Yuli: A town filled with surprises
Yuli is the name of a town located in the southern part of Hualien County in the East Rift Valley. It is an agricultural area, with rice being a main crop. When asked what there is to do in central Yuli, Taiwanese tourists will often think of Yuli noodles, simple noodle soup dishes served in simple eateries around the train station.
Thinking that is the only attraction, it may be easy to write off this town center as just a place to pass through. But, if you take the chance to explore it in depth, you will find that it holds a number of pleasant surprises.
For example, just outside the town center is a county-level historic monument, the remains of a Shinto shrine. This shrine was built in 1928 during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945). It was a place for Japanese to worship and to spread their religious beliefs. Weddings were also held here, and there are historical photographs showing what this shrine and surrounding area once looked like.
The main buildings are gone, with one only a pile of stone pieces. However, there are two torii remaining, which are gateways that lead to the sacred areas of the shrine. Most of the original stone lanterns have also been well preserved. The four flights of stone steps leading up to the site are intact, making this the most well preserved Shinto shrine in Hualien County. There are usually not many visitors, so this is a tranquil place, and from here, you can take in the views of the town below.
Pushi Arts Hall is housed in what was once an elementary school building. At the Pushi Printing & Dyeing Art Workshop, visitors can learn how to dye cloth using natural plant materials or silk screen. They can also purchase items produced in this workshop in its showroom.
In the Stone Art Workshop, watching the artisans at work is highly interesting, almost mesmerizing, as they first draw a scene and then choose and shape the stone pieces to fill in their design. There are several options for DIY projects here at a cost of NT$250-NT$300.
Outside the Pushi Arts Hall is a park area. The main attraction is the bus/mobile post office. There were once 10 such mobile post offices around Taiwan providing postal and banking services to residents in remote areas. Today, only Yuli Town maintains this service, which has been running for nearly 30 years.
Other hidden gems include an area where people once gathered to wash clothes on rocks laid out along a stream. Although many people now use modern washing machines, it is still possible to see locals here, beating their wet clothes on the rocks and then hanging them to dry along a bamboo pole.
To wind down the day, have a cup of coffee or something stronger at Our House Cafe. Although located in a wooden building from the Japanese occupation era, it has a youthful feel. On weekends, out front, someone mans a booth selling secondhand items. Inside, the flea market continues along a maze of hallways. Finally, there is the bar and a small room with large table in the back. The young owner speaks English well and is able to explain the menu including a range of coffees and an assortment of beers and red wine.
By the way, the center of Yuli is also the start of the very picturesque Yufu Bikeway, and where you can rent a bicycle. So, what are you waiting for? Take the opportunity to explore Yuli's town center, and you are sure to find many pleasant surprises of your own.