Sunday, August 8, 2010
Houdong River Bicycle Path 猴洞溪自行車道
This is a short but high quality cycling path just to the north of Jiaoxi. I have also seen it referred to as the Shanming 善明 or Ercheng 二城 bike path.
The best place to get on the bike path is Road 2 - the main road from Jiaoxi and Toucheng. If you're heading north from Jiaoxi, after you pass the Number 5 highway interchange, you will soon come to a little bridge beside two little temples. These are Fude temple 福德廟 and Ruiyang temple 瑞陽廟. There is a little parking lot between them. Also near the bridge is Yingfeng 迎風 cafe and a concrete pillar erected by the Lions club. An excellent large bilingual map standing at the start of the bike path will get you oriented.
The bike path follows the river on both sides. The best part of path heads west (upsteam toward the mountains). This is an incredibly wide dedicated bicycle path - bigger and better than a lot of country roads. And the river along this stretch has been beautifully landscaped. To the side of the path are rice paddies and guava orchards. Everything about this streth of the path is wonderful. The only problem is - it's really short. If you ride down to the highway underpass and back, it will take less than ten minutes.
However, there are a couple of things you can do while you're here.
Once you get to the highway, you can park your bike and walk up the stone and concrete path that runs next to the river. This leads to Houdong Waterfall. (see my blog entry) which is well worth the 15 minute walk.
Afterwards you can get back on your bike and explore the neighborhood on the other side of the highway overpass. The neighborhood that runs near the mountains has some pleasant parts, as houses alternate with fields.
Head back to the two temples, cross over the bridge, and keep going east (downstream) along the river. This bike path is much narrower, but it's in decent shape. The only problem is that every time the path intersects with a street, there are metal barriers to keep scooters off the bike path. Unfortunately, these also block bicycles, so you have to stop and lift your bike over the barrier. It's an odd design, but not a problem.
This stretch is nice, but not nearly as scenic as the path upstream. Even so, in summer the rice paddies that line river are beautiful. In winter the paddies just empty mud, but you will have a chance to see some migratory birds.
Feel free to get off the bike trail and explore the little roads that cut through the rice paddies. The landscape is flat and you won't encounter many cars here, so it's easy cycling.
When the bike trail comes to an end, if you like you can get on the little road beside the river and keep going. This will take you all the way to where the Houdong River merges into larger rivers and eventually to the sea. The landscape becomes steadily less scenic as you pass by industrial areas and fish ponds.
If you just do the dedicated bicycle path along the river, the whole route will take less than half an hour. But this path is just the starting point for investigating the surrounding little country roads and rice paddies. You can spend as much time as you want cycling around the area.