Hualien, Taiwan October 2nd, 2019
There are two routes that go all the way along the Taiwanese east coast, highway 9 and highway 11. While the first one goes further inland and has much more vegetation and landscape, highway 11 basically has the sea to one side all the time and a small mountain range on the other. Since we went from Hualien in the north down to Taitung, the ocean was constantly to our left, while gentle hills rolled past us on the right. Leaving Hualien, you first go through the city and cross a large waterway that connects a river with the ocean.
You will get onto highway 11 by keeping left and following the signs as well as your mobile navigation. The streets are almost industrial going out of Hualien but all have clearly marked lanes designated for cyclists. Once you see the ocean it totally blows your mind how beautiful these “rural” parts of Taiwan are. While 60 percent of the route really is going right along the coastline, 20 percent are leading you through forest and tropical greenery as well with the remaining 20 percent are spend in more urban areas such as small towns or tunnels. Since the area is very mountainous parts of the way are quite challenging and have you ride up steep climbs. In October when we did our tour the weather surprised us with uninterrupted sunshine and basically no wind. Therefore some parts of our tour were quite hard to tackle, and if I would do it again I would definitely pack more water. Online I’ve read that 7-Elevens were abundant along the road but considering the heat and the physical effort you put into the trip, I could have used a little more sustenance. Since the terrain is pretty hilly at some points along the way it wasn’t possible to build roads along the coastline. In these cases tunnels have been dug into the mountain and you have to go through them for several kilometers. I would consider this the only dry spell along the way, since its not too much fun riding through a polluted tunnel with limited ventilation. But once you come out at the other side and get rewarded with the most amazing sea views, you absolutely know why you signed up for this trip.
And then there are the many opportunities to take a small detour and go directly the beach or the ocean. When you pay attention you notice all kinds of small roads leading away from the street and towards the water. We “only” scheduled 70km for our first day so we had a little extra time to spend exploring the coast.
This brought us to a couple of amazing black pebbles beaches or stunning viewing platforms from which to watch the waves come and go. We even found one swimming beach but didn’t go into the water since we still had half of our distance to go that day. We didn’t bring any towels anyways and riding the second half on wet (and salty) bottoms didn’t sound too alluring.
And so we went all the way down from Hualien to Shitiping, stopping here and there to see the beach or simply to enjoy the view. In the early afternoon we arrived at our destination for the day, and since we didn’t book a hotel in advance, we went to the larger hotels and asked for free rooms. While the main hotel in this small town was already fully booked (a bus with Russian tourists had just arrived before us), they referred us to their B brand sister hotel further down the road. We noticed that buildings at the Taiwanese coast tended to look almost abandoned are are mostly build from naked concrete.
The Adagio Reindeer Hualien 118 is one such boutique design hotel build from concrete and located directly at the coast of Shitiping. The design is open, with glassless large windows in the lobby and an open kitchen. The guest rooms are located on the first floor and the steps leading up to the rooms have small copper plates with symbol on them embedded in the concrete. Many thoughtful details make this place quite unique, like the common room which is equipped with bean bags and a sort of snoozle egg made from straw. Coming in you walk past a huge chalk board where guest passing through have left messages or colorful doodles. Looking out from our room‘s window we had an unobstructed view of the ocean and even got an amazing sunrise the next morning. The hostess prepared a shared breakfast which was served with plain rice porridge. The local speciality is flying fish, and not only did we have some for breakfast, the night before we also had it for dinner. We basically travel to eat and were pleasantly surprised by the local variety of smoked fish dishes. And so we had a very successful first day of travel and were really lucky all along the way.
Watch our bike ride down the Taiwanese east coast from Hualien to Shitiping below: