Tue, Sep 06, 2011 - Page 16 News List

Rueili, truly beautiful

The Chiayi County town was hit badly by Typhoon Morakot, but repairs and redevelopment have put the tourist hotspot back on its feet

By Andrew Crosthwaite  /  Contributing reporter

It’s all nice enough, but from the obviously landscaped gardens to the freshly laid turf, there is an unmistakable feeling of newness to the park. It might take a couple of more years before it can rival Rueili’s other attractions.

Driving east toward Rueili, the one thing that stands out above all else is that the town is responsible for producing copious amounts of tea. Neat lines of tea bushes rise up the slope on one side of the road, and fall down it on the other. Rueili’s tea is reputed to be exceptionally pure and has a delicious, long-lasting sweetness that is unique to tea grown here. To taste it for yourself, just head to one of the many tea shops or producers that line the main road running through the town.

Rueili is home to a variety of firefly species, and watching the glowing little insects dance and signal to one another has become a popular activity in the town. It might rank as one of the more simple ways to spend an evening, but there’s something hypnotic and magical about seeing these tiny animal-made lights darting and weaving around in the nighttime.

Depending on the species, the fireflies emit either an orange or green light, and they can be seen most nights of the year. The best places to watch them are at Rueili Elementary School and by the Ruolan Villa (若蘭山莊), located near the 79.5km mark of the highway.

Possibly the oldest attraction in Rueili is the Rueitai Trail (瑞太步道), which dates back to the 1870s. The original path was constructed to allow goods to be transported between Rueili and Taihe (太和), and in 1931, it was replaced by an easier route to give children access to the local school.

A large section of the 80-year-old trail is still in use today, though it shouldn’t be attempted lightly. It’s a punishing up-and-down path, and while the people in the Rueitai Visitor Center might tell you that the looping round-trip will take 2 hours to complete, that’s only possible if you’re very fit. If you’re up for the challenge, though, an enjoyable walk through a tall bamboo forest awaits. The trailhead can be found at the 81km marker on County Highway 166.

Sadly, the section of the trail that leads to Taihe is closed, but this is one of only a handful of blocked paths in the area. On the whole, Rueili has recovered incredibly well from the devastation of Morakot, which is good news as this is one of the nicest places to visit in the Alishan area.

What you need to know

Getting there

Getting to Rueili is fairly easy. If you’re driving, leave Highway No. 3 at the Meishan Interchange (梅山交流道). Head into Meishan and take County Highway 162 to Taiping (太平). From there, take road 154 to Taising (太興), and then turn onto County Highway 166, which will take you all the way to Rueli.

If you’re traveling by bus, buy a ticket for Rueili at the bus station right outside the Chiayi Railway Station. The only bus in the morning leaves at 9:30am and takes you to the Meishan bus station, where you board the Rueili bus.

Where to stay

There are a few hotels and guesthouses along the main road running through the town, and there’s also a good campsite with toilets and hot showers. It’s located just off County Highway 166 at about the 75km point.

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