LIFESTYLE

Washes of golden, autumnal sunlight gild the lush mountaintop, dappling the wheels of the cyclists as they glide along the trails that hug the walls of the cliffs overgrown with lush ferns. At times, they pause to take a drink of water and wipe the sweat off their foreheads, feasting their eyes on the portrait-ready panorama. A short break later, the cyclists press on, neither hurried nor slow-moving.

This is just a snapshot of Taiwan’s growing, biking-inspired tourism. The country has been listed as one of the most tourist-worthy countries of 2012 by the Lonely Planet, and indeed, the country – defined by a colorful folk culture and a fascinating fusion of Asian influences – can be best explored on wheels, a mode of green transport that promises to put you in the closest touch with the friendly and helpful people, the culture, and both the bustling city and idyllic hamlets. crisscrossing riverside parks, zigzagging downtown areas, or trailing along the verdant countryside. Nowadays, you can even explore the whole island on a pair of trusty wheels, getting a close-up of the Iiha Formosa – and her best-kept secrets - that no other means of transport can. And here is a biking destination you will want to include in your itinerary. The autumnal breeze brings with it flocks of migratory birds to Taiwan to seek wintering refuge. Guandu Nature Park, nestled in Taipei like a small emerald embedded in a motley of urban sprawl - is a stopover site to their wintering habitat on the migration route. A rare wildlife sanctuary and a nature reserve in the midst of Taipei’s bustling cityscape, Guandu Nature Park is a mosaic of freshwater and brackish ponds, mudflats, marsh, rice paddies, and woodland by the estuary; it is also a rich source of food and a safe haven to the visiting fowls. The advent of cooler seasons brings with it a host of colorful migratory birds, and throngs of bird lovers with their telescopes and cameras. Other than the enchanting landscape and the teeming wildlife, the bike trail snaking about the Nature Park is one of the most ancient cycling routes in the country that runs along the plank road by Tamsui River.

Venture a few paces down and you will likely stumble upon a patch of swamp, mangrove shrubs and vegetations you know nothing about, but nevertheless take your breath away. If you stop by the right time, these small marsh havens would favor you with a glimpse of their inhabitants: the endearing fiddler crabs, or the graceful white herons. The Iiha Formosa that the Portuguese sailors first laid eyes on centuries ago is beckoning: book an eco-tour to Taiwan, and cycle around the island to explore her kaleidoscopic beauty, the eccentric folk culture, and the helpful, smiling people.

The wanderlust in you will delight in one of Asia’s most culturally diverse destinations. End the year on a high note, and plan your meeting in Taiwan.