Exploring Taiwan: A Photo Essay

There was a compelling force within me, driving me forward, demanding that I push on. Riding a bicycle always does this to me. It gives me the freedom to explore and the exhilaration of discovery in a way that only bicycling can provide.

As I rode up a Taiwanese mountain valley thru a lush, thick green forest dotted with Buddhist monasteries and Taoist pagodas, an almost overwhelming sense of adventurism was welling up from deep down inside, urging and pleading with me to push on. I so desperately wanted to give into this calling but I was forced back to reality when I looked at my watch and realized that if I didn’t turn back now, I wouldn’t make it back to the tour group by the designated time. Reluctantly I turned around and headed back to town.

The tour group I was in had rented bicycles and we had less than two hours to explore Sun Moon Lake, a hidden gem tucked away in the mountains of Taiwan. How could this be? The bike path that follows along the lake was designated as one of the top 10 bicycle routes in the world and I only had two hours to explore it?

The thick hardwood forests encroaching on the roadway gave way to a dense bamboo forest as I approached the peaceful shores of Sun Moon Lake. The abundant shade protected me from the searing heat as I contemplated how the endless array of emerald green mountains abruptly gave way to the sparkling waters glittering aimlessly before them.

Ni hau, ni hau!” Emerging from the mostly uninhabited forests onto the bike path, I am greeted by enthusiastic hellos from the friendly locals. Almost every encounter I have with them starts out with a genuine, beautiful Taiwanese smile. There never seems to be a shortage of smiles here.

As an adventure cyclist who has cycled over thirty countries, I was pleasantly surprised at the opportunities Taiwan offers not only the serious cycle tourist, but also the recreational cyclist. I was invited for a 10-day whirlwind tour by the Taiwan Tourist Bureau to help promote bicycling. I got a taste of cycling in Taiwan by renting a bicycle, then riding on various bike paths around the country. This article, followed by a series of five more, explore the bicycling possibilities in Taiwan.

Taiwan temple

Well-kept, elaborate Buddhist monasteries, temples and pagodas are a common sight in both the cities and countryside. Visitors are generally welcome to take off their shoes and walk around.

Taiwanese temple

People of all ages practice Buddhism. While worshiping, it is common to present some kind of offering to the Buddha.

Taiwan Sun Moon Lake

The enchanting waters of Sun Moon Lake. The Taiwan government did an excellent job of keeping this area in pristine condition as much of the surrounding area is unspoiled jungle and forest.

Sun Moon Lake bike path

Recreational cycling has become very popular. This bike path follows the perimeter of along the perimeter of Sun Moon Lake.

 

Taiwan smiles

When cycling in Taiwan, expect to be inundated with smiles wherever you go. They are genuinely friendly people who will go out of their way to make your stay in their country more pleasant.

Taiwan smiles

Taiwanese smiles are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever come across.

 

Taiwan countryside

Rice paddies line rural valleys. Expect mellow riding in the countryside once you get out of the hectic-ness of the cities.

 

Taipei

If you like the hustle and bustle of the city, there are several humdingers. This is Taipei, the largest city in Taiwan.

 

japanese influence in Taiwan

Although the culture of Taiwan is mainly Chinese, there is some Japanese influence.

 

Taiwanese ladies

Riding through the cities offers a unique view of everyday life.

 

Taiwan countryside

Bring a sweatshirt! Don’t be fooled by the sweltering hot lowlands; the mountains can be cold and, if it’s winter, there is a possibility of snow.

 

Taiwan market

Local markets attract many people on the weekends. Visiting one offers another glimpse of local life.

 

Aboriginal Taiwanese

Aboriginal tribes are still intact and contributing to the culture of Taiwan. This aboriginal man lives in the mountains cultivating tea.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

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