Distance: total distance 32km – south bank, Yuanshan to Nangang 16km, return journey on the north bank, 16km.

Time: total travel time 4 hours – Yuanshan to Nangang 2 hours with 1½ actual moving time. Nangang to Yuanshan also 2 hours with 1½ actual moving time. This doesn’t include the hour break that I took for lunch in Nangang.

Difficulty: 1/10 – this follows a large river, meaning that it is pretty much all flat and super easy!

Total ascent: 100m – 100m ascent over 32km shows just how flat this is.

Water: take whatever you’re comfortable carrying – there are occasional vending machines along the route and plenty of places where you can get out to buy supplies if necessary.

Shade: almost none – I wouldn’t recommend doing this in the height of summer unless you are either: a. willing to wear full head-to-toe covering, b. incapable of burning, or c. looking to get bicycle clothing burn/tan lines, (that would definitely be burn lines if it were me).

Mobile network: full coverage

Enjoyment: 7/10 – this is great for a gentle day’s pottering, you can take your time to have a look at the art, watch the locals engage in all types of sport and travel between busy parts of the city in a sheltered, calm and green corridor. I found myself stopping frequently to observe plants, bridge structures, juxtapositions of temples and office buildings, an array of graffiti styles and little glimpses of other people’s daily lives. There are no awe inspiring vistas or drop-dead gorgeous outlooks to be enjoyed here, however there are many small wonders to be enjoyed if you slow down and enjoy the ride.

Other: since my bike is in Taoyuan, I did this on a YouBike, the hiring cost from Yuanshan to Nangang was NT$35 and on the way back it was NT$45, so a total of NT$80 dollars for a day’s entertainment, (that’s just less than £2 or US$2.70).


South bank:

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 1.35.54 PM

North bank:

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 1.44.08 PM

GPX file available: south bank here and north bank here.

I picked up my ride for the first leg of the journey from the Taipei Fine Art Museum/市立美術館 YouBike station in the southeast corner of Yuanshan Park and then crossed the road into the Fine Arts Park/花博公園 美術園區. Both of these parks are places worth visiting in and of themselves – Yuanshan Park is home to Taipei Expo Farmer’s market, which opens on Sundays, as well as MAJI MAJI, which is a covered, open-air food court with international food stalls, a kids’ fairground ride and some boutique stores. This site has quite a bit of interesting information about the park that I wasn’t aware of before – like the fact that Yuanshan Park is Taipei’s oldest public park. The Fine Arts Park also has lots to see and do if you have time: the Fine Art Museum itself, (which was closed for renovation when I was there), and the International Pavilion of Indigenous Arts and Cultures.

Riding east through the park, you arrive at the rather romantically named ‘Floral Tunnel’ – the structure is draped with Chinese Hibiscus, Siberian Elm and a variety of Bougainvillea and as informed by a nearby information board: “look up and you will see flower globes hanging like fruit from the branches of trees; look down and you will see swaying lights and shadows formed by the rays of the sun. The plants along the sides of the tunnel spread their leaves and blossoms as if welcoming visitors to a floral embrace.” (If only the writer of this beautifully poetic English had been consulted on the signs for the ‘Sonth’ Riverside Park that I saw later in my journey.

Exiting the Floral Tunnel, the next park across the road is Xinsheng Park. Once again, this is not just some grass and a few trees, not at all! Xinsheng Park is home to sports facilities ranging from a pool to tennis courts and a baseball field, you can visit Taipei’s Rose Garden, a hedge maze, Taipei Collectible Botanical Garden and test your nerve by standing under the flight path of planes arriving at Songshan airport. (Although the best spot to do a bit of plane watching is actually right at the west end of the runway where you can be terrified by the slight wobbling of planes coming in mere metres overhead.)

Planes arrive every five to ten minutes, so you shouldn’t have to wait to long if you want to be temporarily be deafened.

After standing under the flight path, I had to double back a bit to get to Lin An Tai evacuation gate, which is where I joined the Keelung riverside bikeway. The gate is to the left of Lin An Tai ancestral house, an old building in the Fujian style – as far as I can tell, there’s no entrance fee so it’s definitely worth a gander.

An oBike hanging out on the railings – these YouBike usurpers were lurking all over in nooks and crannies of the park.

The first park you ride through is Dajia Riverside Park. At 420,000m2, this is quite a substantial park, it has loads of sports facilities, a children’s play area, bicycle hire station and a rather impressive fountain. The ‘Fountain of Hope’ has 15-minute shows on the hour, every hour between 10am and 4pm (or later between April and November), you can find the schedule and a rather glowing government write up of the fountain which “promises to become a new landmark of the City’s riverbank with its water spectacles” here. I caught a bit of it on my return leg and I can confirm that the water does indeed go pretty high.

One of the things that I enjoy about cycling Taipei’s river cycle paths is that in many places, the imposing flood defense walls have been turned into large-scale canvasses. Sure, you’re more likely to get safe, crowd-pleasing art than anything thought-provoking or especially exciting, but it’s nicer to look at colourful walls than plain, stained concrete.

And whilst it’s easy to dismiss ‘safe’ art as ‘dull’ art, I did enjoy reading the information that went along with some of the pieces. This large mural was created by Nawa Basaw, a member of the Seediq tribe and depicts “a treasure trove of collective memories about how the Seediq people toiled day in and day out for survival” engaged in tasks such as hunting, weaving and grinding rice under the protection of the Seediq people’s guardian animal, the owl. The artist wishes viewers to take away the lesson that ‘people nowadays would complain much less if they try their best to practise positive thinking while showing gratitude for the hard-earned harvest‘. An admirable sentiment, and indeed one that is worth bearing in mind, especially for us modern city-dwellers for whom the rush and hustle of daily life can sometimes become a fog which clouds rational thinking or true perspective. However, I think that either something was lost in the translation of the final paragraph, or the artist really holds a dim view of modern youth because the description closes with the rhetorical question: “We should instil in the whiny generation the belief in perseverance…shouldn’t we?

At Dajia bridge, Dajia Park ends and becomes Yingfeng Park. Here you can look north towards Neihu and see the Miramar Ferris Wheel. This park has more sports facilities, including baseball fields, roller-skating rinks, football fields, hockey fields, and even a (slightly old-looking) miniature golf course, (bring your own putters). Many of these were in use on a Wednesday afternoon, so it must get extremely busy on the weekend. There is also a dog park which is separated into enclosures for large dogs and small dogs – apparently this was Taiwan’s first leash-free dog park. Given that most older Taiwanese seem to feel that leashes (and indeed accompanied dog-walking) are unnecessary, I would love to know how the planning committee for this dog park sold their idea: “It’s a place where you can take your dog and let them run around.”, “You mean like a street or a park?”, “Well, more like a smaller park in a bigger park. You know, so that the dog can’t run away or bite kids or get hit by a car, that kind of thing”, “…nah mate, it’s alright, I’ll just let my dog walk itself.”

If you’re not interested in watching athletic types hit and kick balls of various sizes, you could always choose to divert your attention to the designated graffiti wall, (one of three that I passed along my journey). These spots of wall seem to be government sanctioned graffiti locations where the art has a three month lifespan before it gets painted over.

The quality of the work is somewhat mixed, but the bright colours certainly function to breakup the greyness of the wall.

Cycling out of Yingfeng Park, the next park arrived at is Guanshan Riverside Park – this section boasts a variety of interesting bridges. Under the first bridge, you can get a framed view of Taipei 101 as well as a free concert from some saxophonists. I’m not a great fan of the saxophone, and the fact that they have relagated themselves to lurking under motorway bridges simply reinforces my predujices – they know where they belong. To make matters worse, there were three of them, sitting together, all playing different tunes. (Why? To concentrate the noise pollution?) There was at least one here the last time I came by too, it must be a regular saxophonist haunt.

Just beyond the designated saxophone area, the cycle path once again meets the flight path, this time the take off route. I think I have occasionally seen them switch it up and do things in reverse, but rarely. I guess the winds aren’t strong enough to dictate takeoff and landing direction – back in Hong Kong the direction could change several times a day if the conditions required it.

Opposite Guanshan evacuation gate there is an impressive stand of banyan tree. They look like they’ve converged there in a kind of square for a reason – maybe to gossip or to shelter an invisible dwelling. Park management has concreted the area between them, as if to prevent them from drawing too close.

Where the cycle path approaches Maishuai bridge, a colourful display of flowers carpets the ground. Since this is Taiwan, the fact that a park has flowers has been deemed news-worthy for at least two consecutive years,  and it’s because of this brave and tireless reporting on pressing topics that I know that the flowers species on display  include petunias, salvia farinacea, peacock grass (me neither), white sage, ‘romantic purple flowers‘ wax bergonia and Mexican marigold. Let’s hope that Taipei’s Hydraulic Engineering Office continue to clothe the park in flowers for many springs to come.

Under Muaishuai bridge is another example of the dual-use of space that happens in big cities everywhere – a basketball court has been built in the shade of the highway allowing for the sun-shy to keep playing well into the height of summer.

The next bridge you arrive at is one of the more famous bridges in Taipei – the Rainbow bridge. If you’re here in the evening, the Rainbow bridge exit will take you to Raohe night market – famed for it’s pepper pork buns, this night market is up there as one of the top ones to visit whilst in Taipei.

Since it wasn’t evening, and I wasn’t yet hungry, I carried on with my journey towards the 0.0km mark, (the measure counts up to where the Keelung river meets the Tamsui river). Beyond the Rainbow bridge, the park becomes Chengmei Left Riverbank Park and the feeling of the route seemed to get a little less polished – the space between the two flood walls narrowed, meaning that you’re closer to the buildings on both sides.

The path remains beautifully maintained and comfortable to cycle on.

Every so often, more exercise facilities dot the route, there are more basketball courts and a lot of the park gym equipment that you see all over the place here.

For the last couple of kilometres, the route runs underneath the split-level Huandong Avenue, so it’s not the most peaceful stretch.

This portion also seems to be currently under renovation, as both the south bank ank buildings on the opposite side are being built.

The Keelung river bikeway ends at a rather uninspiring ramp which leads out onto the road. I decided to head in towards Nangang station and get a spot of lunch before embarking on the return journey. I docked the bike at the Nangang station YouBike stand and went to find food.

I was glad that I’d decided to stop, since I found a rather lovely vegetarian shop which did a pretty good curry hot pot. I would have had the stinky tofu too if I’d had someone to share it with, but sadly I didn’t.

Once suitably refuelled, I returned the same YouBike station to collect a new bike and set of back to Yuanshan. Getting to the start of the north bank cycle way took a couple of attempts. In the end, I had to cycle the first couple of kilometres twice.

To get onto the north bank, I had to cycle  past Nangang station and Nangang Software Park station then over Nanhu bridge. This route takes you past this eye catching statue lengthily entitled ‘The Beat of Civilization the State of Union between Heavan and Humans‘. The arm cuts off just above the limit of the image, but I like the fact that you can make it into a kind of optical illusion.

After crossing the bridge, I turned right until I reached the start of the Keelung River bike path, (you can also find the Xizhi-Neihu bike path here). It’s not especially exciting, so I wouldn’t recommend heading up here unless you like the idea of starting from zero like me.

There is a bridge near the start of the trail which crosses over a tributary of the Keelung river and the bike path heading towards Neihu.

Heading back west, I got a few bursts of dramatic lighting, with the sun glinting off the surface of the water.

On a bend close to Donghu MRT station, there is one of two no longer used suspension bridge struts, this is one side of the old Wufen suspension bridge, the other is a little further up this side.

Looking across the river, you can take a look at one of Nangang’s several weirdly futuristic-looking buildings – this egg thing is actually one of two, the second one is just behind it and a little smaller.

In another momentary flash of dramatic light, I stopped and got off my bike to admire the strength of this bridge. The light was actually a lot warmer (in colour tone) than it appears in the photo and it was also comfortably warm on the skin – I wish this weather would stretch out just a little longer before caving in to summer, 23-24° is perfect!

The north bank seems to have a lot more stray dogs than the south – they didn’t seem very interested in bothering people though, so I don’t think you need to worry about them.

Near some extensive out-door gym equipment, there is another graffiti wall.

Amongst my favourites were the self-explanatory camel, and a scribbled “YOU CAN DO IT“, to encourage all those trying to crack out their 2oth pull up.

Graffiti wasn’t the only wall-based source of interest though, I rather liked this foliage gap.

I cycled past the river-side temple that I’d seen on my journey east. This tiny area was also home to a kids’ park, outdoor gym and a clothes line. You definitely cannot accuse the park management department of wasting space.

After passing the rainbow bride again, I found the north banks love locks, (the south bank has them too on a giant heart) .

I enjoyed reading the names written on each and wondering about the relationships.

But most of all, I enjoyed the fact that someone had gone along and corrected the grammar of many of the messages scrawled on the metal framework.

There are many places in this park where the scale just feels kind of off – the platforms raising these pylons must be there to protect them in an even of a flood, but somehow, the extra height makes me feel extremely small.

As I was passing under the flight path again, I found myself surrounded by more magpies than I’ve ever seen together before. When I stopped to look at what they were up to, they took off indignantly. (Note the imposter starling at front-centre – I wonder if it thought that it could convince them that it was one of them.)

You can’t really see from this angle, but this lady was sat in quiet contemplation with her dog. It looked very sweet.

After turning an almost 90° angle just beyond the rainbow bridge, the cycle path has you cycling north towards the inviting peaks of Yangmingshan park. When I am confronted with sights like this I feel lucky that I live in a place where my eyes can feel satisfied. It’s like the beauty of the place accumulates inside me, the way that tiredness or stress does, but in this case it’s a good thing.

As I approached the saxophone trolls bridge, I spotted a patch of churning water surrounded by men of a certain age. About a third of the men had fishing rods, but the majority were just standing around and observing. I stopped cycling and watched, the water was churning with at thick mass of fish, fins breaking the surface as they jostled, (you can just about make out some fins if you click on the image for a closer look). I went down to see what they were up to and be a little nosy, I asked them why there was such a huge number of fish in this place and was told that it was something to do with the convergence of fresh water and salt water. At the time I thought this seemed strange, because the sea is really quite a long way from here, but after a bit of research, it seems that salt water intrudes a great deal further inland than I had realised. The gentlemen also repeatedly told me that these fish were not edible – as someone who has never been a fish eater, they didn’t need to tell me twice, I already knew! I stopped and watched for a only a few minutes, but in that time, the fisherman standing closest to me hooked and released three 25cm-long fish.

This time the lurker wasn’t an oBike, but instead a bike festooned with plastic bags.

Just beyond the fishermen’s rest, there was an area of wall decorated with a kind of anti-graffiti, or maybe negative graffiti.

Instead of being painted on the walls, the pictures were scraped into the grime and algae that has covered the concrete. Some of them, like the unnerving one above had used already-present forms as inspiration.

Others had simply sprung disturbingly from the mind of the artists.

The cycle path took me into Meiti Riverside Park, and I stopped to watch the planes take off whilst eating the guava that I’d brought with me.

There’s a small wharf in this park, which, (according to online information), is in use, but I can’t find any information about services operating from here. There’s also a model car racing track where I saw another gathering of gentlemen of a certain age all twiddling remotes and playing with expensive toys.

By the time I had arrived to the part of the bank opposite Dajia park, there had been a noticeable increase in the number of other people out enjoying the riverbank.

The final stretch of the riverside ride for me took me straight towards the imposing structure of the Grand Hotel, before curving left under a tangle of road bridges.

There was something about the colours and lines of this little section which pleased my eye. Specifically the small pop of vivid colour supplied by the traffic sign.

And just to the right of previous photo, there was a clump of trees which had been colonised by roosting herons. It always seems strange to see so many of them gathering together.

Since time was getting on, I left the park via the ramp in the centre of this photo and turned left to cross over the bridge.

On the far side of the bridge there is a switchback ramp where cyclists can either go down to the south bank of the park, or to the road – I went down to the road and then back up another path on the other side.

The path takes you past Taipei Story House and then Taipei Fine Arts museum before arriving back at the same YouBike stand where I’d rented the bike at the start.

I’m looking forward to continuing this journey around Shezi Island at some point.

How to get there

I started from Yuanshan MRT station and walked to the Taipei Fine Art Museum/市立美術館 YouBike station to start my journey, but it would be equally easy to do it in reverse and start from the Nangang station YouBike stand. Given that this is all in the city and it’s along a huge river, it’s pretty easy to work out where and how to go.

further reading: Travel King has a little more background detail on the full length of the path and timings for travelling on either bank, (assuming that you don’t get side-tracked in to paying attention to too many things as I do).

My new words learnt on this hike:

  1. 除非 chúfēi / unless
  2. 激動 jīdòng / too excited
  3. 高級gāojí / luxury or high level
  4. 扭蛋 niǔ dàn / toy dispenser – actually the Chinese name is a lot more descriptive than the English one, the literal translation is ‘twist or wriggle egg’.
  5. gao sai gao liu / (Taiwanese) keep pooing and peeing – apparently an appropriate time to use this would be if one of the players in your mahjong group has become so inebriated that they can’t go an hour without needing the toilet.
  6. 好運 hǎoyùn / lucky
  7. 環島 huándǎo / around island (bike path) – there were signs for section of of this huge loop all over Neihu.

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