The day after my tour through Taroko National Park, I decided to rent a bike and ride along the coast. I had read about the coastal path that runs south and north from Hualien. As I wasn’t prepared to ride through the mountains of Taroko Gorge, I settled on the flatter ride that overlooked the Pacific Ocean.
The Coastal Bike Path is only about 15 km and runs to Qixing Lake (no idea why it’s called a lake when it’s a coastal beach). However, there are other roads around the area and I turned off the path a few times to find other interesting destinations and sights along the way. There were a lot of helpful tourist signs pointing to various places of interest, although some of the names were misleading and sometimes the signs disappeared as the destination approached (explains why I got lost a couple times).
Ease of renting a bike in Hualien
I rented a bike from Giant just outside the train station for about $10 — they provided a helmet and lock. It was a much better bike than the one I rented in Siem Reap when riding around Angkor Wat. Unlike that 40-mile ride along dirt roads, this time I only managed about 23 miles (though that number could be higher because I really don’t know some of the roads I turned down).
The route to the coast
The ride started out through the town of Hualien and onto a narrow path along the river that led to the ocean. I soon reached the end of the coastal bike path as I headed south — it looked as though they were extending the path, but I haven’t seen any information on it. I saw other bikers either heading further south along the busy road or heading north from there. I decided to turn around and head toward Qixing Lake, which is an odd name for a beach on the ocean.
By the time I made it to the town around Qixing, I was a bit tired. I had been riding for close to two hours in the sun and I hadn’t had lunch. I didn’t notice any food that looked too interesting and settled on an ice cream shop instead — it’s been a long time since I was that desperate for ice cream. For a touristy area, the ice cream was surprisingly cheap and quite good.
As I headed back toward Hualien, I decided to take other roads to see what else was around. I found small roads that lead to open spaces overlooking the Pacific. I also found plenty of industry/commercial shipping areas that made for rather dusty riding.
Stopping for a drink
For a while, I noticed signs pointing toward Hualien Winery — I had to find it. Unfortunately, the winery turned out to be a traditional liquor distillery. It wasn’t all that interesting and there weren’t even areas to sample the products — just a shop, which was full of mainland Chinese tourists.
I was excited when I arrived at the so-called winery because I saw signs for “craft beer.” I thought I’d get my first taste of Taiwanese microbrews. It was another letdown. The brewery was just for Taiwan Brewery, and they didn’t have anything that I hadn’t already seen at 7-Eleven or my local restaurant.
From there, I got a little more lost as I rode in the general direction of the Hualien train station. I had to turn around a few times as the streets didn’t go where I thought they did. I returned the bike an hour or so before the store closed and walked back to the hostel to rest before heading out for some tasty xiaolongbao.
The whole ride was pleasant but the sun was intense along the coast. I wore a lightweight long-sleeved shirt to avoid sunburn, but forgot about my hands. The backs of my hands were bright red and in pain by the end of the day (but my fingers were still white to add a humorous contrast). After returning the bike, I immediately headed for Watson’s to buy some aloe. The clerk took one look at my hands and ran to find a bottle for me. I definitely learned my lesson.