What is more Taiwanese than biandang (便當), the boxed lunch boxes found throughout Taiwan? And what better place to eat one than the seaside summer town of Fulong (福隆), which is famous for its biandang.
We visited Fulong six months ago almost to the day, on a cold and blustery winter’s day. It was so different from the crowds of people who swarm in search of sea and sand during the summer months. And that was precisely why we went then — it was so quiet. We didn’t care that our friends on Facebook all thought we were mad.
There are scores of stores selling biandang near the Fulong railway station. Some shops even sell them on the railway platform for passengers — we have learnt to be quick when running out to buy one while en route to Hualian. The hard part is not getting a biandang, but knowing which one to order. We had insider help, because a good friend of ours lives and works at Fulong. But first, we had to earn our Biandang.
In addition to its beach, famous for the Fulong International Sand Sculpture Art Festival (which finishes this weekend), it is also a fun place to visit for a family cycling trip. Taiwan is increasingly becoming a great place for family cycling, and the new Caoling circle line bikeway is an example of a recent project to create more eco-friendly recreational cycling. There are two main trails, but the one we explored was the inland 5km Caoling tunnel trail.
At first we got lost. We parked at the Fullon Hotel car park, and crossed over the road. We saw a sign that seemed to indicate there was a cycle and hiking track, so we headed up the hill. And up, and up and up. It was fine for me because I was trialling my new electric bike, but Mr Taiwanxifu had to work a bit. After a while we came across a lady walking a dog who seemed to be a local. “Where is the caoling tunnel,” we asked. She scratched her head confused, and pointed us back down the hill. So we glided back down to where we had started from. It was a lot easier going down.
We eventually found the caoling tunnel trail, which started directly in front of the Fulong railway station (to the right, if you are standing in front of the station looking forward). It is easy to find once you know where it is. The alternative route, I later realised, is a 20km stretch around the coastline that starts across the road. The one we are on is a hiking trail (and cycling trail for the very fit).
We were soon away from Fulong, passing over undulating (but not too steep) hills. The scenery, with views of creeks and mountains framed by greenery, was pretty. Had it not been so incredibly cold I would have liked to have paused for a picnic. As it was, we kept going and soon came to the beginning of the tunnel.
I loved the quirky statues near the entrance to the tunnel. It was colourful and fun.
I was impressed by the restoration of the tunnel. It was well-lit, and orderly. Although the tracks, had been removed it still looked and felt like a railway tunnel. I would imagine sitting on a train in the Japanese era, feeling like royalty in one of the then modern carriages hurtling away from Taipei and towards the coast.
The tunnel is 2.2km in length. Other than a sign marking the border between Yilan County and New Taipei City, there was nothing to mark where we were. It was fun racing each other down the tunnel, although we swallowed our pride as a group of school boys rapidly overtook us. Just as I was starting to get a bit tired from the peddling in the lamp-lit darkness, then suddenly we emerged at the end of the tunnel.
Light! And sea! We were at the seaside town of Dali (大里) with beautiful views across the ocean to Turtle Island. We stopped and took photos, admired the view, and then cycled down to the nearby fishing village. There wasn’t that much to see and do, so we headed back.
It was a bit harder work on the way back, as we had headed mostly downhill on the way there. But still, it wasn’t too onerous. And I managed to get back into Fulong just as my bike’s electric battery was starting to wear out. Phew, just in time!
On our friend’s recommendation, we chose this shop:
It is right up front to the railway station, on the right hand side.
The menu is simple and there are only three choices:
- Fulong biandang (NT$60)
- Pork sparerib biandiang (NT$70)
- Chicken drumstick biandang (NT$80)
We both chose the pork sparerib biandang. it was generous, with two pieces of marinated pork sparerib, Chinese (Taiwanese) sausage, tian bu la (literally ‘sweet not spicy’, a Taiwanese version of ‘tempura’), cabbage, a type of dried (and reconstituted) Taiwanese vegetable (?) and a stewed egg. Plus complimentary soup that you helped yourself to.
It was a generous meal. Lucky we had worked up an appetite. Mr Taiwanxifu enjoyed it immensely.
Fulong is on Taiwan’s Northeastern coast (Gongliao Township, New Taipei City), a decent hour’s drive out of Taiwan. One of the easiest way to get there is by train, although tickets sell quickly on weekends (especially in the summer months).