Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Hualien City to Fenglin

Betel Nut Booth in the Wilderness

My second day of riding Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 was not everything I hoped it would be. I didn’t manage a proper night’s rest due to a malfunctioning air condition and woke up feeling weak and dehydrated. With temperatures hitting 35°C on the road, and with fewer convenience store stops along the way, it turned out to be the most difficult day of riding on this particular trip back in May 2018. I originally planned to detour into the mountains to visit the village of Tongmen 銅門 and cruise around Carp Lake 鯉魚潭 on my way south. Instead I elected to head straight down Provincial Highway 9 through Ji’an 吉安 and Shoufeng 壽豐 into Fenglin 鳳林 to make up for lost time. Although I didn’t see nearly as much as planned I am glad to have an excuse to return to this part of Taiwan.

Huadong Valley Ride 2018: Hualien City

Originating at Gangtian Temple

In May 2018 I embarked on a multi-day bicycle trip along the majestic Huadong Valley 花東縱谷 of Taiwan from Hualien City 花蓮市 to Taitung City 台東市. Although I had previously cycled parts of this valley during my full tour of the island in 2013 I did so without really knowing what was there—and after five years I amassed quite a collection of notes about places I was interested in seeing up close. Several themes emerged while preparing for this trip: old standalone movie theaters, of which I had located more than a dozen; derelict railway infrastructure including stations, military checkpoints, and abandoned lines; and relics of the Japanese colonial era, particularly former Shinto shrines. This post documents my first day of riding, which only began in the late afternoon after arriving by rail at Hualien Station. I had shipped my bike ahead so all I had to do was pick it up from the baggage room, throw the panniers on, and start riding.

Agenna Shipyard 阿根納造船廠

Overlooking Agenna Shipyard

Agenna Shipyard 阿根納造船廠 is among the most popular abandoned places in northern Taiwan. It is located in the historic port city of Keelung 基隆 across the narrow Bachimen Channel 八尺門海峽 from Heping Island 和平島, site of the first Spanish settlement in Taiwan, and just around the corner from the equally photogenic Zhengbin Harbour 正濱漁港. The shipyard opened in 1967 but was only in business until the 1980s. After many years of neglect the skeletal ruins of the shipyard aroused renewed interest in 2016 when the current leaseholder attempted to demolish the structure. An immediate public outcry prompted the government to designate the shipyard a heritage property, and the cultural bureau is now formulating plans to develop the area into a tourist attraction of some kind. In the meantime, the crumbling ruins of the former shipyard attract hundreds or even thousands of daily visitors.

Jingtong Erkeng Old House 菁桐二坑老屋

A crack between nothing

Several years ago I went hiking in the mountains north of Jingtong 菁桐, an old coal mining town in Pingxi 平溪, and found this abandoned home on the way back down. Technically it is located in Erkeng 二坑, literally Second Pit, the tiny village that sprawls upslope from the railway station. At that time I was quite new to exploring abandoned places in Taiwan and had no idea what to make of it. Under what circumstances did the former resident depart? Why did they leave almost everything behind? These are questions without any answer.

Changren Waste Flues 長仁廢煙道

Remnants of a lost kingdom

The waste flues of Ruifang 瑞芳 are an extraordinary sight. The ruins of these massive, crumbling conduits run for miles up the mountainside from the Shuinandong Smelter 水湳洞精鍊廠 and the rest of the abandoned mining complex below. Originally built during the KMT authoritarian era to transport noxious fumes and waste gases away from the refinery—and nearby settlements like Jinguashi 金瓜石—these flues are reputedly the longest in the world.