Huandao Day 4

All things spectacular from Hualien to Yilan…

A selfie of Zhen-Kang on a mountain road overlooking the Philippine Sea.
Photo: Zhen-Kang.
Distance 140 km
Ride time (with stops) 5 hours
Number of flying trains 1

After breakfast at an interesting Starbucks (not an oxymoron), I didn’t stop at any special locations on my ride to Yilan—but the journey was spectacular.

A Starbucks building made of four stories of stacked shipping containers projecting outwards at right angles.
I had breakfast at this Starbucks made of shipping containers.
Interior of a shipping container Starbucks, showing wooden floors and a mix of wood-paneled and exposed metal walls.
The second-floor’s divided into a dozen different spaces.
A large window looks out over a carpark at the end of one of the shipping containers. A bench seat and small round tables line the right wall.
Some have views of the carpark (and mountains).
A two-seater leather couch in a small nook, with the words ‘flavor’ and ‘fusion’ on a bold mural behind it.
The areas without windows were also cozy.
A small round wooden table and two cushioned stools next to a floor-to-ceiling window.
But the window seats were most popular.
A rich, warm space with wooden floors and walls, and wooden cafe chairs and tables. Spaces with exposed metal walls are visible beyond.
I avoided photographing other customers, but in actuality the Starbucks was 50% full when I visited. It’s a clever space.
A motorcycle parked on the side of a one-lane road through the middle of a grassy cemetery.
Soon I was riding north. Within the first 30 minutes, I was on a road that went through a cemetery.
The entrance to a two-lane road tunnel through a mountain.
Then I was back in the mountains. I rode through perhaps a dozen tunnels; some were multiple kilometers long. One was undulating, with gentle curves all the way through. Like real-life Mario Kart. The outside air was cold—maybe 13ºC—but it was pleasant in the tunnels. Maybe 10ºC warmer. I looked forward to each one.
A wide-angle shot of a stunning piece of coastline, with jungle-clad mountains rising from the sea. A narrow road hugs the side of an extremely-steep cliff in the distance.
The roads often hugged the cliffs. There were continuous safety barriers on the right side, but some looked safer than others.
A roadsign showing a monkey.
Monkey warning!
A monkey on a two-lane mountain road, walking towards the forest on the left side.
A minute later, I rounded a corner and saw four monkeys on the road ahead. Three of them jumped away before I got close enough for my dashcam to capture the fourth.
A selfie of the author, Zhen-Kang, in front of a motorcycle, on a two-lane mountain road overlooking the Philippine Sea. Zhen-Kang is wearing sunglasses and a motorcycle helmet.
A friend told me the road between Hualien and Yilan is his favorite. I agree it’s spectacular, and is probably my favorite as well. Today I thought a lot about how it felt to be on this road, here in Taiwan, at this moment. And how I could not have imagined this scenario as recently as two years ago. The me of January 2022 would not wholly recognize the me of January 2024. In New Zealand I had a good, full life. In Taiwan I have that too, but in more adventurous ways.
Exterior of Bobo Pizza restaurant. A sign in front says ‘Maybe The Best Pizza in the Known Universe. By Chef François’.
I met that same friend in Yilan City for dinner. Bobo Pizza claims to be “Maybe The Best Pizza in the Known Universe”.
A 12-inch pizza on a thin base, rich in toppings such as basil leaves, onion, tomato, peppers, capsicum, chillies, corn, and chicken.
That’s a definite maybe. It was an easy 10.
An large-scale public art installation of a half-real-size steam engine pulling four carriages full of cartoonish figures. The train is suspended from giant forest-like steel structures and appears to be flying on illuminated rails. About 5 meters below the train, three people are walking through this space carrying shopping bags.
After dinner, we walked around the city center. Opposite Yilan Station, we saw this impressive installation: the flying Yilan Express. A day with monkeys, pizza, and a flying train, is definitely a good day.

Day 4 soundtrack

  1. Drum Tower (Podcast)
  2. Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want to Turn Into You (Apple Music) (Spotify)
  3. Ladi6 – The Liberation of… (Apple Music) (Spotify)
  4. OSN – #osnrap (Apple Music) (Spotify)
  5. Slash – Slash (Apple Music) (Spotify)

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