Travel in Houbi
Houbi, an agrarian district with some 25,000 residents in the northernmost reaches of Tainan, is a place of quiet rural beauty. Here, you can enjoy a leisurely bike tour on an easy-going route that takes you through traditional farming villages and the peaceful countryside of the Tainan Plain. An added bonus for visitors is that Houbi is surprisingly easy to get to. It’s only a short jaunt from the Chiayi high-speed rail station; travelers can also opt to take a local train to Houbi Train Station, a quaint building that is one of the best remaining examples of wooden Japanese-style train stations left in Taiwan (bicycles and cycling information are available here making it a good starting point for a trip). Check the Cozybike rental for more information.
In fact, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Japanese influence everywhere in this corner of the country. One good example is Houbi’s award-winning bike path, which was created from the system of old local rail lines built during the Japanese occupation to transport sugarcane to the mills.
Another example is the farmland itself. As you make your way through the countryside, you will notice that some areas are set up with irrigation channels and water gates for rice production, while other parts of the district are dedicated to dry crops. This is an inheritance from the Japanese period , when the channels were first constructed.
There is also a surprising amount of Japanese influence still to be seen in local buildings. In historic Jingliao Village, the Huang family mansion has a front façade that is straight out of the colonial era, and the local elementary school library is housed in a wooden Japanese-style structure that was built decades ago. Local favorite fun spot Wushulin Recreation Park is a repurposed Japanese-built sugar mill and rail transport hub complete with old factory buildings, rail engines, and train rides.
But these remnants of the Japanese occupation are firmly grounded in the rich rural Taiwanese culture for which this area is famous. Visitors are welcome to explore the 24 Solar Term Art Trail, a country village walk complete with art installations that illustrate and explain the Chinese seasonal planting calendar. Nearby Shi’an Community is a modern example of the positive impact that cooperative farming has on small rice farming communities. For a glimpse of the religious culture, visitors would do well to check out the astonishing Tai’an Temple, a massive edifice dedicated to Mazu that serves (and is the combined work of) 59 local villages and hamlets. Travelers in the district may be surprised to discover that Houbi is also home to the Shi Jinhui Art Museum, which houses many of the works of nationally renowned painter Shi Jinhui.
Underlying all of this is the natural charm of the local countryside. Whether you are biking through a tunnel of flame-red flowers at Silk Cotton Tree Road, exploring the local villages with their traditional brick farmhouses, or riding along lanes between verdant fields of rice under a blue vault of the sky, Houbi is a place to open your senses and immerse yourself at the moment.
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