Traveling Taiwan by Motorcycle: Baolai To Taitung

Pine and Sea of Clouds

View from the summit of Meishan.

Day Two of our motorcycle journey started thirteen hours later after sleeping on a rock-hard, unforgiving bed. Despite five years in Asia, I’ve never been able to get used to the mattresses here. I guess that makes us both wusses. Besides that, we couldn’t deal with our noisy next door neighbors who were up at 5am and parked right outside our door.

We figured we’d be better off on the bike so we loaded the bike and hit the road again.

Today’s journey would take us along the Southern Cross Island Highway traveling up and over the peak of Meishan in Yushan National Park. From there, we would travel down into the East Rift Valley, famous for its lush, green rice paddies and haunting scenery.

We figured we would be at the peak in a few short hours after leaving the Baolai Hot Spring Area.

Famous last words.

Within twenty minutes of our departure, the skies opened up and it started to rain again. I had an uncomfortable sensation in my foot and was literally counting the minutes until water finally soaked through my socks and shoes.

We still hadn’t reached the summit and we were thoroughly wet and chilled.

Meishan

Meishan Visitor’s Center at Yushan National Park Headquarters.

We decided to stop, warm up, and grab some food and hot tea in Meishan Village. We quickly located the Visitor Center, where we discovered our untreated leather gloves had stained our hands a hellish black. Our skin was wrinkled like dried up prunes and it was a relief to take our gloves off for awhile.

I found a tiny restaurant up the road where we were welcomed with open arms.

That day, we learned about the kindness of strangers, when we encountered Mr. Chen sitting in his wheelchair at the back of the restaurant.

He couldn’t believe we were crazy enough to drive from Taipei, let alone do it in the rain. John’s size, which has sometimes intimated people we’ve met on the road, was a blessing at this point.

Mr. Chen, his sister and his grandson were utterly captivated by John and my ability to speak Chinese (badly). We were the first foreigners to grace their restaurant and they meant to make an impression.

They went out into the rain and brought back coffee for us and then proceeded to load us up with house specialties. We ordered stir-fried mountain greens, pig knuckle, barbecued lamb, the best pork-fried rice I’ve ever eaten and loads of hot, warming egg drop soup.

We felt almost human again after we’d cleared the table. Mr Chen insisted on having a spot of brandy with us to keep us warm on our journey. I think he would have been quite happy to sit and drink with us all day.

Just as we were getting ready to pay the bill, he waved his hands and wouldn’t accept any money. We were flabbergasted. He insisted we come back to visit him and told me that by paying the bill, we were obligated to come and see him again.

Then, they gave us a bag of fruit for the journey and sent us on our way!

John and I were completely overwhelmed by Mr. Chen and his family. It is moments like these that we cherish and will remember when we think about our adventures.

Landslide

Washed out road from landslide.

Despite feeling significantly warmer after leaving Mr. Chen’s restaurant, our journey up and over the mountain was miserable.

We were completely frozen by the time we reached the summit. Our gloves and shoes were soaked through and we were both stiffening up from the ride. The bad weather had caused several landslides.

In some places, the road had been completely washed out and we had to pick our way carefully over nothing more than a dirt path. Both of us kept a wary eye out for tumbling rocks.

Just as we stopped to get out some more pocket warmers, a huge load of rocks came crashing down the mountainside.

We barely took the time to snap a few photos, intent only on getting down the mountain to Guanshan, where we expected to find a hotel. As we drove through Guanshan, we were struck by the calm serenity of the rice paddies and fields. It felt like we had entered another world.

Guanshan is simply gorgeous. I really would have liked to spend more time in Guanshan, but the weather was so bad, there wasn’t any point in wasting time. Besides, we needed to get dried out and warm again.

After stopping a few times to make inquiries, we found a quaint little hotel that looked perfect for our night there. We would have been happy to stay there except for the extremely large and noisy family that would not be quiet from the minute we walked in the door. The racket they were making was unbelievable and we knew we weren’t going to get a moment’s peace if we stayed.

By unspoken agreement, we decided to brave the elements for another forty-five minutes and pushed on to Taitung, where the familiar lights of the Naruwan Forumosa beckoned.

Although pricey, we knew this hotel had a great spa and a good buffet dinner.  I tell you, that night, we pigged out until we could barely walk to the spa and then we completely defrosted ourselves. We spent a good hour before bed trying to get our things dried with a hair dryer before falling into a deep sleep. It was the best sleep we had had all week.

Mr Chen

I had to include these photos for good measure, despite their poor quality. The top photo: Mr. Chen, his grandson, and John. Down below is my gentle giant. I’m sure you can see why people are either intimidated or utterly charmed by him.

Gentle Giant

Links to The Motorcycle Diaries

  1. Tainan to Baolai Hot Springs
  2. Yushan National Park and the Kindness of Strangers
  3. A Walk In The Clouds
  4. Ching Jing
  5. Sun Moon Lake
  6. Freakin’ Peacocks At Sun Moon Lake
  7. The Perfect Way To End A Day
  8. Taiwan’s Central Cross Island Highway
  9. I’ve Walked The Central Cross Island Highway
  10. Taroko Gorge National Park

 

13 thoughts on “Traveling Taiwan by Motorcycle: Baolai To Taitung

  1. Jeffrey

    Loved the post and the pics. I have a thing for clouds skirting across the tops of mountains. Reminds me a lot of the Great Smoky Mountains as well as my recent bus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang.

    I enjoy reading your blog a lot and I would also like to thank you again for your recent comments on my blog.

    Hope life is treating you well.

    Reply
  2. globetrotteri

    Craig and K,

    Thanks. Nope. This isn’t the end. I still have another five days to write about. Good things come to those who wait! 🙂

    Reply
  3. globetrotteri

    Jeffrey,

    I hope you’re enjoying my posts as much as I’m enjoying yours. I love meeting new readers, especially those who are passionate about the same things I am.

    Reply
  4. globetrotteri

    Hi Kim,

    Yeah. We find it challenging to shop for John. He’s 6’9 and wears a size 15 shoe. We’ve never found shoes for him in Asia (except for a pair of flip flops I found in Ko Phanghan, Thailand). He stocks up on footwear when we go home. Every once in awhile, we manage to find him some shirts. Pants are a little harder to find. He’s a giant for sure.

    Reply
  5. porkbarrel

    Wow, great to see the southern road is still as wild as ever. Had a lot of adventures (and close calls with landsliding rocks) there around ten years ago. There’s nothing more fun than exploring Taiwan.

    Reply
  6. globetrotteri

    Porkbarrel,

    It is a lot of fun, I agree. I’d like to traverse this route again when the weather is a bit more accommodating. I found our journey up and over the mountains went way too fast. We barely had a chance to explore.

    Reply
  7. Carrie Post author

    Hi Sandy,

    I love the idea of motorcycle journeys too. John and I had to laugh a bit at all the people driving along and stopping to take pictures. We watched one family take pictures through the windows of their car just so they wouldn’t have to get out. It seems pointless to me unless you’re enjoying it up close and personal. Besides, what’s a little rain in comparison to a fantastic vacation?

    Reply

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