Time for Taiwan 2015-2016, Episode 30: Cycling in Houli
One way to say “bicycle” in Chinese is “iron horse.” Today we’re going cycling in Taichung.
The Houfeng and Dongfeng bike trails used to be a railroad. The two trails put together are about 16 km long and take about 3 hours to complete roundtrip if you take a regular bike. We have to finish shooting before it rains, so we’re on electric bikes today.
This is the Houfeng section of the trail and I think it’s really interesting because there’s a bridge that you have to cross and it’s narrow, long and a bit scary if you stay on it too long. Really exciting. After the bridge you’ll come to a tunnel, again long, narrow and really cool.
A great way to repurpose obsolete railroads and tunnels, wouldn’t you say?
At the end of the Houfeng trail, you’ll come to Houli Horse Ranch, previously a military ranch.
This ranch was started during the Japanese occupation. Taiwan was a springboard into southeastern countries for Japan, and the Japanese government established and operated 10 military ranches in Taiwan - the was one of them.
Horses were bred and riders were trained here, when the time came, they were shipped off to war. The Japanese lost the war, and eventually 9 of the 10 ranches closed down. This is the last of them, now open to the public.
Houli Horse Ranch is like a big park. There are lots of old trees to enjoy and paths to walk. Occasionally you’ll see an old stable or building from the occupation. If you’re like me and like horses, you’re going to like it here.
Riding a horse is sort of like riding a bicycle. You only need to learn it once. I haven’t been on a horse in more than ten years, but it comes back to you with a bit of practice.
Houli and Fengyuan are a ways from downtown Taichung, and I never thought they can be so interesting. I knew that Houli is known for saxophones, but bike trails and this ranch too? Holy cow, Houli is fun! You should come!
We mostly shot on the Houli portion of the path and it was quite beautiful! The bridge, the tunnel, and the way down to the ranch were all really nice. Would love to see what it’s like on the Fengyuan side sometime!
There is a network of trails here, with the distance totaling tens of kilometers. The scenery here is peaceful and rural. You get to ride along rice paddies, lotus farms, irrigation channels, reservoirs, and lots of big, beautiful trees.
Come have a look. What do you think this is? These are old train tracks. There used to be a sugar mill around here. Baihe is mostly an agricultural town, in the plains, people produce rice and lotus seeds.
There was a period of time when lotus seeds didn’t sell well, so the townspeople thought, lotuses are beautiful to look at so why don’t we make a tourism industry out of it, too. They invited travelers, who’d stand by the side of the road and look at the lotuses, but it was unbearably hot because there were no trees to provide shade. Shade is bad for rice, that’s why. So people started planting trees along the road where there are lotus farms. These trees included kapok trees, which turned out to become another beautiful tourist attraction.
The stretch of kapok trees here is especially nice in March and April when the flowers bloom. In fact, some even say the kapoks make this one of the prettiest bike paths in the world. Pity we’re here now and not when it’s blooming!
Throughout the ride, you’ll see lots of Sanheyuan, which are traditional houses that you won't find in the city. Also there are lots of farm houses, some with an interesting twist. This is part of an ongoing community building project that is aiming to add a bit of art and youth back into the system.
Baihe reminds me of Chishang, Taitung because of the rice paddies and bike paths that allow you to ride through them. What’s cool about this one is the diversity in scenery, and the fact that not that may people know about this yet. Before it gets too crowded, you should come!
I was really pleasantly surprised at how wonderful cycling in Baihe can be! The sights are beautiful - there are picturesque rice paddies, irrigation channels, reservoirs, lotus farms/ponds, an artistic rice farming village, sanheyuan’s (traditional Chinese houses)… This is a great place to ride, and there are lots of roads and paths so budget more time to spend here. Another thing that also stands out is the B&B where we stayed - Granduncle Home, which was recently built. The owner (“granduncle’s” son, actually) is also a guide that can show you all the best places and tell you the stories. I don’t think he speaks English, but if you follow him, I’m sure the ride will be a good one.