Guangfu Bikeway: Rural scenery, wetlands ecology, and sweet history
The Guangfu Bikeway is located in Guangfu Township of Hualien County and can easily be reached by car or bus, along Provincial Highway 9, which runs through the beautiful East Rift Valley. Traveling by train is also an option.
This 15.9-kilometer bikeway is suited to anyone of average fitness. Due to its ease it is recommended for families and due to its diversity of romantic views it is also recommended for couples. It can be completed in 1.5 hours without much stopping. But, you will definitely want to spend some time taking in its many attractions.
Much of the Guangfu Bikeway passes through picturesque farm land, and thus is fairly flat. At Shin Liu Farm is where there is a small slope. This marks the most difficult part of this bikeway if heading uphill. Of course, if heading downhill, it marks the most thrilling part.
As its name doesn’t suggest, Shin Liu Farm is more of a complex of restaurants and exhibition halls than a working farm. There are ponds here and there, as this is part of the Mataian Wetlands.
Shin Liu does emphasize friendly, farming concepts by cooperating with organic farmers to obtain local ingredients. For example, freshly gathered wild greens are added to batter to create unique tasting waffles. As Guangfu Township is also home to two large indigenous Amis communities, an outdoor area has been set aside for the demonstration of the making of a traditional Amis dish, stone hot pot. Porous maifan stones are heated over a fire, and then used to boil water to cook shrimp and vegetables in a container made from natural plant materials.
Also enjoy fresh fish, preserved pork, a large selection of vegetables and another specialty, fermented tofu. After your meal, explore the local ecology (guides are available) or visit the newly established seed bank. Here, you can learn about seeds of various plants and try your hand at making your own seed art work.
Speaking of wetlands, in the Amis community of Mataian, one of its residents, named Lalan, has turned part of his home into an ecological education center. Here, he teaches visitors about the ecologically friendly Palakaw, or three-tiered fish trap, of the Amis tribe. On the bottom tier are bamboo tubes which are hiding places for eels. The second tier is composed of branches, providing habitat for freshwater shrimp and crabs. The uppermost layer is composed of aquatic grass. This is for fish. The shrimp and crabs provide food for the fish and the algae created from the waste released by the fish feeds the shrimp and crabs. Any fish that die sink to the bottom and are eaten by the eels. Over time, this trap becomes full and Amis fishermen can collect food from all three tiers.
Sugar was once a major export product for Taiwan. But, as Taiwan began to lose its competitive edge in the sugar market more than two decades ago, many of its sugar factories closed. Some were immediately torn down and some were left to neglect and then later transformed into cultural and creative industry exhibition and studio spaces. The Guangfu Sugar Factory (formally known as the Hualien Sugar Factory) opened in 1921 and closed in 2002. During World War II, it was partially damaged and it is still possible to see bullet holes in some of the metal posts. The factory doors are open during the day inviting people to enter and explore. It is as if time stood still on the last day of production. The machines and vats remain in place, and blue background lighting gives it a somewhat eerie feel.
Afterward, treat your inner child to ice cream at a shop which offers a surprisingly diverse selection of flavors, everything from plain vanilla to roselle flower to green tea. Next to the ice cream shop is a pond that was created when two bombs were dropped here during World War II. Staying overnight in a Japanese-style wooden dormitory is an experience that is unique to the Guangfu Sugar Factory. It maintains one of the largest collection of well-preserved wooden buildings from the Japanese occupation era (1895-1945) in Taiwan. These structures were originally built to house sugar factory staff and now serve as hotel rooms.
It should be noted that the Guangfu Sugar Factory is one of the few places along the Guangfu Bikeway where bicycle rentals are available.