Wed, May 17, 2006 - Page 13 News List

Leisure on the Oriental Express

By Chang Chao-ling and Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Ride the rails in style aboard the Oriental Beauty Express (東方美人號), Taiwan's newly inaugurated tourist train with an Aboriginal motif.

Taiwan's East Coast Rift Valley (東部縱谷) is a cradle of natural beauty. The valley is also home to the Juisui (瑞穗鄉), Kuangfu (光復鄉), and Shoufeng (壽豐鄉) Townships, which boast world-class resorts and other entertainment venues.

These locales and much more are now connected by the Oriental Beauty Express, a new passenger train christened last month that runs along the East Coast. The train sports a playful theme, with Aboriginal decorations and attendants dressed in traditional Aboriginal attire. Passengers can enjoy splendid coastline views and superior service and furnishings in both economy and business class cars. Clowns perform magic shows and skits for the younger passengers (and the young at heart) on the weekends, making a ride on this locomotive all-round family entertainment.

So where could the Oriental Beauty Express take you?

A pleasant trip could begin with a stop in Jiusui Township at the Butterfly Valley Resort (蝴蝶谷溫泉度假村), halfway between Taitung and Hualien on the East Coast railway. The resort is located in the village of Fuyuan (富源村), near Fuyuan Train Station. The resort's villas and hot springs are tucked away amid the creeks and trees of Fuyuan National Forest Recreational Area (富源國家森林遊樂區).

Each villa and cabin is equipped with its own hot spring pool. There are also Japanese-style suites and communal hot spring baths. Outside, scenic hiking paths lead off into the forest.

Chugging north along the East Coast railroad from Jiusui will bring you to Kuangfu in short order. The township's wetlands and Amis (阿美族) Aboriginal culture make it a worthwhile stop along the Oriental Beauty Express' route. Kuangfu's Fataan (馬太鞍) Wetlands, besides being a mecca for lotus lovers', are home to a number of ecological tourist attractions. The Amis tribe's fish pools draw plenty of visitors.

The manmade, waist-high fish ponds are layered with bamboo screens; different layers are devoted to farming various types of aquatic animal. Catfish and eels inhabit the very bottom of the pools; shrimp swim in the middle layer; and faster, friskier fish cruise the top level. The ponds are designed to attract the wetlands' diverse aquatic life, and make harvesting the bounty a piece of cake.

The Kuangfu Sugar Factory (光復糖廠) offers comfortable, affordable accommodation near Kuangfu train station. The building was once a dormitory attached to a sugar factory; it was later converted into a charming hotel after Taiwan's sugar industry went into decline. The workers' rooms have been redone as suites, and are a good place to rest after a day on the town.

Further north on the railway is Shoufeng Township (壽豐鄉). The Promised Land Resort Hotel (理想大地度假村), with its unique Spanish-style architecture and world-class service, is Shoufeng's leading attraction. A boat ride on the canal adjacent to the hotel is an excellent way to survey its white, stucco buildings.

Shoufeng also has a picturesque vanilla flower nursery. Additionally, the nursery cultivates lavender flowers, tulips, sunflowers, and lilies at various times of the year. The 10-hectare park also has a teahouse and a small horse farm.

Whether traveling to Juisui, Kuangfu, Shoufeng, or other scenic spots on the East Coast, let the Oriental Beauty Express take you in style.

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