The Presidential Tour Day 2
The Presidential Tour Day 2 MARCH 31, 2018
We all woke up refreshed from the hot spring bath ready for another day of President Tsai’s tour of Hualien. Antong Hot Spring Hotel provided a simple buffet breakfast of rice porridge, steamed buns and soy milk. But we were off to another breakfast meeting with the traveling press corps, at Jijeng Ranch 吉蒸牧場. http://www.jjfarm.com.tw/ I got to know the ranch and its owner, Mr. Fan, several years ago when I was trying to encourage local farmers to increase the value of products by promoting the geographic identity of their products and encouraging a circular economy with locally grown feed. Today the cows on Jijeng Ranch munch on grass and corn grown right here by other farmers in Hualien, decreasing dependency on imports and the carbon footprints of imported feed. Here we borrowed their conference center for a chat with the press.
|Dairy products from Jijeng Ranch|
Following the morning coffee and dairy products with the press, we started traveling north through the Rift Valley. To the north of Ruisui Township lies one of my favorite villages, Fuxing Village 富興村. I like this village for its friendliness and cooperative spirit. Over recent years, the villagers have together managed to transform what used to be sugar plantations into pineapple fields with a high yield and income for its residents. Part of its success story is in local branding and combining the element of tourism into the production chain. Here at the village you can taste fresh pineapples (which take 22 months from planting to harvest), make your own pineapple cakes, the favorite Taiwanese delicacy, and also take a little train ride through the pineapple fields for a small fee. Just a week ago I also brought a delegation of foreign diplomats and representatives to this village, where I am always proud to show off the rural beauty of Taiwan with traditional warmth and hospitality.
|Picking a Pineapple in Fuxing Village (Photo by Jessie Chen)|
|Pineapple fields in Fuxing Village|
We had lunch at the Butterfly Valley Resort 蝴蝶谷森林園區/渡假村, a BOT (build-operate-transfer) project of the government Forestry Bureau. The resort is both well-kept but pristine at the same time, with the surrounding natural ecology of sub-tropical forests. This was also a site I introduced to foreign diplomats last week. Though we did not stay here overnight (prices are rather high for me… ), we got a tour and peek of the presidential suite, which was built around a tree the developers didn’t want to remove. So yes, there is a tree in the middle of the room. I was told that an overnight visitor may wake up to door knocks by playful monkeys. Indeed, wild monkeys appear around the resort in the morning and early evening. In fact, on my previous inspection visit, I actually ran into a dozen large and small monkeys happily swinging around the treetops on one of the walking paths.
|Scene from a walking path and bridge in Butterfly Valley|
|A pair of monkeys roaming on treetops in Butterfly Valley|
Taiwan’s largest man-made forest on flat land is located in Guangfu Township 光復鄉, called the Danong Dafu Forest Park 大農大富平地森林園區. We took a quick stop there while the press were gathering at the next destination. Lately the forest has come to be very popular for viewing fireflies at night. What used to be sugarcane farms owned by the state-owned Taiwan Sugar Co., is now covered in trees in a government-sponsored project on reforestation. We were not able to stroll through the various pathways made for bikers and pedestrians through the forest, but the President had a chat with some volunteers and local community leaders who have been trained to guide eco tours during the firefly season. In little structures built in the shape of ant houses, some educational material is on display, and for those who want to take a break, one of the ant houses serves coffee and tea. In the middle of the forest is a clearing where colorful flowers are planted, making it a favorite photo site for visitors.
|Reforestation project where millions of fireflies roam at night during March and April|
|Flower beds next to the flatland forest|
Morizaka 森坂 is what Lintianshan 林田山was formerly called during the Japanese government era. This used to be a logging site, where precious wood was logged and shipped to Japan until government policy terminated logging in the 1970’s. Since then residents have trickled out of what used to be one of the most prosperous villages of central Hualien, though the Forestry Bureau has invested funds to renovate the old village, which at its peak housed a school, movie theater, medical clinic and various shops. The old railway track that was formerly used to transport logs has not been removed, making Lintianshan a cluster of old Japanese architecture and culture which is empty of actual residents, but restored to welcome visitors. Here President Tsai took a moment to photograph the press corps, hoping to use the photo to enter the Support Hualien 花蓮有靠山 photography competition this month. https://www.gacc.org.tw/events/Lovehualien
|Photo of the traveling press corps on old train tracks at the Lintianshan logging park|
It is estimated that about a quarter of the residents of Hualien are of the Hakka 客家 cultural background, and in the township of Fenglin 鳳林鎮it is likely that Hakka are a majority. Here we had a taste of traditional Hakka ground tea 擂茶, which consists of tea leaves, sesame, peanuts and fresh cilantro. In turn, the ingredients are poured into a large bowl and then ground together with a wooden stick. Hot water is then poured into the bowl, and then ladled out into cups of tea. The grounded tea can be drunk alone, or as many Hakka people do, combined with rice, bean curd and vegetables, forming a tasty porridge. This ground tea came before a sumptuous Hakka dinner at 芳草古樹 which concluded the tour of two full days of culture, food, and scenery.
|Ingredients for the Hakka tea, to be grounded into powder|
|Grinding the Hakka tea @ 芳草古樹 (Photo from Tsai Ing-wen facebook)|