Pingtung is probably the most underappreciated of Taiwan’s counties. For most people it is unknown apart from the very touristy beach resort of Kenting. On this two-day trip, remote mountainous areas of the county can be accessed to visit hiking trails, pristine lakes and rivers that offer the perfect respite from the summer heat of the lowlands in Taiwan.
During the summer, cyclists have to be aware of the heat factor. Riding a bike at midday could easily result in heat exhaustion if proper hydration is ignored. Taking this into account, I departed by train from Kaohsiung to Pingtung on a sunny afternoon. This journey is only 20km, but I avoided the afternoon ride through traffic and beat the heat.
Pingtung train station is now a hub for the Taiwan Railways Administration and this mall-like structure is impressive. Starting at 4pm in the afternoon I had a 20km ride to Sandimen Township (山地門). A further 3km up Provincial Highway No 24 took me to Jhongshan Park (中山公園) where I camped for the night. If this were a hotel, rooms with a commanding view of the Ailiao River (隘寮溪) below would be highly sought after.
Photo: Mark Roche
The following morning I only had to ride several kilometers (uphill) to reach the trail head of Guangwang Mountain (觀望山, formally known as Dewen Mountain, 德文山). The trail is at the 2.5km marker on the Pingtung County Road No 31, the turn off is at the 7km marker on the No 24. Now at an altitude of 800m the air is fresh and just a little cooler than the lowlands to make the hike enjoyable without sweating profusely. It’s a very pleasant three-hour round trip to the peak at 1,246m, but the real reward is the view at the top. Individual buildings in Kaohsiung, some 50km away, can be picked out and the off-shore island of Siaoliouciou (小琉球) is also visible on a clear day.
COFFEE HERITAGE
After returning from the hike I stopped in at Karavayan (卡拉發樣咖啡屋), a wonderful little coffee shop that is right at the trail head for Guangwang Mountain. It offers some simple meals and ice cold drinks. Coffee is a major economic crop for the indigenous village of Dewen, also known as Tjukuvulj. It is cultivated over an area of 30 hectares. There are more than 20, century-old coffee plants left from the Japanese colonial era. The villagers protect them as a local treasure.
Photo: Mark Roche
I had a 3km ride further up the road to reach the trail head of Lover’s Lake (情人湖) — so-called because of its heart-shaped pool. The location is a little tricky to find (see GPS coordinates). After a 30-minute hike a turquoise pristine pool awaits. The water is so clean and cool I wanted to bottle it and take it home. With the temperature in the mid-30s and humid, it was difficult to leave.
After returning to the No 24 road riders have to cross the Wutai Valley Bridge. The bridge is a tourist attraction in itself and a marvel of engineering. It is 654 meters long and 74 meters high, the highest in Taiwan. There are viewing platforms on both sides.
It’s a 10km ride up to Shenshan Township (神山), famous for its slate buildings and fig jelly dessert. Most residents from Pingtung who travel to Shenshan do so as a day trip, but I would advise the visitor to spend the night there to truly appreciate it. A dinner of barbecued pork is reason enough to stay and Shen Shan Guest House (tel: (08) 7902206), at NT$1,800 for a double, was great value. There is no air-conditioning in the rooms as the night temperature is perfect — it’s several degrees cooler than the lowlands. If that isn’t enough reason to make it worthwhile then the morning views over the central mountains are breath-taking.
Photo: Mark Roche
The next morning I had one other item on the agenda: Shenshan Waterfall (神山瀑布). From the village the trail is around two-hours round-trip and well worth the effort. This is one of the easiest and most accessible waterfalls in Pingtung. After a short walk down a concrete path there is a stepped boardwalk and a rope bridge to cross to access different levels of the falls. Although swimming is not permitted here that shouldn’t deter the visitor.
Photo: Mark Roche
Photo: Mark Roche
Photo: Mark Roche
GETTING THERE
>> There are buses from Pingtung train station that will get you to Sandimen, but having your own transport is more practical to cover all the spots.
>> Lover’s Lake is at this location: 22°47’33. 120°42’31, Pingtung County, 900.

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