After Luye, I headed on down to Taitung City. This is where the Central Mountain range and the Coastal Mountain range come together at the Pacific Ocean. And yes, it is just as beautiful as it sounds. Taitung is a major city in the southeast of Taiwan, a transit terminus. Oddly, Lonely Planet gives the city short shrift – advising a traveler to avoid, only good for catching a train or bus out. I stayed three nights in an AirBnB, using the town as a base to explore the surrounding areas on my bike. I found Taitung to be delightful. It has easily one of the best urban parks (Forest Park) that I have ever been to. Forest Park is as it sounds, dense woods stretching from the ocean along the Beinan River bank for many km. My sense is that it is perhaps larger than New York’s Central Park. The old downtown train station was decommissioned around 2001 and has been turned into a large arts district, while the station platforms and rails were left as they were. Developed bike paths ring the city and run through both the Old Train Station and Forest park areas, as well as along the Pacific beach on the eastern side of the city. Good surfing is available just 30 minutes north in Dulan, a community that has drawn many expats to its fold. A large hot springs resort area named Chihpen (def: source of wisdom) lies just 15 km to the south in a canyon at the foot of the Dawu Mountains. The quality of the water (sodium bicarbonate, colorless, tasteless and 90 degrees C) was highly prized by the Japanese who first developed the area in the early 1900’s.
This unusual cloud formation out over the Pacific greeted me on my first night in Taitung.
At the Old Railway Art Village, thousands of lanterns made by elementary school children are hung to celebrate the Balloon Festival taking place up in Luye. The area is really alive after dark, with hundreds of families strolling, joggers, bikers and lovers milling about.