Taitung County is one of Taiwan’s least visited and best-loved counties. The coastline and mountainous inland are stunning and largely unspoilt. There are larger resorts tucked away in the mountains for those seeking a five-star experience but most accommodation outside of the city itself is in the form of charming home stays.
In February 2014 the Puyuma Express service launched, cutting travel time between the capital Taipei and Taitung city to a mere 3 and a half hours. The service runs five times a day, and is great value at just NT$783, but beware – it is a reservation only service with no standing permitted.
Getting around the coastal areas does require some form of transport as the train does not run along the coast. Car, scooter and bicycle rentals are all possible. Most train stations in Taitung have a Giant bike rental place right by the station and cyclists are a common sight along the coastal road 11 as well as around the numerous inland towns. Serious cyclers can have their bikes shipped down ahead of them by train for a small fee.
For those who prefer their cycling along non-motorised paths we strongly recommend checking out the Taitung Mountain/Ocean Bicycle trail. This 21 km trail winds from the Old Train Station to the Railway Artist Village and as the name suggests offers both mountain and Pacific Ocean views as well as passing through the forest. The path is level and flat making it a popular choice for families on holidays and at the weekends. You can also branch off and join other biking lanes in the Taitung City network from the path.
The East Rift Valley is home to the International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. You can be sure to get some great shots up close but also to some stunning views on the 23, the old Southern Cross Road (no longer a through road) as the road winds up the gorge. Several townships in the area also have well set up cycle paths including Guanshan and Chihshang (which are both accessible by local train).
These tend to pass by Ecological Reservation areas and Cultural heritage sites and are a great way to spend an afternoon. Taitung is very much a farming county so keep an eye out for which foods to try where – for example bento’s in Chihshang are famous for their soft rice and the seasonal fruit sold at the roadside is freshly picked and sweet.
If you haven’t checked out our drive down the east coast, here is our first episode of Out of the Box