Top two bike path picks in northern Taiwan

Ride a bike along either bike path, and you will be amazed by the tranquility you feel and the wonderful scenery you see along the way.

Ride a bike along the Old Caoling Circle-lined Bikeway in Fulong, Gongliao Township, and you will be amazed by the tranquility you feel and the wonder...

Ride a bike along the Old Caoling Circle-lined Bikeway in Fulong, Gongliao Township, and you will be amazed by the tranquility you feel and the wonder... (Agencies photo)

Ride a bike along either the Old Caoling Circle-lined Bikeway in Fulong, Gongliao Township, or the Daiyujue River Cycling Path in Pinglin Townshiop in New Taipei City, and you will be amazed by the tranquility you feel and the wonderful scenery you see along the way.

These two bike paths offer very different feelings as one goes through an old tunnel and then along the northeastern coast, while the other meanders along a riverside in a mountainous area.

The Old Caoling Circle-lined Bikeway

The 20km Old Caoling Circle-lined Bikeway starts from the Fulong Train Station. The village of Fulong is full of bike rental stores, so visitors don’t have to bring their own bikes to enjoy the bike trail. As the bike rental competition is strong in Fulong , the rental price is cheap, usually NT$100 per rental, which means you can ride the bike from the time the store opens in the morning and return it when the store closes around the evening.

Some express trains bound for Hualien or Taitung as well as all local trains bound for Suao (Yilan) stop at Fulong Station. When you come out of the station, take a tour of the streets in front of and near the station, and select a bike you like from one of the bike rentals. Get water from a convenient store, and you are on your way. Some bike rentals provide free bottled water, raincoats, and bikeway maps, so remember to ask the boss about these provisions.

Since it is a circular route, riders can start from the old Caoling tunnel side or from the YMCA at the seaside across from the train station. Most people start from the tunnel side, and the starting point is located on one side of Fulong Station (on the left side if you face the station).

As the bikeway is a biking paradise in northern Taiwan and an important source of income for local economy, it is well marked with signs and maps. So don’t worry about getting lost.

It takes about 10 minutes to ride from the train station to the entrance of the old tunnel, which was a single track railway tunnel built in 1924 during the Japanese rule, connecting Fulong in Taipei and Shicheng in Yilan County. It was said to be the most challenging and dangerous railroad construction in that era.

Don’t forget to pay attention to the artistic calligraphy above the arch of either entrance because they are the telltale relics that reveal the oldness of the tunnel.

The old tunnel was replaced by a new double-track tunnel that runs alongside the old one in 1986. After being closed for more than 20 years, the abandoned tunnel was refurbished and transformed into a bike path in the fashion of a railway museum, and was open to cyclists in August 2009.

Today, riding a bike through the tunnel, cyclists can hear the background music of a rumbling train and one of the most famous Taiwanese folk songs, “Diu Diu Tong,” broadcast by the tourism authorities. The folk song is said to have originated from the tunnel.

Railway tracks were painted on the pavement of the tunnel to mimic the real ones which had been removed and the old signs indicating the next train stations have been kept in the tunnel, evoking a strong sense of nostalgia.

The tunnel is cool during summer and warm during winter.

After coming out of the 2,167-meter tunnel, cyclists are immediately greeted by stunning sea views. Many cyclists like to take a rest here at the Shicheng entrance, admiring the sea views and looking out to the Turtle Island in the distance.

Ahead of the remaining biking journey is the seaside route that goes along Taiwan’s northeastern coast. The coastal part of the bikeway is blessed with beautiful views of waves slapping against the seashore, small seaports, quiet fishing villages and great lookout points along the way.

The bikeway takes cyclists to Magang Fishing Village at the bottom of the hill on which Sandiaojiao Lighthouse is located, which is the northeasternmost point of the Taiwan Island. However, the lighthouse is not visible from the bikeway. Cyclists can stray from the bikeway to visit the famous lighthouse.

Don’t forget to stay a while at Magang to appreciate the quiet and simple life of the community.

Next, after passing through a lookout point, an expansive and stunningly beautiful sea bay comes into view as cyclists approach the fishing village of Maoao. Stay even longer at the village to stroll around the simple, clean community and appreciate a number of stone houses scattered around the village, some of which have toppled and some are still standing with villagers living inside.

Just follow the bikeway signs to ride back to Fulong and return the bike.

If you are hungry, the well-known, inexpensive Fulong meal box is waiting for you. There are several meal box restaurants in front of the train station. But the one almost connected to the station in front of which there is usually a long line is said to be the most traditional and delicious; however, it sells only pork meal boxes.

Make it a day trip, so you can relax and fully enjoy the journey.

Don’t forget to read the next bike trail in the top two picks--the Daiyujue River Cycling Path in Pinglin Township—in the next installment.