Sandimen, Taiwan

Hills of Sandimen

Hills of Sandimen

I moved to Taiwan on January 15th, and up until last weekend, there has been an almost complete absence of rain.

Last weekend Dom and I set out with the intention of cycling to Wutai, a village 70 KM east of Kaohsiung.  And literally, the minute we pulled our bikes out of the garage to take our first peddle stroke, the first raindrop fell. We looked at each other, laughed at our incredible misfortune, and gave each other a “**** it” shrug.

The camping gear had been purchased, this was our last 4 day holiday for some time, and dammit-we were going to make this trip even if it meant being miserable and wet the whole journey. Which we were.

As for being miserable the whole time, that is debatable.

We tried to remain positive, telling ourselves that the rainstorm might disappear; in reality, we were actually heading towards it so it just got worse.  The scariest part was crossing the bridge into Pingtung, a highway about 4 lanes wide, and 2 KM long. To our left, we could see the black clouds blowing our way, and at our height on the bridge, we were almost blown off.  Thankfully, we managed to get off right before the storm hit, and took refuge underneath the bridge until the storm calmed down.

After the winds dwindled, we continued our journey. At one point, about 30 KM out, a huge truck splashed a tidal wave of street water over me. This is where I stopped my bike in defeat.

“I am going home.” I said.

“No you are not.” said Dom.

“Like hell I’m not. I’m flagging down a taxi.”

“Look-just give it one more hour.”

(Insert about 15 more minutes of arguing here)

“Okay.” And I set my timer for one hour.

We continued on and stopped for lunch. Upon leaving the restaurant, the rain actually stopped, giving us a sign of hope. My timer beeped and I decided I was in it for the long haul.

So on we continued towards Wutai.

View of Kaohsiung City from 50 KM away. The tall tower is the 85 Tower.

View of Kaohsiung City from 50 KM away. The tallest building is the 85 Tower.

When we made it to the foothills of Sandimen Township, about 50 KM east of Kaohsiung, the sun was an hour away from setting, and we had 20 KM of straight uphill peddling until Wutai. So we decided to pitch our tent in Sandimen and make our way to Wutai early in the morning.

As pit stops go, we lucked out with Sandimen. Tucked into the mountains, away from the city, Sandimen’s population is a small one comprised of the Paiwain and Rukai Tribes.  From the looks of the place, it was hard to believe I was still in Taiwan.

Woman on her way to a wedding in Sandimen

Woman on her way to a wedding in Sandimen

Dom and I had no idea where to camp, so we started searching for places to squat. We had narrowed it down to two options (a vacant building, and a coconut tree plantation) when we heard beautiful music coming from nearby. We headed towards the melody and stumbled upon a man playing a guitar. He stopped as soon as he saw us and smiled. His friend then approached us to ask if we needed help.

We shared with her our predicament, and she told us that it was fine to set up our tent at the high school. The town is small, so we knew where it was from passing it earlier.

When we got to the site, we couldn’t believe our luck. We had our very own tree house overlooking the mountains. We were also pleasantly surprised to find the gym unlocked, so   the toilets and hot showers were available for use. I was very grateful for the chance to clean off the grime from the day’s bike ride, even if I had to put wet clothes back on afterwards.

Our bungalow.

Our bungalow.

View from our tent.

View from our tent.

After showering and pitching the tent, we walked to a nearby restaurant.

It’s shocking, but after 3 months in Taiwan we are still not fluent in Mandarin, so ordering food was a bit tricky. We ended up playing another round of  the “point and guess game”, and ended up with chicken soup. However, not much meat was in it besides the head and feet.

Chicken head soup.

Chicken head soup.

After an interesting meal and some Taiwan beers, Dom and I returned to the tent in hopes of sleep. But the universe had other plans.

At around 11 PM a massive storm front blew in, and our tent just couldn’t handle it. Soaked to the bone, and apprehensive that the tent would blow away, we counted two seconds for the thunder to sound after the lighting; this thing was close.When the tree house starting swaying, I knew that sleep was not in our cards.

At about 6 AM we woke up from our refreshing night’s sleep, and made our way for breakfast in order to recharge and discuss our plans.

What to do? We had come all this way, so surely we should finish the journey?

But then again, should we finish just because we felt we ought to? It was still raining and it didn’t seem like it was letting up anytime soon. Plus, we could always come back another weekend.

We couldn’t help but feeling a little pathetic, but we decided to call it quits. After breakfast, we packed up our soggy belongings and coasted down the mountain back to Kaohisiung.

With the motivation of a warm bed, dry clothes, and a good meal, we raced home in 3 hours. Much better than the 5 and a half it took us to get there.

Was this trip a total disaster? Nah.

You win some and you lose some. This one was simply a draw.

To check out our route, click HERE.

Meet “Chesticles” 

Freak of nature pup in Sandimen.

Freak of nature pup in Sandimen.

I found this cute pup tied up on the streets of Sandimen, and couldn’t help noticing where his ball sack is inconveniently located.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Jenna and Dom, what an adventure that was! Apart from the danger and physical discomfort, it does seem breath-taking and what sights you saw – nature, animals, tribal people…

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