In early October, my school embarked on a company trip to some of Chiayi County’s lesser-known attractions. It’s impossible to enjoy the scenery pass-by or engage in a pleasant conversation with the person sitting next to you on a bus ride for a company trip. Every minute on the bus has an activity planned: Ours included some goofy memory games, an informative speech about the destinations we would be visiting [followed immediately by a Q&A session to make sure we were paying attention], raffles, number guessing games, riddles, and KTV. For losing one of the games I was forced to tell a joke, I chose the Joker’s final joke from The Killing Joke. As a reward I won a pack of instant noodles – clearly the highlight of the bus ride. I was reluctant to take part in the KTV portion of the trip but sang an Wu Bai song to be a good sport. My portion of the bus was particularly rowdy – I don’t know if that had to do with KTV coupled with room temperature Heinekens or the fact that all my coworkers are overworked and don’t get out enough.
Our first destination and the topic of this post, was Lioujiao Township’s Suantou Sugar Refinery [蒜頭糖廠]. I’ve been to two of these tourism factories before: The Yue-mei Sugar Refinery in Houli and the Ciaotou Sugar Refinery in Kaohsiung.
The first portion of our tour included a ride on one of the refinery’s tourist trains. The train took us a few kilometers in one direction to enjoy the slowly passing scenery of rural Chiayi County accompanied by our tour guide who was busy giving an impassioned and detailed history of the Taiwan sugar industry over a loudspeaker. After about twenty minutes or so, the train went back in the direction from which it came and eventually went through a tunnel in the factory that was decorated with a few old lanterns.
There was a small seating area inside the refinery for visitors to listen to more information about the refining process. I took this opportunity along with the other non-Hoklo Taiwanese speaking people in our group to explore and take photographs up, down, and outside the designated tour path of the refinery.
After that portion of the tour was over. We had about an hour to ourselves. Most of the group bought popsicles and other TaiSugar related products while I decided to walk around the train yard a bit and tried my best to finish off a roll of Fujifilm Superia 200 which had been in my FM2 for ages. For fun, try to guess which shots from this series were shot on Superia without checking the Flickr photo tags.
For some reason, this photo reminds of the Oil Ocean Zone in Sonic 2
Sugar cultivation started in Taiwan during the mid-1600s when an influx of Chinese specialized in growing rice and sugar began arriving. Before long, sugar became Taiwan’s primary export. Under Japanese occupation, processing was modernized and by 1939 annual production peaked at 1.4 million tons with one-fifth of the island’s arable land being devoted to sugarcane cultivation. Taiwanese sugar was uncompetitive on the international market but was sold duty-free in Japan.
The Taiwan Sugar Corporation [台灣糖業公司] or Taisugar [台糖] was created in 1946 after Taiwan’s handover to Nationalist rule and merged all the existing sugar companies left from the Japanese occupation era. A sugar boom during the 1950s and 1960s was followed by a rapid decline as Taiwan ceased being an agricultural economy and rose to become an industrial power. Although it is not uncommon to still see sugar grown in farms large and small throughout Taiwan, most of Taiwan’s sugar refineries have shut down and the national TaiSugar Corp. has since diversified.
My suggestion, if you are going to visit any of the several old sugar refineries is to visit the one in Kaohsiung. I’m pretty sure that’s the only one with any English information. If you just want to take pictures of an abandoned factory, then any of them will do.