Taiwan is an interestingly shaped island. On one side the land is mainly flat and where you find most of the country’s cities and infrastructure. The other side is covered with a rocky massif that runs along the whole island from north to south. With its mountainous landscapes and abundance of flora and fauna, Taiwan has became a haven for adventure­ hungry hikers.

On a normal day I am that very adventure hungry hiker. However during the month prior to this, in China, I hiked to a few mountains like Huangshan and Zhangjiajie and walked hundreds of kilometres, until eventually I managed to screw up my ankles and knees. After some intensive walking in Taipei, they finally started to squeak like my granddad’s, so I decided to rent a scooter and ‘hiked’ to the mountains using motor power rather than leg power. For a few days the bike served as my legs.

Sweeping landscape somewhere between Keelung and Jiufen.
Sweeping landscape somewhere between Keelung and Jiufen.

Renting a scooter in Taipei was a bit problematic, partly due to the different road rules and turning system that anybody not from Taiwan would struggle to get to grips with. Also, most Taiwanese people follow the rules when driving, which is rare in comparison to what I encountered in some neighbouring countries.

I have no idea why they build houses so close to the ocean, when the waves could destroy these fragile wooden structures if not with the first wave then with the second. One thing though is guaranteed – the constant watering of the crops. The occupants of the houses built close to the cliff’s edge grow their own vegetables.

Because very few places rent out scooters to anyone other than locals, foreigners have to go through a health & safety talk before they can rent, as well as paying a deposit, only then do they allow you on the road. Unlike renting in any other country you also have to connect with the rental office via Whatsapp and can request help if you need it. Thankfully, my scooter was in perfect condition and I managed to ride all the way to Jiufen and back, but I doubt the rental company would have been happy to hear just how far I travelled.

I rode quite a long distance, reaching all the way to where the landscape starts to curve and the jagged yellow hills covered with greenery start to merge with the mountains.

An old fishing harbour in the north of Taiwan, somewhere around Haikeguan.

In November (beginning in the off season) the waves here are pretty strong, so the locals sit on the quay, inside the harbour, where the wild waves bring in a bounty of fish.

Local fishermen saying hello to the white stranger.

On the other side of the harbour, at the top of the breakwater, the waves clash with the riprap, throwing crabs out onto the ground. Realising that they’ve emerged on land they quickly fuck off back to the sea.

Waves hitting the breakwater.
Fishing boat with hanging lamps used to attract fish.

Taiwan’s size makes it perfect for travelling via scooter, a few of the people I met drove all around the island this way in about three weeks, occasionally stopping and chilling in few cities along the way. The infrastructure in Taiwan is very modern and the roads and bridges are in extremely good condition. Also, due to the occasional earthquake and rockfall, the roads here get fixed pretty quickly. In the event of this occurring I imagine it might be a little frustrating, as some places are served by a single road only.

The roads running through the island’s east coast are all pretty close to the Pacific Ocean. It’s impossible not to be struck by how the wild waves shape the surrounding rocks, weakening the coastal stone until it erodes and with time disappears completely.

Jagged cliffs descending in to the savage ocean.

Not far from Jiufen, I found a temple with a charming carp fish pond. In China, Japan and here, carp fish ponds are kept for decorative purposes.