Tue, Sep 11, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Discovering Hualien’s history and culture

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Visitors to Fusing Village, Rueisuei Township, Hualien County, make pineapple cakes on Friday.

Photo: Loa Iok-sin, Taipei Times

Most people mention Taroko Gorge or the beach at Cisingtan (七星潭) when discussing Hualien’s highlights, but for travelers who wish to learn more about the area’s culture and history, there is much more to explore.

Unlike most areas in the county which are covered by rice paddies, Fusing Village (富興) in Hualien County’s Rueisuei Township (瑞穗) is an eye-catcher, as it is covered by pineapple fields.

“Pineapples are our main product. We used to be the top supplier of Typhone Group in the 1960s and 1970s,” Fusing Community Development Association executive director Yang Ching-mao (楊清茂) told the Taipei Times during an interview at the village. “However, everything went downhill when Typhone’s canned pineapple factory closed in the late 1970s.”

Fusing was not the only farming community affected by the decline of the agricultural sector and the expansion of the industrial sector in the 1970s. However, the village found other ways to survive.

“In the 1980s, we discovered that many people liked to decorate altars in temples or at home with pineapple flowers, so we quickly picked up on the trend and took advantage of our knowledge of growing pineapples,” Yang said. “At the moment, more than 90 percent of pineapple flowers in the country are grown here.”

Villagers also came up with a way to deal with leftover pineapples — turning them into pineapple cakes.

“We make pineapple cakes using our own pineapples. Many well-known pineapple cake brands started buying pineapples from us to make their cakes after they tried our cakes,” Yang said.

The village has created a placed called Fusing Inn, where travelers can buy local handicraft, pineapple products, make their own pineapple cakes and have a few other pineapple dishes, such as a deep-fried crust stuffed with pineapple, fish steamed with pineapple and a pork rib soup cooked with pineapple and bitter melon.

“I guess I say our story can be considered a story of success, and we’re proud to pass on the generations-long pineapple-growing business to the next generation and show it to visitors,” Yang said.

Besides reviving a village with pineapples, some Hualien residents are seeking to revive historical buildings that may otherwise be demolished.

Visitors to Taiwan Sugar Co’s Hualien Sugar Factory in Guangfu Township (光復) can spend a night in Japanese-style buildings built in the 1930s for high-ranking Japanese managers at the sugar factory, which have been turned into lodging facilities for guests.

“We have been seeking ways to make the sugar factory an attractive tourist destination since 2002, when sugar production was suspended,” Lin Kuo-liang (林國樑), a supervisor from the sugar factory’s hotel department said. “We thought it may be worth a try to turn the wooden Japanese buildings, originally reserved for high-ranking Japanese managers, into guesthouses for travelers.”

It was not an easy job, since the wooden buildings were built more than 80 years ago.

“We spent more than three years repairing and remodeling these buildings. The project was completed in 2010, and we finally obtained a hotel license last year,” Lin said.

Currently, the business boasts 28 guesthouses — including eight double rooms and 20 triple rooms — capable of housing 76 people per night, Lin said.

The interior of the guesthouses authentic Japanese with tatami mats and wooden beams — as well as a Japanese-style bathtub — all made from Japanese cypress.

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