Want to explore the rivers, hills and dales of Taiwan's busiest city the clean green way? Michael Jen-Siu shows the way.
Instead of squeezing into a packed subway between the iconic Taipei 101 tower and the second-tallest Ferris wheel in Taiwan at the Miramar Entertainment Park, you can ride a bicycle along the city's riverside paths to have a closer look at what's in between.
Pedal power means less money and more exercise.
Over the past two years, Taiwan has built itself up as one of the best cycling places in Asia. The city has 109 kilometers of riverside trails along the Danshui and Keelung rivers, and scenic spots are linked by boat.
"You could ride from place to place on the blue highways by putting your bike on a boat at Taipei's Dadaocheng wharf and heading downriver," said Kuo Wen-chieh from Taipei's tourism promotion bureau. The Dadaocheng wharf is a landmark on the Danshui River, previously Taipei's main river port.
"The riverside bike paths offer easy cycling free from dangerous traffic," said David Reid, a Taiwan bike rider and travel blog writer. "For more experienced cyclists, there are many mountain roads that are accessible from the city. Taipei is a geographically diverse city."
The reasonable rental fee of $2 per hour is an attractive incentive to join the increasing number of Taiwan cyclists. Before world oil prices topped $100 a barrel in 2008, those who cycled in the congested city were described as danger-loving, exhaust-contaminated outcasts. Now a fast-growing number of commuters cycle to save money and as a form of exercise since health has become a public priority. About 3.3 million riverside rides are logged each year.
The trails along the Danshui and Keelung rivers bring tourists to the monolithic Chinese-style Grand Hotel and Dihua Street, a hub for traditional architecture, Chinese herb shops and vendors of high-mountain tea.
Bike lanes painted green lead to favorite stops such as Taipei's signature bilingual Eslite bookstore, the Anhe Road bar district and the Taipei 101-Warner Bros cinema zone. Carry a map and look for Dunhua Road or the Xinyi-101 district to find the green lanes.
Hill climbers not bothered by Taipei's sweaty humidity can test their stamina on steep mountain roads often devoid of cars and trucks. Routes range from the thermal hot springs of the 1,120-meter-high Yangming mountain range to the island's north coast another two hours away for the average pedal pusher. That hill behind the Ferris Wheel is called Jiannan Road.
If you go
Here are three suggested lines:
Rent a bike from shops on Minsheng West Road where it dead-ends at the Danshui River floodgate. First hit the Dihua Street area a few blocks to the east of the rental shop. Then go through the floodgate to the Dadaocheng wharf. Turn left along the outermost trail, which is for bikes, and follow it about four kilometers south to the Chengdu Road floodgate and through the gate into Wanhua, another historic district known for its Snake Alley shops.
Rent a bike in town and take it on the subway (allowed before 4 pm) to Beitou station. Ride on Guangming Road until it rises above Beitou's hot springs hotel district and turns into Quanyuan Road. Cross Xingyi and keep climbing. The grade eases as the road winds through rainforests and past boiling hot springs to the entrance of Yangming Mountain Park at about 400 meters above sea level.
Riders keen on the mountains near Taipei but not a big uphill slog can take a one-hour, low-energy ride from Fulong on the Taipei county coast. Fulong is one-hour train ride from Taipei. Rent a bike on Highway 2, a few meters from the railway station and cycle the coast highway to Route 102 on the left. Follow this easy grade five kilometers to Shuangxi, an old mining and farming town with a cobbled old street. Follow route 102A up to 200 meters above sea level and back down toward Aodi. From there, Highway 2 leads into Fulong again.