SANCHONG AND LUZHOU CYCLE LOOP

If you look at Sanchong and Luzhou on a map, they seem to form an island, cut off from the rest of Taipei by rivers and parks. Luckily for the residents of this area, these unbuilt-up spaces house a great network of cycle paths where you can enjoy either a good bit of exercise or a laid back bike ride depending on your mood and energy levels.

Distance: 26.5km – but I think it is only about 22km if you start and finish from Sanchong station.

Time: 2¼ – I think, but my app was being weird, so it might be another fifteen minutes or thereabouts. I am not an especially quick cyclist, so I think you could make this a little quicker or slower depending on whether you’re out for exercise or leisure.

Difficulty: 2/10 – for distance only, it is mostly flat and well-paved from start to finish.

Total ascent: 279m – I’m not sure where this came from, it must be bridges and the like since there really aren’t any hills.

Water: I took a 0.7L bottle and that was enough for winter. There are a couple of vending machines along the route, and you can always head out of the park to get more if you need.

Shade: almost none. I got a little bit of sunburn on my neck on a cool, overcast January day despite wearing a hat to cover my neck.

Mobile network: this is Taipei, you’d have no network problems even if you were live-streaming the whole way.

Enjoyment: 6/10 – plenty of things to take your attention here, (like goats), but it is not as interesting or pretty as some other bike rides. Having said that, it’d make a great exercise loop if you were looking for a reasonable distance to cover.

Other: I paid $60 for the YouBike. Also, if you’re into geocaching, there are a huge number hidden in the parks here. You could easily spend the best part of a day finding them.

Map:

screenshot2019-02-01at2.48.07pm

GPX file available here.

Starting from the YouBike stand next to the multi story car park, I headed north on Kunming Street for a block.

Where Kunming Street intersects with the cinema Street, I cut through the pedestrian zone heading towards the water.

Then took a right on Kangding Road and kept straight as it joined the bigger Huanhe South Road. This section was the least pleasant of the whole ride.

Thankfully, the road section is pretty short, and once you reach Yangping flood gates you can get off the roads and into the park.

Once in the park, head right and north keeping the river on your left.

One thing I enjoy about river rides in Taipei is that even though the views might be a little dull, there are always plenty of interesting things to catch our attention. Like these benches which look like they’re shuffling out from under their shelter, and the clothes that someone has hung up to dry. Later on, once I’d crossed over, I saw a tree which, as well as having many ropes for stretching hanging down from its branches, was being used as a storage facility for spare chairs, a ladder, brooms, buckets and an assortment of exercise hoops.

The next point of interest is Dadaocheng Wharf. When I went past, there were many people milling around, but not that many of the stores were open.

Continuing north from the wharf, the cycle path passes a small rest area/karaoke stop/shrine. And just beyond that is the ramp to Taipei bridge which will take you up and over to Sanchong.

The weather had turn from lovely in the morning to overcast in the afternoon, so the view was hazy-to-nonexistent. But the muted shades of grey still held a certain kind of prettiness.

Turning right down a ramp, I walked my bike down a flight of steps onto the bikeway and headed back under Taipei bridge to start an anti-clockwise loop of the ‘island’.

The residential architecture around here is dull even by Taipei standards, so the occasional dash of colour from some wall art is very welcome.

The path briefly beers away from the water on a road. At the junction go up the ramp, and then it’s a sharp right to join the raised cycle path.

This exposed section of the ride was the only part where the wind was uncomfortable, but the annoyance was negated by dint of the fact that it was also the part that I enjoyed the most visually. To my right there were farms, then the water and Shezi island, all backdropped by the hills of Yangmingshan National Park. I imagine that clear weather would only have made it more attractive.

To the left there is a sprawling mass of industrial units, and while it may not be conventionally beautiful, it is at least a change for my eyes and so I can still enjoy the scenery.

A dryness in my eyes was what first alerted me to the fact that something was burning up ahead, (I was wearing my sports mask, so I was saved from inhaling the smoke). It was hard to see what had caught on fire because the source was shrouded by trees, but it seemed that the five or so fire trucks in attendance had got the situation under control. Evidently, this was the most interesting thing happening in this area since there was a gaggle of spectators gathered to watch upwind of the smoke on the raised cycle path.

As the tip of Shezi drew alongside on the right, and Guanyin Shan tears up ahead, the path reaches the point where the Tamshui river bends northwards and the cycling heads into the large swathe of parkland that separates Luzhou from Wugu and Sanchong from Xinzhuang.

There is a bend and a small bridge to cross, then the path dips down into the park.

I stuck mostly to the side of the park closer to Luzhou, so I went under the bridge.

(Going right here will take you towards the Bali left bank route up the river, in fact this point intersects with my route in a previous post.)

The northernmost section of this park is mostly given over to all kinds of water sports. There’s a centre for sailing, kayaking and canoeing in addition to all the many sorts of sports facilities that you typically find in these parks.

Next to a roller skating rink is the first of several road crossings. This is the only one that you have to cross two roads in one go.

A small village of homeless people had set up on the benches beneath the roar of Taiwan’s first freeway. A short way beyond the freeway the bike path crosses another small road. Keeping the basketball courts to your right you’ll quickly come to another small road.

Again keep to the left side with yet more basketball courts on your right, and soon you’ll see the bright blue huts housing Erchongshuhong Riverside Park’s resident goats. There was a wide range in the ages of the people taking pleasure from feeding them bits of shrubbery over the fence.

Another two roads later and the path arrives in the most decorated section of the ride. The park close to Sanchong station has a lot of little installations and decorations. I wouldn’t say that any of them are especially noteworthy, but I still spent a while cycling round to have a look.

One odd mural had a combination of spaceships, rockets, hearts and roses. I am not sure I would ever have thought to combine them in quite this fashion, but it was striking. In addition to the art, I saw a brown shrike sitting on a post waiting for its next meal to fly past. (If you know nothing about them, go and check out some shrikes, they’re a group of  rather cute looking songbirds with a unique way of saving their food for later.)

Over the final road crossing, the trail arrives at Chongxin Bridge. If you’re here at the right time, (i.e. early), you’ll find a busy second-hand market. I was too late to catch sight of any market activities, but I did get a small snack from the portacabin HiLife which was located next to the crossing and all these claw machines/kids’ rides/small shrine (something for everyone here).

Continuing away from the bridge, I kept the baseball grounds to my right and headed over a small bridge before bearing left.

Throughout all the parks I’d seen these really cute little flags. I am sure most Taiwanese people would think I was weird for finding them cute, but I’m sure we’d never put warning flags on our ant colonies back home.

The path cuts under the New Taipei Expressway – just look at all that structure! One of the first places I ran in Taipei was along the riverbank from Banciao to Sanchong. At the time I was amazed by how well thought out and interconnected all the pathways are. They really make it easy to get around the city.

Once past around the corner, it was just the last little straight back to the bridge where I’d crossed over. Not wanting to be thought of as the boring part, this park also had ‘art’ – this time in the form of hundreds of plastic bottles arranged in an abstract pattern. (The previous times I’d passed this way, the bottles had been flowers instead.)

Across the river from Dadaocheng is the Zhongxiao Wharf – it is not as lively as its opposite neighbour, but it seemed to be a busy point of entry into the park.

The last little bit of municipal creativity before I got back on the bridge – the wall of these stretches on for quite some distance behind a row of parking spaces.

And back to Taipei City I went, over the same bridge that I’d come in on.

The exit ramp back off the bridge reminded me that I wanted to avoid cycling on the roads as much as possible, so instead I decided to stick on the cycle path for a little longer than I had on the way.

I kept on the path all the way until Zhongxing Bridge, (which had the most pleasing under-bridge reflections of the whole ride).

Just after the bridge, I veered left onto a smaller path because I wanted to take the exit.

A small door set into the wall leads out onto Hehuan South Road. Be careful crossing the road here – the scooters go extremely fast.

Out of the river park, head left towards the temple. There is a YouBike stand here, or you can head back towards Ximen Station to park up.


How to get there

google maps address: I started from one of the YouBike stands near to where I’m currently based, the one next to a large parking garage (and Modern Toilet) in Ximen. And ended next to a smaller parking lot near Ximen station. However, if you want to just do the loop of Luzhou and Sanchong, then your best bet is the Youbike stand near Sanchong station.

public transport: take the MRT to Ximen station if following the same route I took, or Sanchong Station if you want to do just the loop.

further reading: A Chinese-language post on Chongxin Market, and a great blog post on Taipei’s flea-markets in general.

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