Friday, February 22, 2019

Kuala Kangsar To Gerik To Penang Tour Route Maps

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Perak-Kedah-Penang / Kuala Kangsar>Gerik>Penang Cycling Route Maps



These maps were the planned routes, as in any tour. nothing goes as planned (and that's where the fun of touring is), for the actual routes we rode, read the blogs.








Below is the combined route map for the whole tour, for detailed route maps showing places of interests, foodie places etc. go to the route maps shown on the daily blogs:

Kuala Kangsar to Gerik to Baling to Penang Perak-Kedah-Penang Cycling Route Map (423km)
This is a combined route that was done over eight days. It took us from Kuala Kangsar pass by the scenic Tasik Raban, and onwards to Gerik to join the Gerik Temenggor Dam Fun Ride, to cycle to the dam which is normally closed to the public. Generally the route is of medium toughness except for the one leading to the dam, and a tough stretch along the East-West Highway leading to Pulau Banding. The route from Kupang to Kulim, goes along the Baling-Gerik Highway; it's recommended not to cycle on this very steep undulating highway as it is very tough and there is a high likely hood of meeting elephants. The route from Baling to Butterworth were mostly on rural kampung and plantation roads.
(See day-to-day blogs for more detailed routes)

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Perak-Kedah-Penang / Kuala Kangsar>Gerik>Penang Cycling Route Maps

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Best Taiwan Cycling Trails

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Taiwan 2017 / Best Taiwan Cycling Trails
                                                   AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                           
Best Taiwan Cycling Trails
Malaysian Brompton cyclists at Dadongdafu Forest Park (大農大富平地森林).
Taiwan (台湾) has always intrigued me. An island state, with colorful aboriginal people comes to my mind. But it is more than that; it's a country with bustling metropolises, beautiful countrysides, scenic shores and more! For the cyclists it offers all of these diverse sceneries, and a good spread of cycle-touring experiences from casual to hard to extreme, and often it's along dedicated cycling paths or shared lanes. We did a round Taiwan island tour of the country along the coastal area and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The more daring can take on the hilly slopes of the interior leading to Hehuanshan (合歡山) and an ultimate challenge of the famed Wuling Trail, the country's highest mountain trail.
One can do the coastal route or the challenging hills, whichever the case the following trails along the coastal area shouldn't be missed:

Accessing the Keelung River Bike Park through the Raohe Evacuation Gate.
Taiwan faces annual torrential rains during the typhoon season. For most low lying cities and towns, to prevent flooding from overflowing rivers, flood tall flood walls have been put up to wall up the rivers. Often the walled up corridors are very wide and within these large spaces parks have been put up with cycling paths running through them. These cycling paths are a pleasure to ride on, but do note that during the heavy rainy season they will be closed.

Near to Taipei, these cycle paths run along the Dahan River Bike Path, then onto the Tamsiu River Xindian River cycling paths. One can start at any of the nearest flood gates, a good place to start is the Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭). Further along is the Keelung River Bike Park. This bike paths run along lush area of greenery, somethings through brush land where wild live like water birds thrive. At other times it goes along well-landscaped parks and very often passing by well designed and colourful bridges. Some of these banks are opened to normal traffic, but no worries as there are separate dedicated cycle paths to ride along.

The walls of the storm drains are not left bare, murals of ancient China landscape and medieval China culture liven up dull walls. At other walls murals of giant dinosaurs come running after a painted cyclist!

Along the way are open spaces for people to play games like basketball and other ball games.
(..... see Taipei River Trails cycling blog) (..... see Taipei River Trails cycling route map) 

Often the river channel are narrow and hardly noticeable. But extend the ride to Tamsui (淡水, Danshui) - and nearing the town, the Tamsui River approaches the sea and the river widens considerably. Life along the sea coast is a host of activities, children playing in the parks, shoppers patronizing the brightly decorated shops, and sometimes in the sea could be seen people fly-rod fishing.
En-route one can detour to Taiwan's National Palace Museum and view the many artwork treasures there; do note that one may have to spend a few hours there to appreciate the many exhibits.

At Tamsui, visit the Original Cake Bakery with its open kitchen section where a worker can be seen taking out the trays of cooked cheese sponge cake out, turning the whole tray upside down, giving it a shake to make it easy to remove the cake from the tray. Another worker with a long steel ruler cuts the cake into standard sizes to be sold. Nearby is the the Art Wall of Tamsui Old Street. which has art exhibits done by locals and also photos of Tamsui  through the decades.
In the evening take leisurely ride along the the Tamsui Golden Shore Bike Path. The section here is a shared path with pedestrians, crossing over several small bridge and leads through many restored buildings from Tamsui colonial period as a busy port.

At the Tamsui Customs Wharf, there is a restored carcass of an old boat to explore within; while outside blue sampans are lit an eerie yet attractive blue.

Tamsui has several restaurants that sells good seafood, one of which is the  North Kenting Beer House, like this Sweet 'n Sour fish. If it gets too late after a lovely time here, one can always take the Taipei Metro back to Taipei.
(..... see Tamsui cycling blog) (..... see cycling route map) 

Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) is Taiwan's largest lake, and is located in the mountains of Nantou at the geographic center of Taiwan island. The name of the lake is inspired by the beauty of the area. The east side of the lake is round, like the sun, while the west side is long and narrow, like a crescent moon.
Not to cycle at this lake while in Taiwan will be a sin as one will miss one of the most beautiful spots in Taiwan if not the world! There is a nice cycling trail that goes round the lake, this trail goes partway on dedicated cycling paths, boardwalks and partway onto public roads.

The cycling paths start near Shuishe Pier, it's quite near the Shuishe Visitor Center, the terminal where buses/vans will drop of visitors to Sun Moon Lake. Around here too are several hotels, and the pier is where many start their lake boat tour.
Getting down to the cycling/walking path is via some steps that leads down to the pier and from there it's a pleasant ride at the lake level at the Shuishe Lakeside Walk. Cycle in a clockwise direction so that one will be on the lake-ward side.

The round-the-lake route is not always on the trails; in fact most of it is along public roads. The lake level trail along the Shuishe Lakeside Walk ends near the Crystal Palace Temple (晶宮), and from there it's onto the public Huanhu Road. It's no more at the lake level and the road can get a bit steep. Huanhu Road practically goes round Sun Moon Lake  it's a public road, suitable for those who wants to drive round the lake and enjoy its good view.

Ahead are some climbing of steep slopes near the Wen Wu Temple which is situated on a hillock.
This temple is more than a century old and initially consisted of two temples located much lower down, nearer the lake's shore. In 1919, a dam was constructed to generate hydroelectric power, causing the lake's water level to rise. The two temples were subsequently torn down and consolidated at the temple's present location in 1938. Wen Wu Temple was rebuilt again in 1969, increasing its size and constructing it in the Chinese palace style. Opposite the temple the "Year-of-Steps" (also know as the Stairway to Heaven), lead down to the lakeside site of where the original temples were located. There are 366 steps, each representing one day of the leap year. The steps also incorporate the 24 periods of the Chinese YearThe climbing of this entire stairway symbolizes the passing of a year. A date is carved on each of the stone steps, along with the names of internationally famous people who were born on the corresponding date.

The route also pass by the Ita Thao Visitor Centre. Nearby is the Riyuetanlan Station where visitors can take the Sun Moon Lake Ropeway cable cars to the Sun Moon's Lake Formosan Aboriginal Village located up at the hills above. The area around the lake were once occupied by the Thao (邵族) aboriginal natives, now they numbered less than 500, making them the smallest of all of the recognized aboriginals in Taiwan. Despite being the smallest ethnic group in Taiwan, the Thao have retained their customs, beliefs and traditional culture and language.

Somewhere at the southern end, Huanhu Road joins back to the lakeside trails running along the Yuetan Cycle Path. The more adventurous, can continue on the road but bear in mind it goes along steep roads up to a junction at the Jiguan Police Station. Making a left will lead away from the lake towards Shuili Township. The right turn is a very sharp hair-pin corner that goes on even steeper roads! But from the high elevation one can look down onto the township, villages and areca plantations  below. This detour away from the lake is called the Toushe Bike Path.

About 2.5
km away from the police station, there's a right turn. It's at a conspicuous junction with a large monument of a bicycle in set a yellow moon crescent (see top photo). The road leads to a narrow 130
m long tunnel; here one has to be careful as the tunnel is narrow, just wide enough to fit a single bus and often there are many tourist buses using it as a shortcut.

The tunnel-road connects back to the tail end of the Yuetan Cycle Path where there are a couple of interesting cycling bridges. One is the Tongxin Cycling Bridge (an arch cable suspension bridge). The other (shown above) is the Yongjie Cycling Bridge; a beautifully curved bridge with geometrical ribs supporting it from below.

Nearby is the Sun Moon Lake Visitors Centre where a narrow pathway leads to an elevated platform that overhangs the lake. This is the Sun Moon Lake Scenic View Deck (向山懸臂式觀景台) which has one of the best view of the lake.

The final stretch was on a board walk across the Shuishe Dam (水社壩). For safety reasons, there are signboards here stating that cycling is not allowed on this boardwalk; but many seems oblivious to the fact. Another three kilometre ahead will be back to the Shuishe Pier.
The Sun Moon Lake Bike-way is indeed a beautiful place to cycle on - nice, shady with beautiful scenic views and also some challenging slopes.
(..... see Sun Moon Lake cycling blog) (..... see Sun Moon Lake cycling route map) 

Another great spot to cycle in Taiwan is the Taroko Gorge, a scenic area of rocky outcrops and misty green mountains that seemed to have leapt out from a Chinese painting!
There are two cycling options here, a medium level loop that goes around the Taroko Visitor's Centre. This loop of 8-10km on medium slopes could include the Shakadang Trail (砂卡礑步道). Do note that cycling is not allowed in the Shakadang Trail, it's a hiking trail, to rough to cycle on - park & lock your bikes and take a hike in. Or one can try a more challenging 40 km. loop that goes all the way to the other end of the Taroko Gorge at Tianxang Village (天祥镇). Both loop can start at the Arch of Taroko (太魯閣牌樓).

Immediately after the Arch of Taroko id the Zhongheng Tunnel, it's the start of the Jiuqudong (九匝隧道, Tunnel of Nine Turns); a route that meanders along the cliff side, zig-zagging in and out of rocky arches, up to the Changchun Bridge.

Further in are wonderful views of tall sheer cliffs; it's so beautiful here with so many scenic spots of cliffs, tunnels and valleys.
Within park are several temples situated high on the hill side. One is the Changchun Eternal Spring Shrine which was built to commemorate the memory of those who lost their lives when building the highway cutting through park. This picturesque shrine sits on top of a natural spring gushing out of the rocks into a waterfall. Another is the Changuang Temple Bell Tower sitting high on a cliff over the Changchun Bridge. Some of this temples are not accessible by bicycles, as they are located high up on the hill slopes.

Ride through the long Zhongheng Tunnel  (Note: when riding through this tunnel turn on your front and rear blinker lights as there is a fork inside and traffic can be heavy there). At the other side is the Shakadang Trail, just after the Shakadang Bridge. An archway leads downward from the bridge to the trail.
Park and lock your bike and do a bit of hiking to enjoy the beauty of the trail. The trail runs along the Shakadang River, a sixteen kilometer river that starts from the 2,600 metre high Mount Xiaoxing and connects to the Liwu River. Amid the green surrounding, are bright blue streams with crystal clear water meandering their ways among the rocks. The gushing and bubbling blue streams are lined with beautiful layered colored rocks.

Instead cycling all the way to Tianxang Village, one can opt for a shorter 20 km. loop that goes up to the Swallows' Grotto. Here, the trail runs in and out of caverns - here greenish, jagged rock hangs over the road like an archway. Along the way are natural windows overlooking the river, from this windows are views of the cliffs where the swallows nest.

At Hualien, one can start cycling near the city centre and head for some interesting cycle paths. Not far away from the Yuanyuan Temple and Shen An Temple is the Cinshui Line Bicycle Path that runs along the Jinan River (吉安河, Ji'an River). The first stretch of the path runs along roads and pavements with bright cherry-like trees lining both sides. These trees are not cherry trees but trees that had yellow blooms that turned red as it matured and bloomed almost all year round.
Almost at the coast, the path is shadier and zooms down to run below Highway 193. and then right at the river mouth is a dedicated pedestrian/cycling suspension bridge, it's nearby to the Ji'an Seaside Park (吉安海濱公園).

With giant Manta rays at the Pacific 3D Landscape Park.
Crossing over the bridge will be the Chishingtan-Corniche Bike Path which runs all the way to the Chishingtan Scenic Area about fifteen kilometres away. The south-eastern stretch here runs about five kilometres until the Hualien Harbor Landscape Bridge; it passes through several beautiful green parks (such as the Nanbin ParkBeibin ParkMeilun Coast ParkSaburo Memorial Park (Eguchi Ryosan Memorial Park)) on one side, and the bright blue Pacific Ocean on the other side. Then it runs a short stretch on roads and highway to the 48 Height Lookout Point from where it continues on the north-eastern coast.
Here too is the Pacific 3D Landscape Park, with murals of marine life that seems to jump out from walls.

Just at the start of the the Chishingtan-Corniche Bike Path, on the rocky shores of the Nanbin Park many avid photographers patiently wait, trying to get good action photos of the waves. The eastern coast here is exposed to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean where mighty, blue waves came rolling in to lash onto offshore rocks, and then shooting tall white splashes upward accompanied by pounding, thunderous roars.

Cross the Meilun River (美崙河) via the Kitahama Shuguang Bridge (北濱曙光橋) which is also called the Aurora Bridge (极光桥), not sure why though, perhaps from here one can see a colorful dawn. This arch bridge served the eastern railway line (Lingang Line) that used to run here, and is thus a historic structure that has been preserved.
The south-eastern stretch ended on boardwalk paths running pass the red Hualien Harbor Landscape Bridge to cross over to the Hualien Port Waterfront Recreation Area (花蓮港親水遊憩區) and piers on the other side.
Beyond that are cycling paths running beside the railroad tracks for a short section before exiting onto shared lanes on Route 193.
At the 48 Height Lookout Point, it's back to dedicated paths running through brush land that slowly led upwards to the look out point. The path here is undulating with several bridges crossing over gullies so some pushing and carrying of of the bicycles up some steps is required.

The climb is worthwhile, as from the 48 Height Lookout Point there is a great panoramic view of the sea, the beach forms a curve like a crescent, that's why it's called the Crescent Beach.
The flat ground here does not have that many trees, and the strong winds blowing from the sea can be seen billowing through the palms and ruffling our wind breakers.
The Chishingtan Scenic Area is a large park with various sections and huts where one can take a short rest while admiring the sea. The sea here are not as strong as at the south-eastern coast yet they will still come roaring with two meter high waves breaking against the sandy shore. But the mood of the sea can change and with it bringing in taller waves; several signboards were posted along the beach cautioning visitors to run for it should large waves come, and also advising people not to swim here.
(..... see Hualien cycling blog) (..... see Hualien cycling route map)


Famed photo frame at Mr. Brown Avenue.
The paddy fields at Chishang is wonderful sight that will enchant many. Here there are acres upon acres of green (old golden brown, depending on season) that greets visitors. They spread out over a large area, some of them terracing far away to the hills behind. Chishang is located on in Taiwan's east but not along the coast where the winds can be treacherously strong. It is located slightly inland within the shelter of the southern Huadong Valley.

 If coming from the south, take a train to Luye and started cycling along the Guanshan Cycling Path. Here the paddy fields are beautiful too and will act as an appetizing prelude to even more beautiful sceneries ahead.

Leave Guanshan via a cool, shady path that runs gently down slope along bustling streams, and exit to ride about six kilometers shared cycling lanes along Taiwan's Highway Route 9. Then cross the Chishang Bridge which spans over the Beinan River.....
..... and make a left turn to this spectacular sight! It's one of golden green paddies stretching out with dark green trees spotting the golden hue. They stretch out as far as our eyes can see, right up to the foothills of the Central Mountain Range and Hai'an Range. A rustic timber water wheel right at the middle was there just to complete this picturesque scene.

Dark green trees stand independently away from each other, making the scene like one that had surrealistically jumped out of a Salvador Dali painting.

Narrow irrigation canals criss-cross the area, their walls going above the road, and the water in them strangely higher than the road level.

This place is a haven for tourists, here and there are small huts sitting over the canals. Resting inside, one can hear the the babbling of water as they churned below.
A must stop here is the famed giant photo frame with the paddy fields in the background (see top photo). This cute frame is where visitors can pose for a memorable photo, it is located along Mr. Brown Avenue at GPS: 23.09988, 121.21839.

A few of the trees are renown, this one here called the Takeshi Kaneshiro Tree became famous when in the summer of 2013 Taiwanese-Japanese superstar Takeshi Kaneshiro sipped tea in its shade in an EVA Airways TV commercial. The commercial calling this place a paradise, made the tree and the surrounding fields one of the most popular tourist destinations of the county. Further down the road is the Jolin Tsai Tree.
But before leaving Chishang, go get one of the bian-dang - railway lunch box meal (臺鐵便當) at the shops near the train station. These are bento-style meals packed in easily recognisable retro-looking boxes with a red steam locomotive logo. The ones here comes with a bonus of the fragrant, white pearl Chihshang rice.
(..... see Chisang cycling blog) (..... see Chisang cycling route map)

In the middle of Kaohsiung (高雄市) is the Kaohsiung Love River (Àihé - 爱河). It's best to visit this area at night, as the lighting and serenity of the place sets one up for a romantic, loving mood.

Here, there is an extensive network of shared cycle paths which runs along the banks of the river, and around the parks lining it. At the park itself are brightly lit bridges, some curving beautifully over the river.

The night mood here has an infectious atmosphere of love in the air, and many couples were walking around lovingly, hand in hand.

Those who did not come with their better half can always go for a quick spin around the cycle paths here with their beloved bicycles and enjoy the serenity of the place.
(..... see Kaoshiung cycling blog) (..... see Kaoshiung cycling route map)

Located off the southwest coast of Taiwan, Xiaoliuqiu, also known as Lamay Island, is a small island of 2.6 sq. mile. It is one of Taiwan's largest coral islands and the only one with significant population and human activities. There are no rivers so farming is very difficult. Go for a ride around the Xiaoliuqiu island, it's just a 20 km. loop.

Most residents make their living by fishing. So don't be surprised to find fishmongers on the roadside - like this lady selling shiny silver Large Hairtail Fish. These ones here are very fresh, probably just unloaded from a fishing boat.

Along the way are several interesting temples like the Biyun Temple. This is an old temple first built out of clay and hay in 1736 and is dedicated to Guanyin (觀音).
Less than three kilometre away is the Tiannan Fu An Temple. The bright afternoon sun really enhanced the colorful beauty of these dragon and phoenix sitting at the temple's roof.
Near this temple is the Haizikou Viewpoint which have a picturesque view of the sea. The shores here are lined with concrete slabs to prevent erosion. Over time, seaweed and algae grow on these slab creating some green beauty.
(.... click here for a Google Map view of the green beauty)

Being a coral island, along the way one will see some interesting rock formation like this Guanyin Rock. Trees and shrubs growing on this rock makes it looked like Guanyin with a modern day green hairstyle. Further down the road, is the Rat Rock, it's of a rat but also with green hair! It does look like a rat's head, there's even a small black stone where the eye is suppose to be.

At Dafu Fishing Harbor the sea is so clear, and through the navy blue water we could see right to the bottom. At the far end of the the pier, people were fishing; they could literally see the fishes that the were catching.

At the southern end is the Xiaoliuqiu Sunset Pavilionheavenly sunset view with the sun's rays shooting out from behind the clouds to be reflected on the sea.
(..... see Xiao Liu Qiu blog) (..... see Xiao Liu Qiu motor-cycling route map)

 To the south of Hsinchu is a cycling path well known among local cyclists. This is the Xiangshan Cycle Path, one that hugs the coast closely and stretches for some seventeen kilometres passing through wetlands, a small port and bridges with lofty names!
Near the start is an impressive colorful bridge with the colors that changes along its arch. This is the Rainbow Bridge (彩虹大橋), obvious name isn't it... but it's a bridge that will lead skywards to the clouds, REALLY!

But before going up to the heavens, first a stretch going a few kilometers through earthy colored ficus trees with their long dangling roots reaching earthwards. This stretch, that runs through the Xiangshan Wetlands, is very cooling and nice.
Somewhere along the center of this bike path is a temple called the 恵民宮天上聖母; which is translated as "Palace of God Our Lady of Heaven" Temple. It may not be as mighty as it's name but it is a nice place to stop and take a respite at it's small sea-front courtyard while slowly taking in breaths of fresh sea breeze.

Further along is the Haishan Fishing Harbor, a small harbor that seems serene and calm ...
..... but further along the pier, which like a finger points outwards into the sea, waves come in strongly to lash upwards and across the pier.
This harbor is on a small long cove, on the other side is the 护港宫 ("Protection Palace Temple") with a large statue that looks like a younger version of Kwan Yin sitting there peering outwards to calm the sea and protect the whole place.

Beyond this, the path leads "skywards" in a manner; first to a bright blue bridge called the Blue Sky Bridge (藍天橋) and further on a white bridge call the White Cloud Bridge (白雲橋). Almost at the end of the path is a mock-up wind mill with missing fan blades; only the rotor shaft seems to be left sticking out from the upper walls.

For the more adventurous continue along the West Coast Expressway (Route 61)The road starts sloping upwards and going even higher up to the hill on the right. Over there is a nice viewpoint called the Haowangjiao (好望角), in English - the Cape of Good Hope.
The wind here blows continually and at times with gusts up to 70-80 kph, so hold on to your hats!. The scenery below is quiet panoramic, click here for more photos.

After that zoom down to the Taiyen Tongxiao Salt Factory (通霄精塩廠). This a modern factory that produces salt by sucking in sea water from an intake turbine a few hundred meters out in the sea. A museum here exhibits how the salt are harvested and also displays salt crystals.
Outside the museum there is a small park with small pools filled with warm saline water, where one can soak ones feet in the water, letting it wash the grime and dirt from one's tired feet.
(..... see Xianshan Cycle Path blog) (..... see Xianshan Cycle Path cycling route map)

On the outskirts of Yuli, starting at the southern end of the Yuli Train Station, is a very nice bike path called the Yufu Bikeway .This bike path runs along an old unused railway line that once connected Yuli to Dongli. It is all nicely paved up and is now a dedicated cycling lane which forms a branch of the Antong Bike Path. It runs through an old iron railway bridge spanning across the Xiuguluan_River. The bridge also sits on the tectonic fault line where the European Tectonic plate and the Philippines Sea Tectonic plate meets, and ad mid-span a plate indicates the fault line point.

The Yufu Bikeway is pleasant place to cycle along; this dedicated bike path runs through beautiful paddy fields on one side and a light forest on the other. And being on a former rail line, it is quite flat.

Along the way are remnants of a railway era gone by - former landing platforms now converted to shady sitting areas for people to rest and appreciate the beautiful surrounding.

After about eight kilometers the Yufu Bikeway ends at the former Donglitiemayi Station (東里鐵馬驛站). This defunct station is now an art center for local artists and there's a nice cafe too. Mr Chang, a retired local architect, is a self-appointed tour guide who will happily relate the history of his town.

If one is heading south towards Chishang, then continue along the scenic Huadong Valley (花東縱谷, East Rift Valley). Otherwise, turn back along the Yufu Bikeway and enjoy the nice padi scenery again.
(..... see Yufu Bikeway blog) (..... see Yufu Bikeway cycling route map)

To see other interesting cycling trails in Taiwan, click here.

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Taiwan 2017 / Best Taiwan Cycling Trails
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