I have driven up to the north coast of Taiwan several times the last few months, each time thinking to myself “wow, the coast road her is nice, I must drive it one day”. That one day turned into this weekend, and drive became ride a scooter. Starting Friday afternoon, I picked Yini up at Taoyuan train station. We rode through Taoyuan county, passing Anders street in the outskirts of Taipei and up into the mountains. Normally, it is pretty stressful to ride on the mountain road in the dark, but these were surprisingly easy. We stopped by in the small, tea growing town of Pinglin, and eventually found a hotel.
On Saturday, we continued along the mountain roads of Pinglin, down towards Toucheng on the east coast. These mountain roads are some of the best I’ve been on in this country. A fair amount of motor bikers on big sport bikes an a couple of Ferrari drivers seemed to agree. Just before we descended the mountains, we stopped by on a small rest stop to take in the fantastic view.
Being up in the mountains also meant it was nice and cool, but down on the coast the heat was sweltering. Just stopping by a scooter shop to refill the engine oil was enough to make me sweat. So, to avoid the mid day heat, we took refuge in a funny looking museum. It had a so so exhibition on life in the area, but the building itself is worth a look…and it has air conditioning
From there we drove north along the coast, having a splendid view more or less all the way. There are several scenic viewing spots along the way for the photo hungry, but I find it better to enjoy the view while getting some wind in your face. We did however stop by to snap a few shots were it was that little bit extra beautiful.
After about 35 kilometers we ended up in Fulong where, as luck would have it, there happened to be a sand sculpture championship. Naturally (and despite the immense heat), we had to check it out. I made sand castles before, but this is some seriously impressive stuff. The use of familiar characters and places as the motif of course makes the statues all the more interesting. To cool off after seeing the sculptures, I went for a swim in the sea. Poor Yini had forgotten her bikini back on the scooter and didn’t have a chance to go get it.
Continuing westwards along the coast towards Keelung, we stopped by the abandoned factory in JingGuashi I wrote about a few weeks ago. I couldn’t just pass it without some further exploration, so we drove up to the smoke tunnels, and climbed around on them for a while.
From there, it was a short last leg to Keelung, our stop for the night. We went to the famous night market for some dinner then fell asleep exhausted by intense traveling.
We started Sunday by getting lost among the one way streets of downtown Keelung. Having made about two and a half loops around the train station, and almost gone against traffic on one way streets about four times, we got out of the city, just to run out of petrol as we were exiting the chaos. After pushing the scooter to the nearest petrol station and filling up, we immediately made a detour to Dawulun fortress, which gave us a striking view of the ocean, and some less striking ruins.
Getting back on track from that small diversion, we continued riding until we came to Wanli, which was part of the reason I wanted to make this journey. A few years ago I read about some UFO houses in northern Taiwan, that had apparently been abandoned. Not only that, they were said to be among the best abandoned places in the world. Sadly, we discovered they ad been torn down. Imagine then, how happy I was a few weeks ago when I found that another group of UFO houses still exist in Wanli. So, we went hunting for these houses, hoping they hadn’t been torn down since I read about them.
At first we thought they might be fenced off inside a large hotel complex that lies just along the water front where they are supposed to be. We did not give up however, but went in search for some kind of road down to the beach. Eventually our stubbornness prevailed, as we found a small alley, right next to Seven-eleven, that took us the back way into the area. Filled with joy, I spent quite a while, sneaking around among the houses, snapping pictures, and trying to (and sometimes succeeding) to get in and poke around. Here are some of the best of many shots.
Lots of different shots, just so cool
Having thoroughly explored the area we headed onto the road again. Passing the northern most point of the island, fondly remembering our first date there years ago, we aimed for Dansui at the outskirts of Taipei. Just after rounding the northern tip, I saw, just as we were zooming past, a big apartment complex that look abandoned. Yini even noticed a small café called Ruins Coffee Shop. We just had to stop by at this place. After talking to the coffee shop owner a bit, she let us in to have a look around. Yini was a bit scared because of the closed in feeling of the rooms, but I explored as much as I could. The place is pretty big though, and the general layout of the apartments is more or less uniform so I did not check out every single detail. Still it was a pretty good bonus after the UFO houses.
The inside of a couple of the rooms
Getting out of the ruined house, we got on the scooter again and headed for Dansui at the edge of Taipei’s metropolitan area. Once there we got into some rather heavy traffic that we had to struggle through until we got across the river and down to some low grasslands by the river bank. I felt so happy to be there, that I gave the bike a bit more gas, just to enjoy the empty road and clear air and in an instant we were back in city traffic. In retrospect it might have been better to go for a walk in this area, as it is rather tiring to sit on the scooter for any length of time. As it happened, we rested in a Seven-Eleven near Wugu, then headed towards Linkou and from there down to Taoyuan. We reached central Taoyuan around seven in the evening, had some dinner then made our way to Neili and parked the scooter in an overnight garage before hopping on the train back home.
I would be lying if I said we were not tired after 350 kilometers on a scooter, but I really enjoyed the trip none the less. Except for the weather being a bit too hot, it was a great trip. We saw and did a lot and had a lot of fun, well worth a bit of hardship.