Riding on Route 106 towards Ruifang City offers some stunning mountain scenery alongside the Keelung River as you pass through a couple of old townships (Pingxi and Shifen) that make for some interesting exploration.
Once out of Taipei City via Muzha it was raining for the most part of my 100km ride, however it was quite enjoyable and peaceful. The only real hills was the 3-4km climb up to Pingxi Township (250m) and then the longest climb (500m) occurs after Shifen before it drops down to Ruifang. After riding to the highest point, I turned around to ride back. It was quite a tricky descent due to the narrowness of the road and a number of switchbacks to negotiate in the wet.
Pingxi is worth the stop for an hour or so if it is your first time through and you have time. You can explore the old cobble-stoned streets, check out the market; and see evidence of what was once an important coal mining town in the early 20th century. If you have to have caffeine during your trip, you have come to the right place as it has many tea plantations in the area. On my way back, I stopped at a local restaurant at the crossroads for big plate of pork, egg and vege fried noodles for $60NT ($1.85US). Good feed after spending half the day exploring in the rain!
After passing through Pingxi, it is a very easy ride alongside the Keelung River to Shifen. It is highly recommended to spend at least half an hour checking out the Shifen Waterfall (????) and the surrounding mountains. It is has been dubbed as the “little Niagara of Taiwan” as it is the country’s broadest waterfall being 20 meters in hight and spanning across 40 meters. The rain gave the area a misty romantic quality that was refreshing. The actual waterfall viewing deck is currently closed to the general public due to some safety issues. However, there was no-one to be seen, so I jumped over the fence next to the rail-way line to walk over and snap a few pictures of the awe-inspiring waterfall.
The entire area is surrounded by mountains and bush with numerous waterfalls cascading off the mountainsides onto the road. On a normal day, it is a very popular route for both cyclists and motorcyclists alike; often very crowded with weekenders. However, due to the rain there was only the occasional cyclist to be seen and I mostly had the place to myself, especially after Shifen. According to the 2007 Lonely Planet, this area of Keelung River receives more than 6000mm of rain a year and for this reason, there is more waterfalls than any other river system in all of Taiwan. There is another smaller waterfall – Eyeglasses Waterfall that you can view as you walk over the bridge.
If you have an interest in Coal Mining history, there is the Taiwan Coal Mine History & Cultural Hall that you can check out. This used to be a real fully operational coal-mining station, so everything on display is real authentic mining equipment. There is apparently a 1km train ride you can take into the mining tunnel (Lonely Planet 2007).
To view the google map of the ride, click here. This map just shows the starting point at the Shiding area and maps out just over 20kms. I came from Taipei which adds another 15-20kms to your journey each way and then depending on how far past Shifen you go, it makes for a good half-day ride. It is not too difficult to do and there are plenty of sights to see along the way. If you are feeling adventurous, I would randomly choose a couple of the small one-laned roads that branch off the main 106 road, you never know what you might find!
Getting there from Taipei
Pingxi/Pinglin (via Shiding).
Cross the bridge toward Taipei Zoo and turn left onto Xinguang Rd. Stay on Xinguang Rd. as it loops under the freeway and continue on straight down Wenshan Rd until it ends. Now cross the river and you will be on Beishen Rd. Having bypassed the unpleasant downtown Shenkeng. From here you can continue onto to Pingxi and Pinglin via Shiding. It is also possible to take a small access road over the hills to Nangang and then loop back to the cemetery on Yanjiuyuan Rd ( Pingxi/Pinglin (via Shiding)
NB: Photos are now clickable for viewing
If you enjoyed reading this post and my other ones, you can RSS my blogsite or follow me on Twitter: Bikedan to keep up with my up-dates.