the last in our lives. Such a gaze of a hungry, brave, homeless dog that looks straight into the eyes from a distance and waits for you to get close enough.
Statistically, many of them don't have a single leg for reasons I don't know. Throughout our tour we have met these hundreds of dogs & #8211; two barked at us, one followed us & #8211; better result than in Poland. From observations I can only say that dogs are safer to skip ahead than backwards & #8211; then we are completely ignored.
Taiwan is a photographer's nightmare. Almost all mountain views are hidden tightly behind the wall of trees. In places where a special one would be created in a normal country mirador - parking lot for tourists with a view of the surroundings, here are the trees. And the trees grow here with a wall. If you tried, the camera won't break through it, and fear will enter the bushes from the day when you first see a large snake or a large spider. There could be a million viewpoints here, and there are several.
It's a store that is everywhere and has everything. There are stoves, hot food, breakfast, dinner, free wifi, a place to eat and probably every thing you might need: from PowerBank, via tablet cables. 7-Eleven saves lives and you must remember that. 7-Eleven is like a Biedronka with a kebab booth and Żabka in one.
Facebook group: Taichung Bike Ride - local meetings, but you can ask about something in an emergency
Facebook group: 騎單車 去 露營 Bikepacking 101 - 單車 旅行, 露營, 探險, 挑戰 訊息 分享!- a big group about bikepacking
Entry about the trip around the island
An entry about routes on the island
Map of official cycling routes on the island (in my opinion - avoid)
An entry about the best routes on the island (in my opinion - not necessarily)
Forum entry about the best routes on the island
Money, or how much does a cycling trip to Taiwan cost?
in a half-onion version
flights - good price for a reasonable (total time up to 20h) flight with a bicycle from Warsaw to Taipei are around:
We fly AirFrance with a short change in Paris: 2500 PLN
(it should cost 1700 PLN + 800 PLN for a bike (!))
When it comes to accommodation, we accept the principle: cheap but dignified, which means it can be both cheaper and more expensive. Each of the accommodations is recommendable (although some were quite small in area) - clean and reasonable. Usually it was just a large room with 2-4 beds or a hotel with breakfast, bicycle seats and a good location. Details in specific descriptions per day. Most of them had towels, flip flops and hygiene products available, including toothpaste and disposable brushes.
Mono Hostel, Taipei - 325zł
Mono Hostel, Taipei - 325zł
Long Men Ke Zhan, Jiufen - 311zł
TG Hostel- stay together, Taizhong - 196zł
Travel Life B&B, Shuili - 281zł
Fenchihu Street Hotel, Fenchihu - 276zł
Wen Shan, Yuchi - 256zł
Carl Town Loft Hotel, Ren'ai - 460zł
My happiness baking room, Shunan - 276zł
J House, Puli - 343zł
Quan Ming B&B, Dahu - PLN 238 (2 persons)
miniinn, Taipei - 249zł
12 nights for 4 people: PLN 3,500
total amount per person: PLN 875
average amount per person / night: PLN 73 per person / night
In general, food prices in Taiwan are very close to Polish, the difference is that it is very easy to hit very cheap food. 7-Eleven scattered everywhere helps in this, in which ready dishes (reminiscent of those from "Mr. sandwiches"; in office buildings), heated and eaten on site are quite good and usually do not exceed PLN 10. The selection starts with - exclusive Chinese soups- in boxes for a few zlotys, to full-fledged lunch boxes at prices of PLN 7-15. For PLN 20, we are able to eat a big and good dinner consisting of a soup, main course and dessert. Plus sandwiches for a few zlotys, sushi-like rice triangles, and the matter is done. For those willing, boiled eggs in tea & tea are also available in each store - such a large pot from which you can pick them out yourself.
Turbo-onions can eat in a 7-evelen a very filling meal consisting of, for example, warm sweet potatoes, eggs boiled in tea and peanut rice milk and close it calmly at PLN 10.
Prices in ordinary premises and night supermarkets (i.e. evening, food markets with food made at stands) are usually a few to several zlotys per meal.
In fact, almost everything from the stalls still tastes fried oil or tofu and tea, so it doesn't matter what you order. One thing is for sure:
If you are a vegetarian and you do not like eating sweet potatoes throughout the trip, you will starve.
For vegetarians, the most important information is that the meat is two hangers in the closet: 肉
To sum up: costs similar to ours when a person feeds on "cheap Chinese places". As the holiday motto is ride, eat, sleep, repeat - average daily expenses, taking into account that a lot of food and sweets went on the move (average daily requirement of at least 5000-6000kcal):
a lot of food per person: around 100 PLN / day
Equipment and service:
Replacement of a broken brake cable - about PLN 100
Replacement of a broken cable - around PLN 130
Chain lubrication, wheel centering, unscrewing and repairing a skewed rigid axle - they didn't want money
Electronic equipment, to our surprise, me - more as much as with us. For example, the cost of cameras (which I had to buy on the spot) is (for different versions) Sony RX100 and Panasonic LX100 roughly the same, for Canon G5X II, which I decided about 25-30% less, but without a European warranty.
to sum up: how are we?
Price for a taxi "in the field" - for 35 kilometers (2 people + 2 bikes) covered in over 40 minutes we paid about PLN 150
4-person Uber in Taipei - 8.55 km | 20 min: PLN 30
4-person Uber in Taipei - 8.90 km | 17 min: PLN 37
4-hour local train ride man + bike from Ruifang to Taichung (some 200km) - 60zł
train ride from Taipei to the airport: PLN 20
15 days of unlimited internet (available almost everywhere) and some minutes to call - around PLN 90 We managed to buy it before we went to the airport in Taipei - the man in place helps to change the card and check if it works.
the estimated cost of traveling to Taiwan (12 days, 12 nights - accommodation, transport, food) is:
-> less than 5000 PLN per person <-
Taiwan - preparation for the trip:
We take our bikes in cardboard boxes, which we will throw away. We ride with our roads, which is not an optimal idea, because it is definitely better to have disc brakes, and alone bikepacking much more convenient, however, would be on tires around 30mm. A word though bikepacking it's a bit exaggerated here, we probably grow something called credit card touring, as I found out recently. IN seatbags and podramówki we take only the most necessary things, and we book accommodation on the Bookings. We try to use Airbnb twice and twice it ends with resignation and submitting an official complaint - it seems that local guys they are not very good with this application, which leaves us a bit in the field.
The whole route was prepared in advance. As for accommodation, we only had the first tap in Taipei. We booked the rest every day a few hours in advance. On the map I have marked only critical places, without accommodation. The plan was changed thanks to this on the 3rd day.
The list of items in a luggage of several kilograms in Taiwan is:
civilian clothes we ride in:
long pants with detachable legs (sztos!) + T-shirt + socks + panties + cycling jersey + SPD shoes
and civilian items in luggage:
two additional civilian shirts, three pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, 2 bras and a pajamas (only for Panda), shoes for walking in the sea (because small and light & civilian).
3x cycling jerseys, 2x shorts, ultralight jacket, waterproof gloves, 2 undershirts, legs + sleeves, buff, short gloves, hat
folding backpack made of Decathlon (the new, waterproof, 20l), eye flaps, cosmetic bag, towel, helmets, glasses, documents, paper map
patches, inner tube, pump, derailleur hook, multitool with ferrule, clip, spoons
cables, powerbank, lights, chargers + 110v adapters, big camera, small camera, gopro, counters
Particularly noteworthy are:
Borrowed Garmin 530 - Garmin like Garmin, but the new function of dividing the route into subsequent climbs with their description is, according to Panda, real gamechanger.
Borrowed (or rather, rather sponsored) TriEye rearview mirror glasses, in my opinion, a niche product, but for this particular trip they proved to be perfect... after quite a long time needed to get used to them.
Monthly lenses (in this case Air Optix Night & Day Aqua) this is a super-hyper-king and king of everything. You put it in your eye and you forget for a month, without stretching even while you sleep. A comfortable genius for such trips.
I think the above set was optimal in terms of comfort and weight.
TL; DR: Should you go to Taiwan?
As for me, I remember Taiwan as 9/10. Maybe not necessarily because of the views, but as a whole. No stress or nerves, nice and helpful people, quantity, quality and variety of bike routes and reasonable prices. The whole does not come out CLEARLY more than 2 weeks in Tenerife, if we wanted to switch between hotels.
Can I recommend Taiwan with a clear conscience? Not necessarily. There is a lot of other, much closer places where the views will be much more impressive. Such in which locals predicted the presence of tourists and miradory ready for instagramowe photos are scattered around every corner and from which you will take only-prawilne picture. The ones where there are many legendary driveways next to each other and you can tell your friends: I was on this and that and that. The ones you will be able to talk to these friends about later, because you all know them by heart - from photos from magazines, from races, from holiday photos on Facebook.
I treat Taiwan as a place for people who want something new. Which instead of doing a workout or looking for a 2-3 hour loop from under the beach house pool, they prefer to explore. So if you are going with a family that you plan to settle down for a summer vacation and ride for a while - choose something else. Well, unless you care about defeating the legendary Taiwan KOM Challenge- then it's worth it. In fact, it's worth it even just to go there, cross this route and come back ;-)
We will be back for sure, I missed it too much.