Around Taiwan - Day 06 - Kenting ~ Dawu

The sixth installment on my "Cycling Around Taiwan" series. Day 6 of the trip from Kenting to Dawu on the East coast was the most difficult day and the most rewarding day. It was difficult because it rained very heavily and would be the highest climb of the whole trip (nearly 500m) but it was also awesome because the downhill onto the East Coast was fast and exciting. Sadly, the bad weather on this day, and my own laziness, would ensure I missed the following day's ferry to Orchard Island so I would miss the Island on this trip. Despite the cruel weather though, I was still spoiled with amazing views, new friends and a great (but tough) ride.

Southern Taiwan
Bike in the South

The Route

Day 6 was a brutal 100km ride in the rain and wind and total elevation gained of over 1,400m. I was really tired at the end of the day and was happy to find a nice little hotel in the town of Dawu where I could do laundry and crash early.

Rainy Morning in Kenting

Leaving Kenting
Sea View outside Kenting

I woke up in early in Kenting and grabbed breakfast in the local family mart (everything else was closed). I woke up early to take a walk along the beach but it started to rain. By the time I got back to the hotel it was raining in buckets. I thought at first I would be able to ride but then the lightning and thunder started and the rain became progressively worse. The rain didn't bother me much at all but the lightning did. I knew that I would be riding on a plateau that was above the sea and that along certain parts of the road I would be the highest object and the perfect conductor for lightning. I thought it would be best if I waited till at least the lightning stopped. I finally got on the road at around 8:00am and headed towards Oulampi but the rain became progressively worse and a short way down the road I found this really attractive little diner that had what looked like an amazing western breakfast, hot tea ad cover: I relented and went inside and only left again at around 10:00am, which was silly because it meant I couldn't ride as far as I intended on the day and would lead me to missing the Wednesday Ferry to Orchard Island. At the time I didn't know that and relaxed and enjoyed my wonderful breakfast and the warmth of the diner.

Sea Rose Cafe
The Sea Rose Cafe - A warm breakfast beckoned

View from Restaurant
View from the Sea Rose Cafe

Disaster in Eluanbi

I finally got to Eluanbi and what a disaster. One of my goals on this trip was to get a picture of me, my bike and the lighthouse there but they wouldn't let me, or any other cyclist, take our bikes inside. It is incredibly short sighted. People (especially lone riders like me) must leave our bikes and gear outside, unattended to go into the park. I landed up having a huge argument with them and they wouldn't let me in. There should be a ruling on it that bicycles can be pushed in but cannot be ridden: I am sure many cyclists want to get a picture with their bike and the lighthouse, especially if they are riding around the island.

The Southern Tip

The Southern Tip of Taiwan
The Southern Tip

After the kerfuffle at Eluanbi I rode up the hill and then took the detour to the Southern Tip of Taiwan. That was a nice steep downhill to the coast. I drifted down, rode along the path and finally reached the Southern Tip of Taiwan. It was a real achievement for me but taking pictures was hard as I had to keep the camera dry and get the pictures. At any rate, I got a picture of me (see below) but it was bad quality but not much I could do about that. At any rate, I had made it all the way from the North of Taiwan to the South on my bicycle, it was now time to head North and aim to get along the East Coast of Taiwan, the truly spectacular part of the road was yet to come.

At the Southern Tip
At The Southern Tip

Southern Most Point
View from the Southern Tip

Northward Bound

At last my GPS compass was pointing North. It would take another week (I had already been gone for a week) before I got home, but I was heading North and towards Taipei. Riding South along the West Coast but the East Coast would be far more compelling and beautiful and riding Northwards up the East Coast is best as you get to ride next to the ocean on the road and get the best views.

From the Southern tip of Taiwan you ride up a small hill and eventually get to some famous cliffs with tremendous views of the ocean. Normally on a sunny day these views are spectacular and I will never forget the first time I saw that view way back towards the end of 1999 - all the different shades of blue. Unfortunately when it rains the views are not that spectacular and with the heavy wind, standing on the cliff wasn't that comfortable.It was at this point I met Eric, Roy and Jennifer who were trying to ride around Taiwan in nine days and, to boot, Eric and Jennifer were doing it on a tandem bike. Amazing. I would ride with them on and off through the day and also meet them again on the Suhua highway. The views from the cliff were good, but not spectacular and because I kept on stopping to take pictures, my progress was significantly behind schedule. The picture at the top of this post was taken here.

Southern Taiwan
View from the South Coast

Southern Taiwan.
View from the South Coast

Shortly after the ride over the plateau it was still raining hard on and off but, even though it was cold, it was a change from the heat and sun of the previous week, although picture taking became quite difficult. Before cutting back inland at a town called Gonguan (if I recall correctly) and after hitting this little town I regretted not spending the night here instead of in Kenting. The town was beautiful: it was next to a river and had lots of green vegetation around the town too. It was also quieter and had fewer people.

Town on the Edge.
Little Town of Gongguan (I think that is what it was called)

From Gongguan I cut back inland following the road. Their was no road next to the coast so there was no chance. Cutting back inland there were beautiful farms and a lot of the great mountain views we would see on the East Coast started here. Because of the abundant rain in the south, the mountains and farms all the way up were green and beautiful. Shortly after starting to move inland I came across another small town (Hengchen) where I saw Eric, Roy and Jennifer again. They told me that this was the last 7-11 for a significant period of time so I should stock up on water and supplies. I decided to break there and eat lunch with them before heading up the first of two fairly high climbs before heading out to Dawu where I would, it turned out, spend the night.

Farmlands in the South
Fields of Green
Foothills of the Mountains
Town in the South
Small Town in the South
Into the Mountains

After lunch I began the first of what would be two really big climbs as the coastal road had been washed away. The first climb would be a mild 193m, the second climb would be about 465m. The second climb burned a lot but when I got to the top, it was a good downhill all the way down into Dawu. To be honest it was good that I wasn't made aware of all the climbing I would do that day: I think I would have quit! Sometimes ignorance is better and I rode on up the first mountain. I just continued to climb up into the mountains at a slow pace not really thinking it would be that difficult. The first climb I thought was ok and my legs weren't really tired so it was ok. The road up the mountain was in part lined with betel nut trees.Along the way I had tremendous views of the farmlands in the valley and at the top of the first climb I came across a nice little town which was an excellent opportunity to take a good rest. 

Betel Nut Trees
Betel Nut Trees Lined Part of the Road
Town at the Top
Town at the top of the first Climb
Mountain View
Beautiful Views from the Top

Shortly after cresting the first mountain I came down the other side and had tremendous views of the valley and the first views of the East Coast. It was amazing. Drifting down the other side of the first climb was easy but because of the wet road I did need to concentrate significantly to make sure I didn't skid or slip on the road. The road was fairly quiet but there was the occasional car and tour bus. On the whole though, this part of the road was relatively safe. Of course there is the constant threat of landslides and rockfalls but this risk I deemed as minimal, especially on this part of the road.

Mountains in the Mist
Mountain View

Gate on the Road
Beautiful Chinese Gate

First East Coast View
First East Coast View

Arriving on the first part of the East coast was a great feeling once again. Even though I was wet and there was a stiff breeze, I thought it was great and a beautiful view and it was amazingly desolate. I loved being there. The only other people I saw on the road were my new friends Eric, Roy and Jennifer who, by this point, had caught up with me. It was fun having some other people to ride with and they did help motivate me get up the second mountain. But they were fast and so at the first rest stop up the second mountain they went ahead. We later met at the top of the mountain and then they rode off the their destination (Zhiben) which I believe they only got to at 11:00pm. Before climbing the second mountain we stopped at a police station, got some water and took a good break.

First Views of the East Coast
First Part of the East Coast

Tandem Riders
Roy and Jennifer on their Tandem

The second climb was definitely much more difficult. It started gently enough with short mild climb up the mountain but it got progressively steeper and higher. I was thinking it couldn't get too high but I was wrong. I tried to keep up with Eric as he was riding alone and managed to stay slightly behind him the whole way up. Roy and Jennifer on their tandem took up the rear and all respect, that just looked like a tough bike to get up a mountain. The first part of the ride was tedious and there were a few more tour buses than I would have liked but they did keep their distance from us so we were safe enough. After riding for some distance we climbed to the first resting point on the mountain where we finally joined Road 199 that was heading East. I saw a local guy there and asked him if that was the highest we would have to climb and he said the worst was past. However he lied, we climbed more than double the distance we had reached at that point.

Wet Road and Climb.
Road up a Mountain

Wet Road
Route 199

Joining Road 199
Made it to Route 199

Some Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Art

The last part of the climb up was the most difficult ride of the day for me. I told Eri, Roy and Jennifer to go on ahead and I just went at my own pace. I knew I would be unable to keep up with them and they still had a pretty long way to go before they got to their destination. I just slowly coasted along the road and meandered up the mountain at my own pace. The scenery was beautiful most of the way and I loved being in amongst the trees and smelling the vegetation that was around me. Of course by this stage I was very wet and cold but I was at least still having fun. However, I made my decision at this point that I would overnight in Dawu as it was getting late and I didn't want to ride in the dark. I eventually made it to the top of Route 199 where I saw Eric, Roy and Jennifer for the last time (until the Suhua highway). We were all resting at the top of the mountain at what is apparently a famous rest stop for cyclists.

Famous Rest Stop
Eric, Roy, Jennifer and Me

Downhill to Dawu

The rest stop connected Route 199 to Road 9 which was definitely a busy road with lots of cars and tour buses. I looked at the traffic passing and wasn't that impressed. I made sure all my lights were on and then jumped onto Road 9 and raced down the mountain. I saw a small temple on the side of the road with some amazing views of the East Coast. I stopped off to take a picture but the light was fading and it was hard to get any decent pictures at this point.

Beautiful Views from Road 9
Mountain Road View

At this point I saw four tour buses going down the road. Since the light was dying and the road wasn't that great with cars overtaking illegally I jumped behind the last of the four buses and chased it all the way down the mountain. There wasn't one point where I needed to stop and nothing else came up behind me. I felt much safer knowing that I had the buses in front of me. It was an awesome race down the mountain, from 490m all the way to sea level. I did have to focus since it was a wet road and it was getting dark, but I managed to get down the hill relatively fast. At the bottom of the mountain there was a 7-11 where all the cyclists stopped for snack and I stopped for some hot tea. It was great to be at the bottom of the hill.

The 7-11 assistant told me Dawu was 7km down the road where I could find a hotel. I got on my bike and headed for the the town. I was there within 20 minutes as it was a flat ride. The hotel was easy to find (right next to another 7-11) and I quickly checked in. The lady running the hotel was a grandmom and she was so caring and concerned that I would be ok and that I was comfortable. A lot of other cyclists had checked in to the hotel too so it seemed like a fairly regular stopping point.

Dawu Hotel Bikes
Bikes in the Hotel

After checking into the hotel and settling down, I went out of the hotel, grabbed a great beef noodles dinner, went to the 7-11 and met some kids who loved chatting to a foreigner and found out that their fathers were pastors in the local Church. They were sitting in the 7-11 helping each other with their homework. They mentioned their school was quite a way a way and they needed to be driven there each day. It seemed like the kind of town where everyone knows everyone.

Dawu Church
Dawu Town Church

Dawu Kids
Local Kids

After the end of dinner and resupplying at the 7-11 it was time for bed. I was warm in the room and finally dry. I managed to wash my clothes and get them dry by the morning too. It was an incredible ride that day. I was happy to finally be on the East Coast and was looking forward to the ride back up to Keelung. The plan was to try go to Orchard Island but, as it turned out, I would miss the boat by 10 minutes, but that would be the next day's story. At that moment, i was content, warm, dry, full and happy. It was time for sweet dreams.

Other Cycling Round Taiwan Installments


    1. fantastic series, Paul - i'm on the edge of my seat following along with you. the one question that keeps coming to mind is, were you harassed by any dogs? as you know i ride a trike which is lower to the ground and the dogs really go after me when i ride. what was your experience with them? thanks.

      1. Thanks for reading the series and also for your comments - much appreciated as always - and yes, I know you have a trike - I should try one one day :) - As for dogs, I had one issue with a dog on the way to Ilan but I just lashed out at it with my foot and it ran away - not sure how you can protect yourself in a trike - maybe a high frequency whistle might help - but for me - dogs weren't really a problem.

        Once again, as always, thanks for reading.


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