The idea of doing a Taiwan trip came about shortly after I returned home from my Korea spring trip last year, but it went through several versions of changes before I finally decided on the specific destinations about 3 months ago. While it was clear that Taitung was my main focus for this summer trip, Fangliao was never on the list. In fact, I didn’t even know this small fishing town in Pingtung County existed. At least not until I decided that 1 of the highlights of the trip was to take the train to Taitung which would bring us to the most scenic coastal regions of Taiwan.
Because the special train (an old local train without air-con) only runs once a day at 11 am from Fangliao to Taitung, but our flight to Kaohsiung only arrives at 10.20 am, I decided the best way was to stay 1 night at Fangliao, so that we would not need to rush for an early morning train from Kaohsiung to Fangliao (which takes about an hour) the following day to catch this rustic local train. That’s how we ended up starting our trip in Fangliao, a small town totally off the beaten tourist path.
We reached Fangliao Station at about 1.30pm on a scorching sunny day. At Kaohsiung Station where we were to purchase train tickets, we were approached a few times by local drivers asking if we wanted to go Kenting. Even when we reached Fangliao Station, the station staff asked if we were heading to Kenting. Everyone seemed surprised we were going to stay 1 night in Fangliao! Probably because there’s really nothing much to see & do in this small town I guess, as you can see from the map of the town below.
As it was still too early to check in to the minsu, we deposited our luggage at the train station at just 30 TWD (~S$1.40) per piece & headed to a dessert shop about 5 minutes’ walk from the station. The shop (I would translate its name as Uncle Gang Desserts? :P) was highly recommended by the minsu host, who mentioned that the Mango Snow Ice is a must-try as it is in season now. Exit the train station (there’s only 1 exit like you see above), walk straight for about 2 min till you see Zhongshan Road then turn left. Uncle Gang is located on the right after the bridge along this road.
There were 2 types of Mango Snow Ice, 1 was as seen in above photo with freshly cut mango cubes, & another was the Mango flavoured snow ice. The boss strongly recommended us the mango cube version (90 TWD, ~S$4.20), saying mangoes are in season now & guaranteed full satisfaction. Indeed, the Mango Cube Snow Ice was wonderful, a generous portion of chunky mango cubes that were so sweet. Certainly we couldn’t get such a big yummy bowl anywhere else in Taiwan & of course Singapore.
We also took his suggestion to try the Black Sugar Shaved Ice (40 TWD, ~S$1.85) where we could pick any 4 preferred ingredients from the counter. We thought this looks just like Singapore’s Ice Kachang, except without the coloured syrups & milk on top. I can’t remember the exact 4 ingredients we chose, but I recalled there was this yummy ingredient he recommended which was chewy like pearls yet not as starchy with a hint of yam flavour. The desserts kind of quenched our thirst in the scorching weather, especially the Black Sugar Shaved Ice. 🙂
Both the boss & his wife were very friendly, & chatted with us for a while when they noticed we aren’t locals. Apparently they decided to open this dessert shop back in their hometown more than a decade ago after working in the city all their working lives. As Fangliao is a small town & people tend to know one another, they decided to use the boss’ father’s name as the shop name so that people can resonate quickly with the brand.
As it was really hot, we didn’t really explore much of the small town. We didn’t even make it to the harbour. 😦 Based on memory, there was only 1 supermarket we spotted in the vicinity, where we went in to purchase poncho & mosquito repellent (in anticipation of the powerful native mosquitoes in Huadong region). Many shops were closed even in the day (we wonder why). Nonetheless, there were pleasant surprises of beautiful scenery as we strolled along the streets taking in the random views.
Too bad by the time we got out of minsu to check out the Fangliao Railway Art Village, it was already closed except for 1 cafe restaurant nearest the station. Nonetheless, I managed to take a photo of the train at its entrance. Not sure if there are enough art pieces for us to tour around when it’s open though, as the village looks really small.
Along the road right outside the train station, we found a stall where several locals were queuing for leek & pork buns. Its logo stated it was a 20-year-old shop that hailed from Kaohsiung. Since it was dinner time, we bought 1 leek bun & 1 pork bun each to try (20 TWD, ~S$0.95). It was fried crisply & rather tasty, just a little disappointed the filling wasn’t a lot though, but still worth the try.
After dark, there was hardly any shops or restaurants that were still opened. We wondered how we could feed ourselves for the night. In the end, we managed to buy some simple beef noodles (zi-char style) & soup from a restaurant that was still open, & had our dinner back in the comfort of our minsu. No fanciful meals or dishes to shout about, just simple dishes to cure our hunger pangs.
The next morning, as the minsu didn’t provide us with breakfast, we had to venture out to find food. Again, the town was still sleepy with barely anyone open for business. Most of the shops, if open, were selling rice dishes. Probably only this 1 we patronized had noodle dishes too. The vegetarian noodles (40 TWD, ~S$1.85) which I had looked plain but was surprisingly quite flavourful.
Lastly, before we departed Fangliao on the local train to Taitung, we made a final stop at the Wei Yi Mei Breakfast Shop just outside the station, with the intention to grab a meal to eat on the train later. It was a typical Taiwan breakfast shop selling homemade burgers, sandwiches and egg rolls. I bought the chicken burger set that came with iced red tea for just 50 TWD (~S$2.35). It was just a simple burger with the chicken patty fried only upon order, but couldn’t ask too much when it’s so cheap isn’t it? 😛
Although there really was nothing too exciting throughout the 24 hours in Fangliao, but looking back, we experienced the local way of life in this small fishing town. Travelling is about experiencing local cultures. So we did achieve a lot in the seemingly boring day in Fangliao after all! 😉