Friday, September 13, 2013

Daylily trip

The cultivation of the daylily in Taiwan is mostly concentrated in eastern regions, Hualien and Taitung counties. There are two famous daylily mountains in Hualien county; the Chike mountain (赤科山) in Yuli township and the Liushidan mountain (六十石山) in Fuli township. Chike mountain is named after the Chike trees (Mori oak, Quercus morii) planted by the japanese during the japanese colonial era. There are 3 versions of how Liushidan mountain got its name and the authenticity of the tales aren’t identifiable. The first tale, the most popular one, tells the story of the farmers who were impressed by the great productivity of grains (60 dan/hectare; 1dan=100 liter) and named it Liushidan mountain (60 dan mountain). The second tale is the opposite of the first one, at the beginning of  cultivation, the farmers only harvested 60 dan of crops in the whole mountain in one season and the 3rd tale is that there are 60 big rocks in the mountain.

In the Liushidan mountain valley, an Amei tribe called Talampo is the first cultivation recorded in this area. The tribe also called this place "The land that is never touched by the Sun" and they are known as the "Dark Tribe" because the area is surrounded by tall mountains with no electricity supply until recently. During the japanese colonial era, the japanese cut down camphor trees in the mountains to make camphor and railway ties. After most of the trees were cut, a local man transformed it into a farm and grew military related crops. After world war II, a general named Chang Xiechung requested for the right to cultivate the land as a retirement plan for his soldiers and named it Fuxin farm. The farm closed down in 8-9 years as the soldiers became too old to work in the field. In 1959, a catastrophic flood , August 7th flood, devastated several counties in western Taiwan, the refugees, especially from Yunlin county, settled down in this area and grew rice for living. Daylily has better tolerance to drought and requires little care, making it an even better crop to grow in the rocky mountains and soon after, the daylily plantations were thriving in Hualien and Taitung. The dazzling color attracts tourists from all over Taiwan every year in August and September, and the Hualien government made deals with local farmers, instead of harvesting the flowers, up to 70 hectares of daylily plantations were reserved for tourism purposes in Hualien in 2013 alone.

I called almost every B&B in Liushidan mountain to book a room two months before my trip, and only one of them had a vacancy on Friday night. I took it and made my 3-day itinerary using the itinerary optimizer in the Taitung tourism website (app available for free download). Two weeks before the trip, two typhoons invaded Taiwan, Trami first then followed by Kong-Rey. The typhoon warning for Kong-Rey was lifted on August 29th, one day before my trip. Despite the pouring rain in west-south Taiwan, I got on the train and headed to Taitung as scheduled. It was fortunate that it was rainless in eastern Taiwan on the first day of my trip, until the night fell. The next morning, while I was trying to find my way to a pavilion in the rainy and foggy mountain, I got a phone call from my sister who was supposed to follow my footsteps to the Liushidan mountain telling me that a train derailed because of a landslide, she was stuck in Fangliao train station waiting for further instructions. Later on, she was sent back to Tainan on the same train and the South Link railway was closed. Given the fact that the rain in Taidong wasn’t so heavy and it was on and off from time to time, I didn’t give it too much though and kept enjoying being lost in the fog and then amazed by the picturesque scenery when the fog faded away.

Back in Taitung City, the news about the South Link network was broadcast on every news channel and it wasn’t expected to be able to resume operation within 3 days. I went to Taitung train station to confirm my train and  found a poster stating that the backup system was implemented: shuttle buses to traffic passengers from/ to Dawu and Fangliao stations to bypass the landslide section. I was told to take my train as scheduled, but I got to the station earlier and found chaos in the lobby. A few South Link trains were canceled; a few trains were delayed for at least two hours and the staff was broadcasting of how to get a refund or take other trains and the worst, LED displays in the station were malfunctioning. Luckily my train wasn't canceled, with the help of staff I got on the train with a group of Tzechi volunteers whose train was canceled. We all knew that we were going to take shuttle buses from Dawu to Fangliao but no one knew if there was a train waiting for us or we should just take whatever train available in Fangliao station. After 90 mins on the windy mountain road, I almost tasted my lunch for the second time, I boarded a new train and returned safely.

View Liushidan Mountain B&B in a larger map

Day 1
Train No. 301 Departing from Tainan at 06:23; arriving Taitung at 09:33
Rent a car at 10:00
Provincial Highway 9 to Liushidan mountain
Stopping by Chulu Ranch, Wuling Green Tunnel, Mr. Brown Avenue, Dapo Pond
Accommodation: one of the B&Bs in Liushidan mountain

Day 2
Provincial Highway 30 connects Provincial Highway 9 and 11
Drive down to Taitung via Provincial Highway 11
Stoping by Nanrenshi, Shihyusan, Sansiantai, Donghe Bridge Scenic Area, Water Flowing Upwards, Taitung Railway Art Village, Water fountain show at National Museum of Prehistory at 20:00
Accommodation: yeshotel

Day 3
Siaoyeliou for sunrise, Biking in Taitung Forest Park and Paposogan (Seashore Park)
Train No. 754 departing from Taitung at 16:00; arriving Tainan at 20:08


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