"However once our pistons were pumping on the road we wanted to keep chugging away. We were surrounded by 360 degrees of beauty."
We have just dropped off our bikes at the Giant shop at Taitung Train Station and are waiting for the bus to Dulan. Every few minutes I've got an annoying taxi driver chirping in my ear "ting budong" I say to him but he continues to chirp away. Having just finished cycling the last 50km of our 200km trip along the East Rift Valley of Taiwan, we are feeling rather sweaty and are suffering from some saddle sore. Our cycling time was 10 hours(it was very mountainous) which was split over three days. We gave ourselves a period of five days to do the trip. The intention of doing this was so we could take it at a more leisurely pace and take in the scenery around us, venturing off to scenic spots if we wanted to. However once our pistons were pumping on the road we wanted to keep chugging away. We were surrounded by 360 degrees of beauty. Stunning emerald mountains and rice paddies. The whole ride we just could not believe how lucky we were to be there. Taiwan you are piaoliang! Here is a breakdown of the three days. I would definitely recommend the route we took. The 193 is a very quiet road, most of the time it was just the two of us. The route eventually gets busy once you hit highway 9 around Yuli and Antong.
Hualien to Ruisui on the 193 Total distance 81km Riding Time 4hours 52 minutes Average speed 16.6km Max speed 45km Departed at 10:30 Arrived 16:30
We collected the bikes from the Giant Shop at Hualien Train Station. The staff here are excellent and very helpful and understood all of our needs. They provided us with everything we required such as panniers, lights, pump and lock. We bought a few extra things like padded shorts, distance/time tracker, inner tube, repair kit and gloves. Do be aware if you are dropping the bikes in Taitung they are not able to lend you bike helmets. They did however lend us some because we were coming back to Hualien eventually.
From the bike shop it's easy to connect to the 193. Head south on Zhongshan Road and follow it to the very end where you will have to take a right turn. This will bring you onto highway 11, stay on here until you see the signs for the 193. You can pick up a map from the tourist information centre. The first 45km is pretty tough. There is not much shade. You climb up a hill and then drop all the way back down, knowing you will have to climb back up again very soon. Coming down is great fun though! The hills coupled with the 33degree heat made the ride pretty unforgiving for us. The 193 does not have many places to stop off at so I would strongly recommend you take plenty of snacks and water. It reached 3pm and we'd still not had lunch. We had to use our puppy dog eyes to get someone to cook for us.
We eventually rocked up in Ruisui. We were tired and now had to find somewhere to stay. If you are wanting accommodation with hot springs or to be near the hot springs you have to head another 5km or so out of town. When you drop into Ruisui you will see the sign for the train station pointing right. Turn here follow the road and go across one junction, you will go under a bridge. The road will bend round left, you will see the train station there on your left. Also here will be a sign directing you towards the hot springs. As you cycle up this long road you will start to see signs sending you left or right, these are places to stay.
We stayed at Yuan Hsiang Hot Spring. Be prepared for the prices of the hotels with hot springs. They are nice and worth the treat but most are at least $2600NT(£52) per night including breakfast. This was very costly for us. The room was nice though. The beds were so comfy and we had access to the hot spring outside and a tap with the hot spring water came directly into out bath tub! There is another hotel next door, the rooms there are really nice too. They don't have hot springs outside but do have the water on tap running into your room. The price is the same as Yuan Hsiang Hot Spring.
We ate at a restaurant just around the corner. They sell wild vegetable hotpot, for two it cost us $398NT. There is also a Family Mart approximately 600m up the road where you can restock.
Ruisui to Chishang 193 & the 9 Distance 63.50km (small detour to Antong) Riding time 3hours 22 minutes Average speed 18.8km Max speed 39km Departed 11am Arrived 4pm
This section of the ride was the easiest and seemed to go by really fast. From Ruisui to Yuli you are still on the 193. The road is fast, quiet and beautiful. Once you reach the end of the 193 where it joins the 9 the road gets busier. You will know when you are at the end of the 193 because you will reach a 7Eleven. This is where your journey on highway 9 will begin. You can stop here to refuel and maybe have some lunch. We planned to get food in Antong but when we got there nobody was serving food! Running parallel to the 9 starting at the 7Eleven is an old train track that has been changed into a bike path. Get on this, it will be much nicer and will give you a break from the 9.
Don't worry you won't miss your turn off because you will reach an old railway station that has been converted into a shop and stop off point. It's really pretty and the lady in there is lovely. I think it's called Dongli. You will connect back onto the 9 here. Directly across the road is a good place to get some lunch. We had a delicious bowl of Tang Mein, which cost is around $50NT each. From here you stay on the 9 until you reach Chishang. When we did this route there was some roadworks going on so the road surface wasn't great but it didn't last too long.
We stayed at a REALLY nice place in Chishang run by a truly wonderful person, Jack. He is such a kind, caring, hospitable man. We wanted to extend our stay purely because of how welcomed we felt! His mum is so lovely too!
Jacks place is called the Goodlife BnB. There are no English signs but we have taken photos of it. It's as soon as you enter Chishang(following the signs that say central Chishang). The rooms and the building are beautiful! Italian floored tiles, iron bannister, stunning rooms and views! You really could not ask for more! The room we chose had a sunken bath in it, which was good for our muscles. We payed $1600NT, but I think in high season this could be more. For dinner(and lunch the next day) we had the BEST lunchbox we've ever tried!
Chishang is famous for it's lunchbox and therefor there are a few places you can get one. We opted out of getting if from the place that is now a branded name/chain. We walked about 2 minutes from Jacks towards the train station. As you turn up the street to the station on your left you will see a small red imitation train. This is outside the place to get the lunchbox. You will not be disappointed! $70NT each.
We really did not want to checkout of Jacks place the next day, but we knew we had to get going. Even though our encounter with Jack was only a short one, it is one we will never forget! Thanks Jack!
Chishang to Taitung highway 9 Distance 54.25km Riding time 2hrs 33minutes Average speed 21.2km Max speed 50km Departed 9:30am Arrived 12:30pm
This section of the journey was tough in parts. Surprisingly not on the uphill sections. When we were going downhill we were having to cycle hard to move, I think this was because of the wind and the road surface. So when it should have been easy it wasn't! We stopped off for fresh pineapple and custard apples(you must try these!). The train station was easy to find. We didn't stay in Taitung so I am unable to recommend a place to stay. From here we caught the 1801 bus straight to Dulan. The buses come at the train station.