Quality time on two wheels
By Tricia Chen, The China Post
November 25, 2009, 10:37 am TWN
Since the surge of the cycling trend, several old roads and tunnels have been recycled into biking trails in the past five years, leaving nothing to waste.
Ho-li Township, once dominated by a garbage dump (hard to believe these days), is now famous for a number of the best cycling routes in the country.
The town presents visitors with three main biking courses: the Tungshi and Shigang sections of Dongfong biking route, and the Houfong cycling trail.
The two sections of the Dongfong biking trail are longer routes suited for full-day treks by frequent cyclists.
So for a more laid back trip, visitors can settle on pedaling the shorter Houfong biking route, popular and perfect for the entire family.
The Houfong Bikeway is about 4.5 kilometers long – biking it without stopping would only take about 45 minutes from one end to the other. Most cyclists begin their journey from the southwestern end's welcome sign, so we'll start from there, too.
Without steep hills to climb, intersections to cross and vehicles to avoid, the bikeway is laid-back and safe. Bikers have freedom to control their speed and can take in scenery along the route, which often conveys the local culture to visitors.
Visitors will cycle past rice fields, a few small factories and traditional single-story houses as well, before they stumble upon the delightful First Winery.
The Railway Valley Winery, the First Winery's official English name, has been offering visitors free wine-tasting sessions since five years ago.
According to Jennifer Chen, the third generation to manage the family business, the winery was founded by "Grandpa Chen," who has a passion for vineyards.
The grapes that Grandpa Chen raises are sweet and juicy thanks to his thorough care and Taichung County's great weather, his granddaughter says.
The winery produces fruit wine, onion red and dry wines, and even sake.
The backyard where greeneries like vanilla can be found welcome visitors in an open, friendly manner.
Chen highlighted that visitors can take winemaking classes here, too. With reservations, people can even tour the wine cellar with pebbles spread across the floor; I was intrigued to discover that the pebbles prevent bottles from breaking during earthquakes.
The winery has organized a regular and a deluxe tour for visitors who are interested in a comprehensive experience there. The regular tour around the place takes about half an hour, while the longer version takes up to two hours; it goes into more detail of the vineyard's history, the differences in the wines they produce, as well as wine-drinking etiquette – I learnt some professional wine-tasting manners during my tour.