Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Houli horses!

The last day of the 4-day New Year's vacation, Petra, my niece Joanne and I went on a little day excursion to Houli (后里). Just a little north of Taichung, it is easily reached by train in 30 minutes or less. I wasn't sure what we would do, I just knew that my wife said we would ride horses. Really? Well, arriving at the Houli train station we started looking around for help. There were plenty of students working part-time offering assistance to tourists. We rented bikes at the train station to ride to the "Hores" Station. They offer bikes for all sizes (except Karl). I had my seat raised to its maximum height and still was unable to extend my legs past the Big Wheel stage. If you go, I would go to the front of the Hores Station to rent a bike. They have a better selection. Bikes for little ones, bikes with training wheels, tandems, 3-seaters, all with the option of an electric motor.

The Houli Horse Farm (Chinese link) , as the local government calls it, was about what I expected. The riding is done in a small pen. Children must be led around the pen by a worker - 2 laps for $60 NT. Joanne is pictured above getting ready to be walked around on good ol' No. 299. Adults can ride by themselves for half an hour. I don't know the price because I got tired of waiting for good ol' No. 288 finish his lunch and left. While waiting for 288 to finish, we toured the area. One good thing about the farm is that you can ride your bike into and around the place. Joanne just started riding a bike a couple of months ago and is still pretty green. This was a nice,safe place for her to practice and gain some confidence. She learned how to and when to change gears there before we went biking around the area. There is an area for archery, a small playground, a couple of dilapidated, vacant houses and lots of construction going on to kill a good 5-10 minutes. You can pet the horses, and the Great Dane who is stabled next to the horses if you dare, as well as feed them if you bring your own horse chow.

Okay, horsie time was over and my navigator told us we were going to ride on the Hou-Feng Bike Path ( 后豐鐵馬道 - the 鐵馬 characters don't mean iron horse, but rather the Taiwanese pronunciation of bike). No cars or scooters are allowed and bicycle cops patrol the path to make sure... well, I'm not sure what they do because unless you can lift your scooter 2 feet off the ground there is no way for a scooter to enter. But, they are there, just in case. We were riding at noon on Sunday - bike rush hour. The ride is pleasant and the path is paved and divided into two lanes, which surprisingly, most people followed. After crossing under the highway we came to Tunnel #9. This 1.28 kilometer tunnel was built by the Japanese as a rail line. Exiting the tunnel you come to the bridge pictured above. Still nice and sturdy. However I forgot about my wife's fear of bridges when I began shouting at her. She was leading the way with Joanne in the middle and me bringing up the rear. What caused me to shout was seeing her plow down the middle of the narrow bridge forcing oncoming cyclists to break left and right around her. She maintained perfect posture, head never turning left or right, until the end of the bridge. No wrecks and only 3 or 4 forced stops. Maybe I should have spent some time with her at the horse farm.

Our last stop was the winery above. It is owned and operated by a young Taiwanese woman who trained at wineries in Napa Valley. They are renovating the building and hope to open in time for Chinese New Year. They will have a tasting area, bar and restaurant. She speaks good English, is very friendly (she practically forced us to sample every one of their wines) and informative ( she used lots of wine words that I played like I understood ). They offer Taiwanese style wines as well as a couple of traditional ones. The plum wine ( I usually don't like anything plum in Taiwan ) tasted like what I think a semi-sweet white wine would. The ice wine was good. How good I do not know. I just know I can drink it and not be put off. We ended up buying two bottles of Red Onion Red Wine. There are two versions. One is more for medicinal use and tastes like it. The other is made exclusively for drinking and taste. This was the one I chose. Semi-sweet with a hint of Funyun. I am almost out and will reorder. She delivers free of charge.

There is a nice garden as well as outdoor seating with a table made from 20 foot long and 3 foot wide piece of driftwood. This was washed down the side of the hill in a typhoon and they bought it from the government. In Taiwan, all driftwood belongs to the government. What about the fish and the trash? Do you also have to pay to remove these from the water? The table is spoiled somewhat by an inevitability - the wooden mock choo-choo Wine Train at the head of the table. Oh well. Trying to remove kitsch from Taiwanese is about as easy as removing the dermis from the epidermis and the subcutaneous fat. Still, we plan to return for a meal and a brace of Red Onion.


Anonymous said...

Hello Ni-howdy,

just wanted to send my regards for 2009. I have enjoyed reading about the trials and tribulations of Taiwan life for those still on the rock, and to the rest that have vacated for greener lands; I will expect nothing less in this year of the Ox.
For myself, I am off to Cuba on Friday to finish my undergraduate degree at the Universidad de Orient in Santiago de Cuba. I will be enjoying the finest baseball, mojitos, and senoritas in the Caribbean. Wish me luck...



PS: John, you should come to Canada if you still feel the need to ride a horse. Or as the girls in Alberta say: "Save a horse, ride a cowboy."

Rye said...

How much for a pony?