Having been kicking around Taiwan a wee while longer than Sascha and Nicole I’ve a bit more experience travelling around the island, however this was my first proper road trip as I’ve previously relied on Taiwan’s excellent (and ever-improving) public transport and affordable taxis to make my way around. And I have to say it was very enjoyable too. There’s nothing quite like cruising along Taiwan’s East Coast highway with the sunroof down and the music going all the while being able to enjoy the view from the passenger seat.
Our first challenge was packing up the boot of the Q5. Of course five people’s kit and the recording gear isn’t an everyday amount of luggage to be getting into a car boot, SUV or no SUV. The first day was all good, and with a bit of Tetris inspired magic I got it all in there. Come the next though it seemed like the kit was suffering from a bit of overnight bloating and it took a little while to get it all back in place. Having said that the Q5 boot is plentiful enough for your normal travel needs and five passengers with average luggage should have no problems at all.
While Nicole and Sascha opted for Flagship mobile devices for the trip I took along the utterly wicked Oneplus. As you know from my reviews I’m a tad besotted with this phone. The specs and the workmanship are outstanding for the price. It seemed particularly apt to take along the sandstone black back cover finish model, and I must say it looked right at home nestled among the rocks on Toucheng beach. Although the spiky coral rocks at the beach were a bit of a contrast to the almost fluffy handfeel of the phone itself.
I’m big on my Shenzhen-born flagship-killer and it certainly held its own against the Nokia Lumia 930 and the LG G3. The OnePlus One has a 5.5 “ screen with a resolution of 1920x 1800. It’s got excellent viewing angles give fantastic readability in bright sunlight, making it spot-on for use on the beach under the bright midday Taiwan sunlight. The 801 Snapdragon OS made for a bit of great mobile 3D gaming of an evening after finishing up my work too. The 13MP camera takes decent enough shots for travel purposes, although this is the one area where Nicole and Sascha’s phones had me a bit beat.
I have mates who swear by popping their bikes onto the handy train cargo service and picking them up in Hualien to enjoy a few days cycling along the East coast but for me I’d have to say that the combination of driving your own motor and then opting for hiring an e-bike for a spot of cycling action at some particularly beautiful areas is the way to go. Taiwan really has the cycling tourist scene down with local hero Giant bike rental shops at nearly every train station along the way and cycle maintenance stations dotted along popular routes.
We went with the Giant EA03 hybrid bike in Hualien. The batteries are mounted off the back pannier-style and you recharge them as you pedal and as you brake. The control panel on the front handlebars allows you to change the mode from eco to normal or sport; great for when you want to vary your level of input/exercise depending on your aim. I imagine that commuters would find this a great asset: cycling in with minimum effort (read sweatiness) on eco and pedalling back firmly in sport mode to get your evening workout in. This is combined with a 7-speed Shimano gear shift so we’re certainly not talking a grandma leg saver cycle here. You can really choose to go for it or to let the bikes take a bit of the strain in the heat of the day, which isn’t half a bad idea when the thermometer is hitting the 33 degree mark. It’s a little pricier than renting a regular bike at NT$400 a day as opposed to NT$300, but I’d say the extra USD$3 was well worth it.
I decided to take along the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro for the trip as it’s a pretty rugged set-up with fantastic flexibility. It would be a good choice for use on trains and coaches too as you can flip the device into various positions depending on your needs at the time. The backlit chiclet keyboard allows for great touch typing, something which I find invaluable as a blogger. It’s light, has a vivid display and offers great performance with the core i5 processor. All-in-all I find it the perfect device for on the road because it’s great for both work and media consumption.
It was great to re-visit some of my favourite spots along the East coast, and interesting to see how by and large the tourist infrastructure has improved over time. There is certainly more information available in English than there was a few years back. The local governments are going for the eco-tourism card in a big way with fantastic hiking and cycling paths up and down the east coast. There’s clearly been a lot of thought and effort put into showing off.
Taiwan’s unique landscape and culture. The Langyang Museum in particular allowed you to get a real understanding of the local topography. And while it pays to get off the beaten track a bit, there’s nothing quite like watching bemused coachloads of mainland tourists trying to work out what is going on at Taidong’s Water Runs Upwards feature just down past Dulan. I’m hard pushed to say what my favourite part of the trip was. The food, of course, was delectable especially the seafood lunch at Toucheng. The sunrises over the pacific, particularly at Setana House from the vantage point of a hammock, were breathtaking. But I’ve got a particularly fond memory of Sascha’s face when he realised I’d outdone him on our map-challenge down in Taidong….
If you’d like to see everything we’ve written about our trip down the East Coast of Taiwan, here is a link to our Out of the Box Tech and Travel Section.