Day 4: 31 May 2007 三義 – 台北
In the early morning I rode from the mountains of Sanyi to the sea at Dajia (大甲). The contrast between the green mountains and the industrialised coastal plain was quite stark. I arrived at a small fishing port and then wandered off to the area pictured above. Taiwan does have some nice beaches, but this was not the place to find one of them.
Next I set out to visit Hwataoyao (華陶窯). It is located on the slopes of Huoyan Shan (火炎山) but it was a little difficult to find. I asked for directions a few times. One farmer gave me quite detailed directions — in Hoklo Taiwanese!! I really must try harder to learn it. I eventually arrived at the gate of Hwataoyao but was still unsure if I had reached my destination. The gateway is obscured from the road. I asked a woman if this was the Hwataoyao and she said yes.
The entry ticket was not cheap. It cost NT$380 (NT$450 on weekends). This includes a NT$100 voucher for the cafe or shop. Entering the Hwataoyao I was quite surprised. It was very different to what I expected, but I think it was a very special place. The brochure describes it as a "Botanical Garden, Pottery Studio & Wood Kiln". These elements combine to make a unique experience. In the Chinese characters used in the name Hwataoyao, 華陶窯, the Hwa (華) refers to flower (not China). So the meanings of the three characters are flower, ceramics (陶) and kiln (窯).
Buildings and architecture are a significant feature of Hwataoyao. I was particularly excited to discover some mud brick buildings. The Hwataoyao called these buildings 土角茨 (tǔjiǎocí) in Chinese which means "earth, corner, thatch". I have visited the tulou (土樓) in China and been involved in natural building projects in India and Thailand so it was interesting to see these buildings and to know that this building method was being practiced in Taiwan. I had also seen some similar buildings in Beipu a few days earlier. The building techniques and materials were very similar to those I used in Thailand and India.
The other highlight of Hwataoyao is its gardens. The gardens aim to collect various plants from Taiwan. The variety of plants reflect the diversity of climates in Taiwan which vary from north to south and with altitude. The gardens are beautifully landscaped.
After leaving Hwataoyao I briefly visited the curiously named Yuan-li Country Triangle Rush Exhibition Hall (苑裡鎮藺草文化館). I thought the name was a little strange but after viewing the exhibition I worked out what it meant. I guess "Triangle Rush" is a translation of 藺草 (lìncǎo) which is a kind of rush. The exhibition is about the harvesting and use of various forms of grass or rushes.
I rode to Tongxiao (通霄) a small town on the coast where I had lunch. The town has a "bathing beach" but I didn't visit it. I went to the Fu Tang Pastry Shop (福堂餅行), which was established in 1899, to buy some of their goods.
Later in the afternoon my travels came to an end. I went to the Miaoli Railway Station and sent my motorbike back to Taipei. I then bought a ticket for myself and less than two hours later I was back in the big city of Taipei. Overall my travels were a great experience and gave me a new perspective on Taiwan.