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[BICYCLING]The Taiwan Cycling Festival


The Overseas Traveler’s Healthiest Portal to Taiwan’s Scenic and Cultural Beauties TEXT / RICK CHARETTE PHOTOS / VISION The Taiwan Tourism Bureau has established two special websites for those of adventurous spirit pumped up with the idea of probing this land’s nooks and crannies on two self-powered wheels: Taiwan on 2 wheels and Taiwan Cycle Festival Portal The first provides general info on events and festivals, pre-trip planning, suggested routes, travel agencies handling cycling tours, and much else. The second is dedicated to the Taiwan Cycling Festival, a whirlwind of events spread out over the calendar, which has a wonderful combination of relaxed and thrilling events that bring you up into the high mountains and down by the pounding sea, and to countless lovely places in between. Here we present to you the Taiwan Cycling Festival. The annual Taiwan Cycling Festival is the creation of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, and is built around a corps of major events, including those we will cover below – Come!Bikeday, the Taiwan KOM (King of the Mountain) Challenge, and Light Up Taiwan – complemented by numerous events smaller in scale. The tourism-promotion quest that lays behind the staging of the festival is very broad, yet at the same time is built on a set of laser-targeted specifics. These promotion targets are: The full panoply of the Taiwan cycling experience for all travelers local and from abroad looking for new, inviting travel destinations with a health-enhancement and eco-friendly angle. The range of natural scenery that is so impressively varied for an island of this size (plus its many offshore islands of unique personality) and the alluring man-created scenic sights. The full and still growing network (over 4,000km) of interlinked regional and local bike-route webs and the ever more comprehensive infrastructure of rental and repair facilities. Quality accommodations that span the full budget range wherever you bike, the superb and pleasingly affordable food, and the warmhearted friendliness and hospitality of the local people. Sound like something in which you should be interested? We should say so. Taiwan is now energetically promoting green tourism through the vigorous marketing of cycling tours, and the Taiwan Tourism Bureau has introduced numerous incentive packages and other promotional activities for international tourists. For more information, visit the bureau’s website. SUN MOON LAKE Come! Bikeday This is a showcase for the exquisitely beautiful Sun Moon Lake, located in the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area in the central mountains. The elevation of the mountain-surrounded lake’s surface is about 750m. The CNN Travel website has described the round-lake bike route as one of the world’s top 10 “cycling routes that’ll take your breath away.” Come!Bikeday happens over a weekend in late autumn, with different events satisfying the desires of competitive riders, leisure riders, and kids. The center of action is the expansive Xiangshan Visitor Center, located on the lake’s west side. Among these is the 30km round-lake Challenge Ride highway jaunt, for more serious bikers. The start and finish is at the visitor center. The non-competitive, family-oriented Joy Ride is 10km, and features easy grades. You start at the visitor center, head through the main lakeside village (Shuishe), and turn around just past the Zhaowu Pier to return the same way. A long part of this happy big-gathering excursion is along the popular bikeway (for walkers as well) that runs along the lake’s west side. The Push Bike section is a competition for tots 2~6, who race their push bikes (no-pedal bikes) on a mini-course set up on the visitor center’s grassy grounds. The west-side bikeway is itself one of Sun Moon Lake’s most popular attractions, and delivers you to numerous other attractions. The Xiangshan Visitor Center has an info-rich exhibit hall and a fine glass-wall café overlooking a small, quiet bay. Close to it – part of the bikeway – are the poetically lovely Tongxin Bridge and Yongjie Bridge, known as the “wedding photo bridges.” The Xiangshan Scenic Outlook skywalk, also near the center, is reached via a branch boardwalk that seems to float through treetops, high above the aforementioned bay. South of the center, the bikeway brings you to large, quiet Crescent Bay, one of the lake’s quietest areas, with no powered boats allowed entry. There is a campground and SUP/kayaking center here. North is the aforementioned Shuishe Pier, busy during the day with tour boats, and a great place for people-watching, faced by a line of cafés and eateries with alfresco seating. HOHOCHA HOHOCHA is the newest large-scale attraction in the Sun Moon Lake area. It is located right beside Provincial Highway 21 about 5km north of the lake, in the town of Yuchi. The theme here is black tea (Assam, Amber, Ruby, Amethyst). Sun Moon Lake is the center of Taiwan’s black-tea production, the origins of which date back to the 1895-1945 Japanese colonial era. Assam tea was introduced during that time, and a related research station is still in operation. HOHOCHA’s various facilities sit amidst an expansive hillside/hilltop tea plantation. The best way to experience the place is through one of the regular free guided tours (Chinese). These start at the main building, a three-story Japanese-style edifice with a façade of dark-stained wood. This is a combination exhibit/retail/dining facility. Your guide explains the tea-processing operations on the main floor and introduces the building’s different services (more on these in a moment). You then go into the fields for an intro to the various types of leaf and a visit to the plantation’s hilltop leaf-gathering facility. In the main building, in the 3F dining/DIY hall visitors are provided with a free tea-sampler tray, along with a delicious tea egg. Tea ceremony activities and DIY activities are held here: tea kneading, blending, sealing, etc. On the 2F is a retail center with loose-leaf tea and a wide array of tea-themed snacks for sale. A bakery provides oven-fresh tea cookies, biscuits, and other goodies. And on a 2F balcony is a stand with seating at which house-made gelatos, sausages, and dried beancurd are sold. Black tea is used as a flavoring for the latter two and for numerous gelato selections. DIY pizza-making sessions with tea used as an ingredient are also held here. Stands on the 1F sell fresh-prepared tea eggs, tea luwei (soy-braised tasties), and tea drinks. Note that camping facilities and outdoor group-fun activities are also offered (advance booking required). HOHOCHA Add: No. 443-36, Yuchi St., Yuchi Village, Yuchi Township, Nantou County (南投縣魚池鄉魚池村魚池街443-36號) Tel: +886-49-289-5899 Facebook Hotel Del Lago This upscale hotel is in one of the taller buildings in Shuishe, standing right beside the Shuishe Pier – “del lago” means “on the lake.” Its lake panorama is a treat, with the sweeping look of a 180-degree shanshui painting. The view embraces sights such as the Wenwu Temple on the far left, Ita Thao village straight ahead, Lalu Island on the far right, and Ci’en Pagoda between the latter two. The hotel is also a pleasure to look at from the pier or on the lake. The light-tone façade has a curving wave-like pattern that blends elegantly with the lake waves. When enjoying a meal in the Chinese/Western buffet restaurant on the first floor, which has doors connecting directly to Shuishe Pier, bright-painted tour boats can be seen through the French-style windows. Note that the hotel’s buffet breakfast is taken here, and that diners can choose to sit outside at patio umbrella tables. The hotel has 88 rooms, roughly divided in terms of style into European postmodern minimalist – verging on Scandinavian, with pronounced blonde tones – and Japanese classic. Each has one wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that allow excellent views. Guests also much praise the spa-massage column installed in each room’s shower stall. Two other big hits with guests are the hotel’s bike-rental service and paid SUP (standup paddleboarding) outings. A platoon of high-quality bicycles from Giant, the famed Taiwan brand, is lined up outside the lobby entrance. These are available to guests at minimal rates. This service is extremely popular, but visitors need not fret should no bikes be available. A large Giant rental operation in the multi-level Shuishe Visitor Center is near the hotel. Qualified instructors conduct the SUP outings, which happen in the early morning before the wake-creating tour boats wake up. The SUP excursions are also launched from the pier. A final note: Be sure your room is on the hotel’s lake-facing side; rooms on the inland side face Shuishe’s main intersection. (Rooms start at NT$7,000; Chinese/Western buffet breakfast included). Hotel Del Lago (日月潭大淶閣飯店) Add: No. 101, Zhongshan Rd., Shuishe Village, Yuchi Township, Nantou County (南投縣魚池鄉水社村中山路101號) Tel: +886-49-285-6688 Website(Chinese) HUALIEN-WULING King of the Mountain (KOM) Event The Taiwan KOM (King of the Mountain) Challenge (taiwankom.org) is the most exciting and spirit-demanding of the Taiwan Cycling Festival events, and considered the highlight event. The first edition of the Taiwan Cycling Festival was in 2010, the first for this race in 2012. It has become one of the most prestigious and sought-after challenges on international racers’ calendars. Rivaling the picturesque mountain-climb sections of the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, the world’s biggest names come each year seeking the King of the Mountain crown. Held in late autumn, this is an international race reserved for elite riders – above 16 years of age and capable of finishing the route in 6.5hrs or less – that starts in the scenic coastal Qixingtan area just north of the small east coast city of Hualien and takes riders through magnificent Taroko National Park. At the park’s base just inland from the coast is Taroko Gorge, Taiwan’s greatest natural wonder, where sheer marble-laced cliffs a thousand meters high almost kiss in places. The race ends far, far uphill along the Central Cross-Island Highway at the Wuling pass, Taiwan’s highest road point at 3,275 meters. The pass is surrounded by the Hehuanshan (Mt. Hehuan) peaks, all easily accessible via trails of moderate length and gradient. Riders, starting at sea level, cover 105km, with the route featuring many steep and winding sections. There are also two “baby KOM” rides held each spring and summer for experienced riders who would like the awe-inspiring sense of achievement of tackling the KOM route but perhaps are not at the same level as the pros and elite amateurs who enter the big race: the Road to Taiwan KOM – Spring and Road to Taiwan KOM – Summer. The route is the same, but the cut-off time is extended to 9hrs from 6.5. Riders finishing within 7.5hrs automatically qualify for the autumn race. AROUND TAIWAN Light Up Taiwan This series of rides – full name “Light Up Taiwan 4 Poles Lighthouse Cycling Tour” – takes you on single-day cycle outings to lighthouses at the island’s four compass points. The excursions are spread out from mid-summer to mid-autumn, allowing ample preparation time in between for those who wish to tackle all four. There are theme souvenirs for each individual ride, and an Activity Passport that after being fully stamped can be used to obtain an official memorial certificate attesting that all four lighthouses have been visited. All the rides are casual fun rides, ranging from about 20km to 40km, designed for families and other cyclists of moderate fitness interested in easy-paced exercise focused on scenic discoveries. First up is the East Pole – Sandiaojiao Lighthouse tour (25km), in the Northeast and Yilan Coast National Scenic Area. You start off and end at the Fulong Visitor Center, in the beach-fun/cycling town of Fulong. The Sandiaojiao (Sandiao Cape) Lighthouse was built by the Japanese in 1935. Second is the West Pole – Guosheng Port Lighthouse tour (36km), in the Southwest Coast National Scenic Area. The start and finish is at the Taiwan Salt Museum; this extremely flat region, home to many wetland areas, was once a major producer of sea salt. The Guosheng Port Lighthouse was built on a sandbar in 1957. Third is the South Pole – Eluanbi Lighthouse tour (42km), in Kenting National Park. The start and finish is at the Eluanbi Lighthouse Square. The lighthouse, built by a British engineer for the Qing Dynasty government, went into operation in 1883. Last is the North Pole – Fuguijiao Lighthouse tour (23km and 32km options), in the North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area. Start/finish for both options is at Zhongjiao Bay. The Fuguijiao (Fugui Cape) Lighthouse was first built by the Japanese in 1896; the current tower was erected in 1962. Other complementary forays will also be offered. This year, the West Coast Beachside Village tour (35km) was held on the day following the West Pole tour. Guosheng Port Lighthouse Guosheng Port Lighthouse  Light Up Taiwan Light Up Taiwan

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