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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tour of Sanyi


Sunday was a beautiful day to get out on a bike, so I did my best to wake up early and get out the door to enjoy the sunny weather. I had a few plans on the table, but settled on a ride through Sanyi on the southern edge of Miaoli County. 


On my way out to Houli and the Highway 13, I couldn't help but stop to take a few pictured of my favorite example of Taiwan's rigid zoning regulations. 


Pictured is the No. 74 Expressway that is being built to wrap around Taichung City. 


This particular section has been built to thread the needle between the brand new Tzu Chi Hospital and its even newer annex. The expressway also passes within an eyelash of the Ivy Bilingual Academy dormitories. 

It is really something to see. 


I plodded along through Houli, fighting the wind with every turn of the crank.


The Highway 13 to Sanyi offers some great shots of various transportation schemes. Sometimes the built environment is just as wildly interesting as the natural environment. 


The climb up to Sanyi was much easier than I remembered. It is good to pass through in the morning before the weekend tourists arrive to pick the place clean of "traditional Hakka" woodcarvings and handicrafts. 


Sanyi is a town that saw most of its early growth as a train stop for forestry products. Now, the area is recognized for its woodcarving festival. Many Hakka people who came to Taiwan were skilled carvers and they moved to Miaoli as it resembled the geography of their former homes in the hills between Fujian and Guangdong in China. 

Many of Sanyi's Hakka families also come from families of ex-aborigines who simply became "Hakka" between the 18th and 20th Centuries. 


The rail lines built by the Japanese colonial administration on Taiwan at the beginning of the 20th century really defined Sanyi as a town that mushroomed out, bisected by rails. 


I passed numerous cyclists out to enjoy the weather. Groups large and small rolled along through Sanyi Township in a rolling demonstration of Taiwan's cycling culture. 




I made my way through Tong-luo village on my way to hook up with the Highway 6; an easy viaduct to the Highway 3 for my return. 


I guess it had been a while since I passed through the area and I misremembered the route back. In trying to cross another one of Taiwan's fabulous bridges, I had to sneak under the expressway along some creative solution for the area's non-motorized traffic. 

IMG_9455 IMG_9458

I think Taiwan is home to more interesting bridges per than just about any other country on the planet. I am always amazed by what a construction budget and a willing architect can come up with. Someone should really do a photo essay on Taiwan's bridges. Seriously.


I found myself on the Miaoli Route 119 heading back to Sanyi. I knew the road, but had never taken it to Sanyi. It was a drunken path of smooth tarmac in, on, over and around every bump and contour back to Sanyi. 

I could see the fields getting prepped for this winter's strawberry crop. 

I logged about 140km on the day and seemed to be doing well. Just not well enough. Too tired still. 

The day was really a nice time on the bike.  



  1. I tend not to enjoy elevated expressways, they can really wreck the landscape/skyline for a city.

    That's why Seattle's waterfront is not as pleasant as Vancouver, BC. Seattle constructed their elevated highway..Vancouver in the end, decided not to have one.

    Nevertheless it looked like a highly varied and pleasant ride.

  2. Personally, I think the expressway is ridiculous. Can you imagine staying at that hospital or living at that dorm.

    In Taiwan most of the freeways and expressways are elevated. This is due to the scarcity of available land on the plains. With elevated roads, people can still own the land underneath. Let's face it. Land is where the money is in Taiwan.

    The availability of concrete is also a factor. The concrete business is run by powerful and politically connected groups in organized crime. The more concrete they can pour on a public project at a price ballooned far beyond the competitive rate, the better it is for the gang and the patron politician.

    Lots of concrete gets poured ever election cycle.

    It always worries me to see vegetable farms nestled up next to the freeways with produce covered in road dust.

  3. Hi Andrew,

    great blog. I'm interested in your comment on how aborigines became Hakka as this sort of thing fascinates me. As we know many Taiwanese have aboriginal blood but deny it. Some Hakka also refuse to disclose Hakka ancestry. Out of curiosity where did you get the information about aborigines "converting" to Hakka? Or is it just common knowledge down that way?Is it conversion through inter-marriage or just wiping out the traces?

    Cheers, Sean

  4. If you shoot me an email I could get into it a little more. Paul Jen-kuei Li has doem some great linguistic work on the subject. I have done some of my own research in books and through interviews. A great example may be my interview with Ms. Pan Jinyu, the last native Pazeh speaker in Taiwan. She recalled that her family was from an area in Sanyi and knew several relatives there, but who had changed their names. The area is regarded as Hakka now. Looking at the gravestones in the area it is a little clearer. Many Hakka immigrants and plaines Aborigines took up orchard work or other vocations aside from wet farming. It would have been very easy for the indigenes to pass as Hakka as they didn't bind feet. As the social markers of difference disappeared the barriers were crossed. The area around Sanyi and Miaoli is full of towns rooted in indigenous settlement. The people never left, they just renegotiated their identities into something else when the opportunity arose.