Wushulin Recreation Park
Wushulin Recreation Park
Wushulin is an old sugarcane processing and transport hub that has been given new life as a sprawling, quirky recreation area where visitors can learn about Taiwan’s rail history, take a ride on the sugarcane train, enjoy a barbecue, try out an earthquake simulator, get a lesson in orchid cultivation, and watch a transvestite talent show, all in an afternoon (the talent show is for a limited time only). If you need high culture to get your thrills, this probably isn’t the place for you. But for those who like to kick back and enjoy some kitschy fun, Wushulin Recreation Park is a heaven-sent balm for the soul.
The Wushulin Sugar Mill was built in 1910, during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. The Japanese modernized local production methods by building sugar mills around the island and adding networks of narrow-gauge railways to streamline delivery from the fields to the factories. Soon, Wushulin was shipping out 840 tons of sugar a day.
But it was the 1950s and 60s that were the heyday of sugar in Taiwan. The Taiwan Sugar Corporation had taken over the mills after World War II. They continued improving production techniques and expanded the railroads into a huge private network that transported employees and local residents as well as sugarcane. With about a million tons produced annually, sugar exports amounted to well over half of Taiwan’s foreign trade at the time.
By the 1970s, however, the sugar industry was in decline, and Taisugar began to phase out the mills. Wushulin was closed down in 1982, although it was later repurposed as a center for the cultivation of butterfly orchids for export to the US and Japan. Finally, in 2001, the doors of the park were thrown open to the public.
These days, a mishmash of activities are on offer at Wushulin. A universal favorite among these is the nostalgic ride on the old sugarcane train. This consists of a small, narrow-gauge train engine and flatcars that have been fitted with wooden seats and railings. The train runs hourly on weekends, and twice a day on weekdays. You’ll need to purchase a 100 NT ticket at the entrance for the fifty-minute round trip (there’s a stop halfway along where passengers can get food and drinks).
If you’re a train buff, you’ll love this place. It’s home to a number of working train engines on the tracks just inside the entrance, a tool shed where visitors are free to wander and which is stacked with old railroad tools and items, and a railway museum with a gigantic model train set that is designed as a scale model of the factory and local towns, with multiple tracks and four separate model trains.
Behind the railway museum is the earthquake simulator, where you can enjoy your very own earthquake experience for 60 NT. The simulator subjects the brave and foolhardy to a series of earthquakes measuring between 4 and 7 on the Richter scale. It’s not for the faint of heart, particularly since the simulator itself looks a bit under-maintenance.
When you’re ready for a break from all the excitement, you can tuck into an all-natural organic old-style lunch box or have some afternoon tea at the old brick police headquarters building. If cookouts are more your thing, head over to the campground, where there’s an area to grill food. And if you’re just dying to watch the show at the moment, you’ll find it in the performance hall behind the railway museum. Just be warned that tickets aren’t cheap.
Finally, before you leave, be sure to check out the orchid garden and gallery across the parking lot from the entrance. This was the place where orchid production in Taiwan got its start, and the gallery has orchids and other potted plants that you can view or purchase. You’ll also find an array of Taisugar products there to satisfy your sweet tooth.
No. 184, Wushulin, Houbi Dist., Tainan City
+886 6 6852681