Now that I’m back in the US, one of the most common questions I hear is, “What do you miss about Taiwan?” While I could probably come up with a list a mile long if I thought about it enough, I think one of the things I haven’t had a chance to do is just take a ‘tea ride’, cruising some side roads through the hills and finding a nice spot to enjoy a cup of tea. The last such ride I had was last spring, when I went for a solo ride out to Taiwan’s east coast.
I headed out on the old Taipei County Highway 106, changing over to the 102 and following it out to the coast. It’s a great ride on a smooth, curvy 2-lane road through lush, jungle-covered hills. Just the thing to get me in the mood for an inspired roadside tea party. The highway cuts through Shr Ding township (now Shr Ding District of New Taipei City), which is Bao Jong tea country. When you pass the giant teapot, you know you’re there.
One of my favorite things about Taiwan is the east coast. The mountains rise steeply right out of the water, and the highway hugs the cliffs as it follows the coastline, providing numerous vantage points with sweeping vistas of the Pacific. One of my favorites is a coastal park near the village of Longdong. There are several walking trails that follow the hills, leading up to 2 gazebos overlooking the ocean.
While enjoying my tea break, I watched some fishermen angling from the rocks below me ( friend of mine who grew up in this area says they actually swim out to the outcroppings, where they can cast into the deeper waters). Although it was a Saturday, I was there early enough (about 10am) that there wasn’t much traffic out yet, so I had the area all to myself until about noon.
After enjoying my tea, I continued up the coast towards the port of Keelung. To avoid the traffic congestion of the harbor area there, I turned off a few miles south and climbed up through the hills past the mining town of Jiu Fen. This was originally a silver mining area, and the town was founded by nine families, who agreed to share expenses as they developed the area (this is where the name comes from – the literal translation is ‘nine parts’). There is a great tea house in the town, but in the past 10 years the area has become over-developed, with coffee houses and tourist businesses moving in, ruining the tranquil, rustic setting that made this small village famous in the first place. I just gave it a drive by on this trip, only stopping for a view and photo of ‘tea pot mountain’, which is dear to my heart for obvious reasons.
From there, it was back through the northeast hills into New Taipei City, and home by the middle of the afternoon. It wasn’t a long ride by any means – about 50 miles – but it gave me a chance to get away from the city, enjoy some great scenery, and spend some quiet time alone with the leaf, which is what I really miss the most about ‘the beautiful isle’.