Taipei is a bustling metropolis, often behaving like a living beast with its people like blood cells and its many towers and avenues growing like bones and muscles. And like any beast, it can be hard to befriend. Naturally, this is where bicycles come in handy.
The city of Taipei is easy to ride around despite how busy and bustling it is thanks to the hidden, quiet backstreets which make for a scenic ride. Traveling Taipei by bike couldn’t be easier. In fact, across the whole of Taiwan there are many popular cycle routes to enjoy, particularly along the coastlines.
One of your favourite ways to quickly get used to the backstreets and learn some fo the history of the city is with the immensely friendly Taipei Bike Tours.
They offer several options, including their most popular morning tour (the one we went on), the night tour, or even the all-day tour for the truly brave. They also have the night market tour, which sounds wonderful because Taipei’s night markets are gorgeous, bustling and delicious places to explore.
We found this one of the best ways to get off-the-beaten-track in Taipei and also learn about the history and culture of many of the lesser-known areas of the city. Taiwan has so much to share and the passionate guides are happy to impart their knowledge.
If you’re looking for other fun things to get up to while in Taipei, check out this exciting list of fifty activities or thirty-four photos we took that will make you fall in love Taiwan. Exploring Taipei by bike was easily one of my favourite ways to see the city.
What’s in a Ride?
The bike tour begins with breakfast at a small off-the-beaten-path eatery, consisting of local omelettes, soy milk, dumplings, and fried bread.
Once fuelled, you’re left to wander a morning market — a typical gathering place for the retired generation — where local people pick their fruits, fish, and vegetables for the week. This is the perfect way to get to know your tour guides and fellow travellers before heading out onto the busy streets.
The ride itself is stress-free. We were apprehensive at first, having moved from cycling Osaka (a very orderly and relaxed city) to cycling Taipei (far more frantic and compact).
We feared the ride may involve a heavy amount of dodging trucks and zigzagging between old people, parked scooters, and a thousand other cyclists. This proved not to be the case at all, and the ride was refreshing and easy-going the whole day.
The tour is broken up by stops at many of Taipei’s most fascinating historical sites. One highlight being the city’s oldest street: DiHua Lu.
Here you’re guided on foot through the food stalls and medicine stores, given a fascinating and engaging history lesson on the street, its architecture, the food offered, and the local laws regarding traditional Chinese medicine (our guides, Alex and Cheryl, were some of the most impassioned people we’ve ever met; more on that later).
So Much to Learn!
The bikes you tour the city with are provided by the local government and work the same way as London’s Boris Bikes (a name we do not condone).
Here they are called U-Bikes, and are found on most street corners. They are painted orange and can be unlocked with an individual’s Easy Card (again, akin to London’s Oyster Cards). Even this was taught to us by our charming guides.
Rather unexpectedly, what proved to be the most engaging and entertaining part of the tour was the rapport we quickly built with our guides. We had faith that we were in good hands, would be looked after, and would learn a lot.
But it went further than this: Alex, a young man from Texas with a broad knowledge of, and adoration for, Taiwanese history, culture, and politics, was passionately eager to share his knowledge with us; and we, eager to learn as much as possible.
If you are keen, as we were, to dig into the politics of Taiwan and China, then this tour will slake your lust for conversation in that area.
Having lived in China — and read and written much on the subject — it was wonderful to chat politics and recent history with someone so knowledgeable. As you tour the government buildings, memorial sites, and historic streets, the conversation may inevitably turn time and again to history and politics.
If this further kindles your interest in exploring Taiwan, then I cannot recommend this bike tour, and these fantastic guides, enough.