Sometimes the unplanned explorations are the best. That was certainly the case with this gentle ride around Taoyuan’s Bade District. I’d only vaguely mapped out a couple of spots that I’d wanted to visit and let curiosity fill in the gaps between them. It turned out to be a fascinating ride through some rural scenery that still clings to a more historic way of life.
Distance: The route we took was 21.5km, but that could be shortened or extended as you see fit.
Time: We spent a leisurely afternoon here, maybe 3 hours, but it wouldn’t take that long if you’re focusing on cycling.
Difficulty: 1/10 – Assuming you can read a map and are comfortable wandering around rural Taiwan then this is easy. If you’re new to the area, you might find this spot a little less ‘safe’ feeling compared to major urban areas, but actually, there’s not much to worry about.
Total ascent: A little over 200 metres but not that you’d notice it.
Water: We both had our refillable bottles and were ok with just that on a breezy early spring day. There’s a water dispenser at the train station where you can top them up, and if you run out along the way then you can find convenience stores scattered around all over the place.
Shade: Very little shade, so dress accordingly if it’s sunny.
Mobile network: Clear throughout
Enjoyment: I loved seeing a different side to Taoyuan, the rural scenery and lifestyles on display are charming.
Route type: Loop
Permit: None needed
Jump to the bottom of this post for a trail map and GPX file.
We exited Neili Station via the main entrance on Zhonghua Road so that we could make use of the toilets there before setting off on our exploration. From there you can take a pedestrian walkway over the tracks and pick up a bike from the YouBike stand in the station’s covered bike parking area.
It doesn’t make sense for me to indicate every twist and turn along the way since there are multiple ways you can go, all of which would take you to the same place. Essentially we just kept heading straight with occasional left turns until we found ourselves turning left onto Xinzhongbei Road and then onto the backroads.
Very soon after leaving the wider streets behind there were interesting scenes to be found down almost every little alleyway.
Being innately nosy, I took a small detour to see if it would be possible to get a good look at the nearby rice paddies, and the nosiness was repaid by finding Changfu Hall (長福堂) tucked away just off the main road behind a metal shed. This Qing era structure – the ancestral home of the Huang family – looks like it’s currently undergoing renovation work to ensure that it will endure another 100 years.
Changfu Hall is located in a small hamlet on the edge of a larger urban area that – since 1984 – has been called White Egret Village (白鷺村). Evidently, a substantial egret population on the local farmland was an inspiration to the namers.
For several stretches of this bike ride we found ourselves surrounded by huge polytunnels and open fields given over to growing different crops. For the most part, the crops were leafy greens – given the wide variety of such vegetables available in Taiwan, I guess it’s hardly surprising to find them being so extensively grown close to the capital city.
As well as greens, there were also quite a lot of paddy fields growing rice – all early on in the growing cycle. And we spotted numerous old buildings nestled into their own patches of land.
One of the communities we passed through was Dahuofang (大火房), a small area within Zhuyuan Li (竹園里) where the texture of village life is very much still on display. A chicken restaurant keeps its stock in a coop out front, and locals dry their suancai on racks beside the road.
As I stopped to photograph the village scenery, Teresa got off her bike to make friends with this beautiful pup. He seemed very content to just sit with her.
Just twenty metres from where the mustard leaves were drying in the wind was the first of several laundry pools that we saw on this ride. Evidently, it’s one of around ten located in this li (a li/里 is the smallest administrative region in Taiwan’s system of land demarcation). The pool was divided into two areas, an upper pool where crystal clear water flowed in (used for washing vegetables), and a lower pool where people were washing their clothes. This wasn’t the first such pool I’d come across, I think I saw maybe four or five whilst walking the Tamsui-Kavalan Trails, but this one was really nicely structured. Rocks were built into the pool’s edges to provide scrubbing boards to place the clothes on, and a seating area had been set up beneath the shade of a banyan tree. A sign beside the pool said that this style of laundry washing is a predominately Hakka* tradition and that people would come to wash their clothes and vegetables here in the morning then return in the afternoon once the day’s work was done to chat.
*Hakka people (客家人), are a Chinese ethnic group that has migrated from the north of China its southern provinces, and also Taiwan. For those without much background knowledge of this group, you might find this Taiwan Everything article to be a useful primer.
Beyond the laundry pool, we found ourselves on the only (tiny) climb of the whole route as we briefly rode up to join Kanding Road. We didn’t stay on this main road for long though and soon found ourselves back on the side roads where old graves butted up against storage huts, and doubled up as cat feeders.
Cycling through the narrow village lanes, it felt like a million miles away from the modern noise of Taipei City. (It’s probably 20 miles at most, as the crow flies.)
Speeding downhill, we soon found ourselves at Shaoli Fushan Temple (宵里福山宮), a land god temple with several sprawling banyan trees out front and an attached laundry pool. This one has a roof to shade it from the elements, so people can come and do their washing regardless of the weather.
We parked up and went to take a brief look at Fushan Temple Ecological Park, a rather new-looking area of parkland with pools, cherry trees and play equipment. By the time we returned, an aunty had pulled up on her scooter and was settling in to do a spot of washing.
Around here, our park took us through one of the more built-up residential areas that we would pass through, and if we’d needed refreshments there were plenty of places we could have stopped, but we didn’t so we passed straight over the busy main street and over towards the quieter Xiaoli Road. Glancing left I saw an unexpected sight: a duckling creche in someone’s front room/kitchen. Across the road, a flock of fully grown ducks honked at each other in a field.
Just off the main road we spotted another of these sprawling traditional houses. Was it occupied? Functioning as a carpark/ancestral hall? Maybe both. The inner main hall seemed the best preserved, with some renovation work definitely having been done to the inner wings, and the outer wings had been more or less left to decay.
The previous hall all but backs onto another, and this one has a name: Zhide Hall (至德堂). Actually, that’s a dumb thing to say. The other one has a name too, I just don’t know it.
When we passed through Zhide Hall (also known as Wu Wu Gong Ting/吳屋公廳) was being prepared for an event of some description so we didn’t go through the front gates to take a closer look, but we did park our bikes and take a little wander up the short trail behind the building. It’s just a hundred metres or so long, and loops back down on the hall’s far side, close to what I think was my favourite pool of the all the ones we saw.
Stone Mother Laundry Pool (石母娘妳浣衣池) sits beneath the extended branches of a banyan tree, close to a simple temple and a couple of buildings (with Taiwan turquoise paintwork on the windows). Why is it my favourite? I’m not really sure, I just like the atmosphere here, it feels like such a perfect pocket of village life. Going by photos you can see of the pool online, it’s a popular summer hangout spot for families with young children. Whilst we were there we saw someone filling up huge six-litre bottles of water to carry home, someone else washing vegetables, and a third doing laundry. It really seems to be a multipurpose site for those who frequent it.
The Stone Mother (石母娘娘) which lends its name to the laundry pool is a trio of three smallish boulders that have held significance to the local residents for at least 250 years. As with many such tales, this is family lore rather than verifiable fact, but apparently, they were discovered when the Wu Family (residents of the next-door Zhide Hall) were searching for a water source. How did they know these three stones were spiritually significant? Because they were glowing of course.
The family decided to venerate the stones – as is proper if you find rocks that glow – and they were given a simple altar. In later years, the stone acquired a reputation for being a spirit that would help to cure and soothe sick infants. In the early days of this area’s settlement by Han and Hakka families, there wasn’t exactly much in the way of medical care, and so people did what they could, they prayed to the gods. At some point, a local mother with an ill child was advised to pray to the deity residing in this place, and ask it if it would accept her child as an adoptive ‘godchild,’ and in return, the child’s family would ensure that the incense was always lit on the first and fifteenth days of each lunar month. The baby regained full health, and soon other mothers were bringing their children here to be adopted by the caring Stone Mother.
I don’t know enough about this practise of giving children to be adopted by gods to explain it well, but I think it can be done for various reasons, and it involves that child having some responsibility to the deity they’re given to for the rest of their lives – my partner tells me that her grandfather gave her and her mother to a specific god and she talks about it as if it’s a kind of spiritual burden or duty.
The view from behind Zhide Hall. Back when those tall buildings weren’t on the horizon it must have been quite a spectacular sight.
Continuing along Xiaoli Road, we passed two more pools in quick succession. I almost missed one because it was set a little below road level.
From this point on, it felt like we were straying away from the old inhabited areas into places that had been occupied only more recently (relatively recently at least).
There were lots of paddy fields reflecting the buildings and grey clouds – I don’t think I will every get bored of seeing this type of scenery.
The furthest point of our journey from Neili Station was this old grave. On signs it’s named Ying Pan Tumulus (營盤古墓), but perhaps ‘tomb’ would work better for most Europeans (when I think of a tumulus, it’s considerably older than this). Also, elsewhere it is referred to as Panying Tumulus, and it seems that maybe both names have been used at different times.
During the Qing period, this area was guarded against the indigenous population at the behest of the Qing court. That is what gave it the name Yingpan (營盤), a term that indicates that there was once a military camp here. One event in particular saw lots of bloodshed: the Lin Shuangwen rebellion (林爽文事件), a nationwide rebellion led by Lin Shuangwen against the Qing officials who were then in control of Taiwan. Lin and his forces attacked or threatened to attack several Hakka areas, spurring the Hakka community to muster up volunteer forces to fight against him. Lin was defeated, but still, many people died, and the dead local fighters were returned to their hometowns and venerated in mass heroes’ graves instead of the more traditional individual ones. There are several such burial mounds in Bade District where locals were able to pay their respects to the Yimin (義民, or righteous people – a term used specifically to describe the brave men who died defending their homes).
During the Japanese era, the ruling officials attempted to prohibit the practise of Yimin worship, but it’s clear that they failed. In 2013, the gravesite was rebuilt with funds from local temples, and it continues to be looked after.
A tiny roadside shrine. I’ll never know, but I’d love to know why it exists here.
Tractors are a relatively common site here. We saw one chugging its way past the construction for Bade’s future MRT station.
This family had just been to pay their respects to this roadside land god temple. Their two dogs were more interested in exploring the neat rows of rice.
In some places, the rural scenery gave way to slightly more industrial, or perhaps just the strange borderland between urban and rural areas. It was sometimes hard to tell if buildings were abandoned or just dilapidated.
We did also pass through some parts that were very definitely industrial, rows of electric scooters parked outside workers’ dorms, big boxy buildings harbouring paint factories, meat processing plants, recycling centres. I’m glad we passed through on a Sunday, it was almost eerily silent, but I imagine that it would be very different on a weekday.
At one point during our ride, we found ourselves heading over the type of terrain that YouBikes most decidedly are not built for.
The cracked tarmac we had been following became a rough farm track, leading us along the side of buildings and between rice fields.
Teresa eventually found herself at the far end of the track and with nowhere left to go. So of course, she decided she’d rather pick up the bike and haul it across a short patch of grass instead of cycling all the way back to the road. A few years ago I would have insisted that we retrace our
steps pedals, but not anymore.
We plonked the bikes back down in a temple’s car park, much to the bemusement of the temple folk who were sitting around and drinking tea.
For a stretch of the return journey, we found ourselves cycling alongside Jiadong River (笳冬溪 – initially Teresa read it as Qiedong River but she changed her mind after we passed Jiadong Elementary School). The road which follows the river is part of Taoyuan’s cycle network (indicated by distance markers and white bicycle symbols on the tarmac).
As we found ourselves riding back into the more built-up areas we started to see more and more shops mixed in with residential buildings. Teresa was particularly interested in this 4×4 graveyard – presumably where the car repair store across the road keeps its spare parts.
The final stop of the trip was Jiadongli Retention Pool Park (茄苳里埤塘公園). While no doubt useful, retention ponds aren’t exactly the prettiest of features, but the local authorities have at least tried to add something of visual interest. Huge, colourful sculptures resembling water lilies can be seen floating on the surface, a trail has been laid around the edge of the pool for walkers, and exercise equipment has been installed.
Finally it was time to say goodbye to our bikes for the day. We left them at Ziqiang Park rather than the station and walked the rest of the way on foot because we’d hoped to get dinner along the way. Sadly the shop we were aiming for was closed, and we ended up heading back to Taipei on the train with empty bellies.
How to get to Bade District
Google maps address: We started and ended our ride at Neili Station, but honestly you don’t need to make a loop, you could just as easily set a course for any other station with a YouBike stand.
- Changfu Hall – N24 57.300 E121 16.030
- Dahuofang Laundry Pool – N24 56.575 E121 15.930
- Shaoli Fushan Temple and Laundry Pool – N24 56.096 E121 15.839
- Zhide Hall – N24 55.820 E121 15.675
- Stone Mother Laundry Pool – N24 55.780 E121 15.650
- Ying Pan Tomb – N24 55.160 E121 15.845
Public transport: The most convenient way to arrive here is to catch a train to Neili. You can pick up a YouBike from either station exit, but the cycle loop we did was all south of the tracks.
Further reading: For more background information on the Hakka practise of Yimin worship check out this post from Josh Ellis.
Bade Cycle Loop Trail Map
GPX file available here on Outdoor Active. (Account needed, but the free one works just fine.)
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2 thoughts on “BADE CYCLE LOOP (八德區自行車O型)”
Lovely scenary and wonderful descriptions. Love all the photographs especially the dog with Teresa. Keep on tracking ! 🌞😸
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Thanks! Wherever Teresa is, there will be a dog somewhere nearby. That girl is a dog magnet!