The Beauty of Checheng
By Lishea Chen Translated by Ann Lee
Surrounded by mountains and water, Checheng is a scenic town with a whole lot of relaxation potential. Since the decline of the local generator factory and the sugar cane and lumber industries, Checheng has once again become a quiet town, a simple destination for tourists to explore via a railway spur. But, in this month's travel story, we will be telling you more about this wood-loving town, where the plum trees are always blossoming and the wine jugs are never empty.
Back then when Checheng's Zhen-Chang wood industry was at its peak, this place was referred to as "little Taipei". Allthough there's not much left of it, some wooden architecture from those lumber days still remains. Ever since the 921 earthquake, the Sun Moon Lake Scenic Area Management Bureau has taken over the area and has started work on a thorough and wonderful museum that will focus entirely on the wood industry in Checheng. If all goes according to plan, the project will be completed by the end of the year. You can also find out more about the town's history in wood through the tourist information center, or by riding the wooden gondola cars.
Xinzaomu Tea House (04-9277-2873, Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) serves generously-portioned meals, snacks and beverages. One very special item on the menu is their Wood Bucket Lunch Box, which is served as a set meal in a wooden bucket. After lunch, you can even take home the bucket, with its lid, as a souvenir. The Carpentry DIY Classroom (04-9277-7462, hours same as above) sells a great selection of wooden merchandise from pencil/pen holders (NT$60) to quality wooden tables that cost several thousand NT dollars. Every piece you purchase here can be imprinted with the pattern of a train or money. Both the tea house and the studio are owned and operated by the second generation of the Zhen-Chang Corporation, Mr. Sun, whose friendly, personable nature makes customers feel welcome in his establishments. To celebrate the grand opening of the Wood Industry Museum, Mr. Sun has also invested time and effort to build a Wood Industry Creative Center, where everything is made with recycled timber.
Checheng Winery (04-9287-0399) is not your usual wine-tasting venue. All the wines they sell here are made from fresh plums and are cleverly named after or are related to trains and the railway. The most recent bottle, called "Speed 300," has a high-speed rail themed label on the front. The second floor is their free wine-tasting area; the staff will first serve some ice-cold plum vinegar and then pour several kinds of plum wines for you to taste. Stroll walk to the balcony and toast to the mountains while taking in the breeze. From there you can enjoy the smell of homemade, roasted plum wine sausages wafting up from the first floor.
On Saturday, September 16, the winery will be celebrating their fifth anniversary from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will also invite CK124 steam engines to chug on down the tracks and make an appearance, so visitors will get to appreciate the history of Checheng. Finally, the Agricultural Bureau will be promoting some plum products and "Plum Color Energy Noodles," which are made with soy and bean curd sauce. All in all, the anniversary party should be something unique to try.