Suhua Highway Road Trip 2018 蘇花公路機車之旅

Looking South Along the Qingshui Cliffs

In May 2018 I seized an opportunity to ride the beautiful and dangerous Suhua Highway 蘇花公路 (中文) from Hualien City 花蓮市 to Su’ao 蘇澳 in Yilan 宜蘭. I had previously taken this same route on bicycle back in 2013—a harrowing trip I’ll never forget—so I was eager to drive a scooter and experience it at a different pace. I also visited a number of historic sites along the way, including several former Shinto shrines, as part of an ongoing project documenting various elements of the Japanese colonial legacy in Taiwan. Much of the highway itself also owes something to Japanese engineering, having opened to vehicular traffic in 1931, but it has been continuously repaired and expanded since then.

Dadu Plateau Anti-Airborne Fortifications 大肚台地反空降堡

An abandoned fortification on the Dadu Plateau

Dadu Plateau 大肚台地 (also known as Dadu Mountain 大肚山) is a geographic feature of great strategic importance to the defense of central Taiwan. It overlooks the west coastal plain and occupies high ground on the far edge of the Taichung Basin 台中盆地, home to the majority of the population of Taichung 台中, the third most populous metropolitan area in the nation. The entire length of the plateau is peppered with military facilities from the massive Ching Chuan Kang Air Base 空軍清泉崗基地 in the north to Chenggong Ridge 成功嶺 down south. In between one will find a number of abandoned or disused bunkers, gun towers, and blockhouses. This post focuses on seven anti-airborne fortifications located in the central part of the plateau starting with the #7 Anti-Airborne Fort 七號反空降堡, my introduction to this cluster of ruins.

Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 臺中飛行場機槍堡

Former Japanese Army Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 原日軍臺

Not much remains of the former Taichu Aerodrome 臺中飛行場, a Japanese colonial era airbase originally built in 1911 on the northwestern periphery of central Taichung 台中. The airbase saw a lot of action in World War II and several kamikaze units were stationed there in the final months of the war. After the arrival of the KMT it was used as a hub for aviation research and development before entering into civilian use in the 1970s as Shuinan Airport 水湳機場. In 2004 operations were transferred to the nearby Taichung Airport 台中航空站 and, over the following decade, the former Japanese airbase was completely demolished as part of an ongoing city-wide urban renewal plan. The only building spared was a lone gun tower built in 1940, formally designated a historic site in 2006, and officially known as the Former Japanese Army Taichung Aerodrome Gun Tower 原日軍臺中飛行場機槍堡.

Jiahe Railway Tunnel 嘉和遮體

A tunnel on the coastal plains of Pingtung

Here is yet another roadside curiosity in the deep south of Taiwan: a false tunnel on the coastal plains of Fangshan 枋山, Pingtung 屏東. It doesn’t cut through any mountainside nor is it built to withstand landslides. It’s just an 1,180 meter tunnel that trains pass through for no discernible reason. I first read about this on Michael Turton’s blog and later saw it on my first round-the-island bicycle tour. More recently, which is to say just a few days ago, I took a spin through the southern loop once again, and spent a little extra time examining this concrete oddity in an attempt to divine its purpose.

Xinpi Machine Gun Fort 新埤反空降機槍碉堡

Sunset in a Japanese fortification in Xinpi

While cycling through Xinpi 新埤, an otherwise ordinary expanse of rural Pingtung 屏東, I was surprised to see a sign indicating that there was a “fort” somewhere in the area. I cut loose from the main road I was following and went to go investigate. After following a bend in the river just outside a small settlement I found it: a Japanese anti-aircraft fortification dating back to the late 1930s or early 1940s. I haven’t found a formal name for this fortification so I’m going to call it the Xinpi Machine Gun Tower 新埤反空降機槍碉堡 until I hear of something better.

Changhua Aerodrome Fortifications 彰化飛行場古砲台

Fragmented history

One of my idle pursuits this mild winter has involved documenting all the obscure and unusual stuff I find in my travels around Changhua 彰化. When I go riding I prefer to take winding roads that twist and turn through old villages rather than the newer thoroughfares that directly connect communities in the countryside. Sometimes this pays off—for instance, while exploring some of the side roads on my way to Lukang 鹿港 I found this strange looking building amid the rice fields and rural industrial sprawl.