Monday, August 7, 2017

Luye and Longtian by bicycle

Taitung is probably Taiwan's most unspoiled and scenic county. Of its 16 divisions (one city, two urban townships and 13 rural townships), perhaps the most attractive is Luye (鹿野鄉). Wherever you go in this township, which covers almost 90km2, you'll see both flat land and steep mountains.
At the time of writing, the population was just under 8,000, divided among seven villages. Many tourists focus their energy on Longtian (龍田), because almost a hundred years ago it was selected by the Japanese colonial authorities for development into a model immigrant village. The newcomers were Japanese eager to leave their overcrowded homeland. The policy was not a great success, however. Many migrants soon left the east, preferring the greater comfort and convenience of the big cities in Taiwan's west.

The Japanese authorities laid out a sensible grid-pattern of streets. In this sense, the village is quite different to many rural settlements in Taiwan, which developed without any sense of urban planning, influenced by the precepts of fengshui. As in other migrant settlements, there was a clinic, a police station, and a guidance office providing farming and technological assistance. 
The most convenient place to rent a bike is A-Du's Shop (阿度的店, pictured below) at 232 Guangrong Road, about 100m east of Longtian Elementary School. The shop's telephone number is (089) 550-706; the opening hours are 8:30 am to 6 pm every day. The range of vehicles available for hire includes four-seat electric-powered carts.
Tourists can follow Longtian Bikeway (龍田自行車道), 7.2km of designated bike paths, or just wander freely. Bilingual signs make finding your way around quite easy, but you'll likely have to come to a complete halt to read the rather small English words on signposts like these.
For many, the highlight of the bikeway is Wuling Green Tunnel (武陵綠色隧道, below), a stretch of road shaded by 60-year-old Indian Almond trees. Drive/ride with special care here, as some tourists like to lie down on the road surface to better appreciate the trees.
Wherever I go in Taiwan, I seek out Japanese-era landmarks and architecture. Luye Shrine (鹿野神; 308 Guangrong Road) is a Shinto place of worship, built in 1923 using funds provided by one of the Japanese-owned companies then dominating Taiwan's sugar industry
As with many other overtly Japanese structures, this building was demolished after World War II. The foundations remained in place, however, and the shrine (pictured above) was rebuilt in 2014.
Whether you're riding a bike, driving a car, or taking advantage of the #8168 Tourist Shuttle Bus (go here for route and schedule information), do get yourself to Luye Gaotai (鹿野高台, "Luye Plateau") as the views, like those above, never disappoint. Part of this tableland is given over to tea cultivation; another part is a launchpad for paragliders.
The township government is especially proud of the tea, pineapples and lychees that grow here, but the humble banana also thrives.
Anyone with an interest in nature should take a look at the Yulong Spring Eco-Trail (玉龍泉生態步道), which begins across the road from Shengan Temple (聖安宮), a small shrine in the lovely village of Yongan (永安). The trail goes down to a creek that's exceptionally rich in insect life. It's also possible to continue hiking to Luye Gaotai.
This blog post was sponsored by the East Rift Valley National Scenic Area Administration.

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