Time: I spent almost six hours on this route, but you could easily make it longer or shorter depending on whether you’re going for the exercise or going for a day out. For a better idea, I think the return journey took about an hour.
Difficulty: 1/10 – flat cycle paths, hard to get lost, plenty of places to stop for refreshments.
Water: take enough to keep you going for a short time, there are several convenience stores at various points just off the cycle path, so you won’t get caught out.
Shade: almost none – I’ve done this in summer and autumn, the summer season definitely requires sun protection.
Mobile network: no problems
Enjoyment: 8/10 – a pleasant afternoon/day’s excursion, especially if you’re looking for somewhere that you can allow yourself to be distracted by all the small things that you pass.
Other: there are plenty of ways to extend this route, or shorten it. Previously I have parked the bike at Bali and caught a bus back when it started raining. I have also paid to take the bike over on the ferry to Danshui and cycled back to Guandu.
GPX file available here.
Leaving Luzhou station via exit one or three, cross the road and walk to the nearby uBike stand. Continue heading past the park towards the river.
At the petrol station cross over the road and keep heading towards the park on the opposite side. Take the small road which runs to the left of and below the bridge. You’ll be cycling counter to the traffic, so be careful and/or walk this short section.
Turn into the park and make your way to the ramp up to the overpass.
The overpass will take you into the park, from here, head straight under the bridge.
There’s a small underpass to take, beyond that, keep straight.
Turning left will take you alongside the water. Cycle all the way to the other side until you get to a bridge.
Over the bridge and turn right onto the cycle path, keeping the water to your right. From here you just keep on the same path all the way to Bali.
After passing a fishing wharf, the path runs right alongside the water. As you pass this section, you’ll encounter a small dwelling where the resident constantly plays a Buddhist chant. Looking to the right, you can see the tip of Shezi island separating the smaller Keelung river from the grand Tamsui river. To the left of Keelung river you can easily spot Guandu temple sitting slightly up a hill. If you cycle on the opposite bank, it’s worth taking a break to look at the temple’s gardens.
As you round the corner opposite Guandu temple, you can see the triple arches of Guandu bridge in the distance. Cycling closer, you can see ramps leading up for cyclists and pedestrians to cross over to the right bank. To the left of the bridge is a five-storey observation tower which appears to be newly refurbished, and under the shadow of the bridge itself are a collection of karaoke bars and a sausage seller who has been there every time I’ve passed through.
Looking back towards the bridge from just beyond. A small pipe feeds dirty water into the river at this point and the water beneath it was churning with thousands of fish. Around here, there is also a rather cute shrine sheltering kind of under the northern ramp up up to the bridge.
From this point on, there are a number of small cafes and restaurants dotted along the banks. If you are a bibliophile, perhaps this one would suit.
This area also has a number of ship yards – one even doubles up as a cafe so you can watch the boats being worked on as you take a break. (Although the fumes are often quite unpleasant.)
The cycle path runs alongside a couple of village streets, and this section is often very full of elderly locals taking their elderly dogs for a stroll.
I chose to take a break at Monmouth café. They don’t have a huge selection, but both the coffee and the brownies were enjoyed. This café is actually somewhat infamous for being the site of an unpleasant, greed-driven double murder back in 2013.
These days, there’s no sign of discord in the environment. Cyclists gather to refuel and there are even deckchairs placed facing the river where people can sit to enjoy the view.
Continuing northwards, my eye was drawn to the mudflats next to a jetty by a series of strange leaping movements. Stopping to take a closer look, I was delighted to find a small community of mudskippers – large ones aggressively defending their burrows from opportunistic smaller ones.
Around this time, (around 3:30pm), the light started increasing in intensity as the sun moved a little lower in the sky.
Towards Bali, the park widens a little and at one point you pass a stonemason’s place where there are lots of sculptures loitering in the yard. A few of their mishapen offerings are dotted along the path next to the bike path. Around this point there is a notable increase in muppets on rented bikes cruising and wobbling all over the place.
You’ll know you’ve arrived in Bali when you notice people walking down the little jetty towards the ferry over to Tamsui. (If you want to continue your journey over on the other side of the river, you can get a bike ticket from the little ferry shop for about $25. On this Wednesday, the ferry service was more full than I’d ever seen it with a couple of large school groups queuing all the way from the ferry to the old street.
The street stalls sell a variety of (mostly fried) food which didn’t really appeal to me, so I decided against getting anything.
Continuing northwards, the path runs along the Bali seafront. There are a number of shops here too selling food, drinks and souvenirs.
Just beyond the crush of the stores and the ferry pier is one of Bali’s top photo opportunities. There’s always been someone squashing themselves into the letters every time I passed this place.
Beyond the Bali sign, the grass recedes and the grey gravel beach is just a few steps from the path.
This was the second year that I’d managed to catch the local sand sculpting festival.
This was probably the cutest out of 2018’s offerings.
What’s quite amazing is the fact that they’re able to keep the sculptures standing strong for so long. (This year from the 6th of October until December 9th.) Of course, thinking about it for any length of time, you’ll quickly come to the realisation that there is a fair amount of technical work behind the making of sand art. And indeed, a small amount of research informs me that sand sculptures can withstand the elements as a result of the careful choice of which sand to use, a thorough compacting process to make a dense material to carve, and a final spray with a protective coating.
A little further along the seafront is another of Bali’s most instagrammed photo spots – this time a reflective heart which mirrors you back to yourself.
In order to complete my day’s goals I pushed on to the end of the track.
The cycle path runs through some mangroves and the architecture starts to feel somewhat different.
As the path curves to an end, I went left, and then left again a little further on to loop back onto the original track. From there it was just a case of making my way back.
How to get there
Google maps address: I picked up and returned the bike at YouBike MRT Luzhou Station, 247, New Taipei City, Luzhou District, Sanmin Road, /中正路口
Public transport: take the MRT to Luzhou station. From the YouBike station north of Bali you can catch bus R13 back to Guandu MRT station or the 704 back to Luzhou station.
Further reading: a video of sand art being made, (not at Bali, but it shows the work that goes into it).