Thursday, February 02, 2012

Day 5 Visiting the East Rift Valley Scenic Area

     We left our hotel in downtown Hualien at 9 am and traveled south to Chiben, in Taitung county for the night. The rain hung in there all day with a light drizzle. It had rained since day one when we started our journey. Well, we all had to learn how to get along with the nature. 
     My husband's friend has a private airport in Hualien. My husband decided to take us to see his friend's airport at the last moment. So, I made a phone call to his friend for visiting his airport. That was not a problem at all. He had his employee waited for us. At the same time he invited all of us for a lunch. The idea was definitively not in our plans. So I had to say no to him. Don't be surprised for this type of hospitality as it is part of the Taiwan culture.   
One of my friend's hangers
His airplanes (picture from Taipei Air Station)
     After a short stop at my husband's friend airport, our next stop was Lake Liyu which is 18 km south west of Hualien city. It is the biggest lake in the east coast caused by a landslide years ago. Its water now comes from the springs underground. The mountain shape next to the lake is like a carp which is pronounced as Liyu in Mandarin, so the lake was named as Liyu Lake. It has a 5 km long  bicycle trail around the lake. Also, there are some hiking trails on Mt Liyu.     
Map Source from its official website, the second link is for English map: 
Picture from Taipei Air Station
You can rent a bicycle from the rental store next to the service center for NT$250 per day. Also there are several bike trails and scenic spots near the lake. You can easily access those places with your rental bike.  
You also can rent a pedal boat for NT$300 per hour for 2 people.   
A boat for six people for NT$ 600 per hour 
Although the rain liked to follow us everywhere, it would stop when it was time for us make a stop for sightseeing. It  gave us a breathtaking scenery. I embraced the scenic views and had nothing to complain about, even the effect of the rain.  
Lookout Tower
     It was a short drive about 5 minutes from the lake to our last stop for the morning, the Chinan Forest Recreation Area . It is so called Chinan because it is located south of the lake.  During the time Japan governed Taiwan, the Japan government developed  many lumber collection stations, mountain railroads, and cableways for logging in the high mountain areas. Chinan Forest Recreation was one of the lumber collection stations for logging in the Mugua Mountain Range. Today, the logging industry doesn't exist because of environmental protection of mountain areas. All the lumber collection stations transformed to serve as educational and recreational purposes for the public.   
info source:
This is the tourist information center and also exhibits various woods from this area for educational purposes. It was one of Chiang Kaishek's houses during his era in Taiwan and was restricted for people to visit. He had about 27 houses around Taiwan for his retreat homes. When he chose a place for his retreat home, he would consider the Fengshui elements. It must be on a hillside, a pond or lake in the front, and also mountains and rivers around them.  This visitor center is the best example for these elements. (picture from Taipei Air Station)

This is one of the view from the visitor center. Lake is in the front surrounding by the mountains.  
You don't have to worry about getting wet in the rain or morning dew at the nearby campgrounds which offers A-framed wood platforms. 
A hiking trail to the mountain behind the visitor center is also one the fengshui element for choosing a house location. Actually, it could be an escaped route for Chiang Kaishek. Every room in his houses would  have two doors, one serving as an extra escape route. He was kidnapped in China during the Chinese Civil War with the communists. So that was the reason for having two doors in each room.   
Was it beautiful? 
Logging Tools Exhibition Hall  
Picture From Taipei Air Station
Because it is in the mountain area, there are a lot of snakes in this area. The tourist center offers bamboo sticks for visitors when they walk into this area. Also it wants visitors to return the bamboo sticks once used. Most snakes in Taiwan do not hibernate in the winter. An outdoor TV program in Taiwan documented that it found snakes active above 2,000 meter (6,000 feet) in mountain areas in the winter. So it is good to be cautious.  
This section explains how the loggers used the 5 cableways to transport lumbers from 2,000 meter high on Mt Mugua to the ground level. 
The cableways not only transported lumbers to the collection station, but also it carried workers (in the photo the car could carry up to 11 persons)  up and down between stations along with tools and equipment. 
The Diesel Yarder was used in 1960 and retired in 1987. Now it is one of the displays in the park. 
An old logging engine and flat car with lumber.   
One half of a tree trunk made a huge Table which is located on the patio of the second floor of the visitor center. It also is a good viewing point for the surrounding area.  
     After leaving Chinan National Forest Recreation Area, it was time for lunch. I arranged for a famous local special aboriginal restaurant not far away from the park for our lunch break. The restaurant is in the county side of Guangfu township which also offers several nice sightseeing spots. 

The map shows what you can do around Guangfu Township
We arrived at the Amis restaurant. Amis is one of the 14 official recognized aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. The tribe is a matriarchal society and has the largest population of all tribes; however, their clan system is influenced by the Han people. The matriarchal system is gradually changing to the patriarchal society. More men now control family's financial situation.   

Its Chinese name was curved on the wooden post.  
I was curious why there were so many betelnut  leaves.  
It seemed like a BBQ food processing place. 
The restaurant menu is written on the wall behind the reception desk. Customers have to order their dishes there. Fish is the most important dish for Amis tribe. It was their most important economic source because they lived near by rivers and the ocean. On the cultural aspect, the tribe people have to catch fish or eating after the end of activities and ritual or funeral ceremonies. It means they have finished their ritual ceremony and are ready to go back to their ordinary life. I believe this BBQ fish has to be ordered ahead of time.  Picture is from Taipei Air Station.
Amis salad (Picture is from Taipei Air Station.)
This is the most special dish they served called stone soup. The restaurant uses an ancient method to cook the soup. First, they put special stones in a fire till the stones are extremely hot and red, and then they put the stones in the soup to boil the soup at the table. At this moment, I realized the betelnut leaves were used to serve and hold the soup. I didn't order this dish ahead of the time. The restaurant owner gave us this  preodered dish for one of her customer who hadn't arrive at the restaurant yet.  (Picture is from Taipei Air Station.)   
These were the dishes we had. (Picture is from Taipei Air Station.)
     Our driver said: he took tourists around Taiwan for more than four years and had never been to this place. He was surprised that we took him to visit many places or tasted different foods that he had never been or had before. 
     We walked around the surrounding area of the restaurant after the lunch. It was time for dessert. We would stop by the famous ice cream place--Guangfu Sugar Cane Factory. The official website calls it as Hualien Sugar Factory. Sugar Cane was one of the major agricultural products before 2002. 
     It was a major economic trade item for Holland in the 17th century. After Japan took over Taiwan in 1895, the Japanese government established large scale sugar cane factories around Taiwan. During the WWII, the Japanese government used the sugar cane to produce airplane fuel for the war. The sugar cane factories were very important part of Taiwan contemporary history. Most of the sugar cane factories didn't make sugar any more due to the low economic profits. Today, it has transformed into a tourist spot for its special Taiwanese style ice cream. Guangfu Sugar Cane Factory is the most well known factory on the east coast.    
Enjoying the ice Cream and the companies
     Life was so enjoyable having good companies and good food but the time was too short. We had to continue our journey and it would take us 3 hours driving to our hotel in Chiben which is famous for the natural hot springs in Taitung. We planed to stop by the Tropic of Cancer Marker Park for a short time on the way to our hotel. There are three Tropic of Cancer markers in Taiwan. One is in Shuishan township in Jiayi county on the west coast. The other two are in Hualien county. One is in Fengbin township of the ocean side. Another one is in Ruisui township along the East Rift Valley  which was our last stop before the hotel.

Map Source:
What you can do around this area. 
This is the tropical marker in Ruishui. When everyone walked around the park, I went to buy a  pomelo for them to try. The owner told me about the history around this area. It was a major coffee production area during the Japanese era. After the Japanese left, growing coffee didn't produce a great economic profit. So people didn't grow coffee trees. As time went by, growing tea and producing high quality black tea has brought the local people a good fortune. Now, the Ruishui black tea with natural honey favor is well known in Taiwan. It is comparable with the Sun Moon Lake black tea. They both are the most important black tea production areas in Taiwan.   
View of the Ruishui Township
     We were ready for the last hour drive to Chiben and expected to have a nice natural hot spring soak for our bodies, relaxing our tired muscles. 

1 comment:

  1. I lived in eastern Taiwan for 3 1/2 beautiful months during the Springtime. These pictures bring back wonderful memories. Thank you!


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