Cycling back in time: Taitung's Longtian Bike Path
By Cheryl Robbins
Longtian Village is a quaint rural community, part of which is laid out in a checkerboard pattern. It was developed during the Japanese occupation period (1895-1945) and was home to mainly Japanese residents at that time. There are currently six wooden buildings from that era still standing in this community. That is why a visit to this area is like going back in time.
The main route of the Longtian Bike Path runs between the Luye Train Station and the Bunun Tribal Leisure Farm in neighboring Yanping Township, and is 5.2 kilometers long. Its branch route is 15 kilometers long and includes a challenging ride uphill to the Luye Plateau before connecting to the Wuling Green Tunnel Bikeway (please see my article in this section entitled Wuling Green Tunnel Bikeway: Short but sweet).
If you do not have your own bicycle, a great place to start your visit is at Ado's Bike Rental Shop on Guangrong Road (https://zh-tw.facebook.com/AdoBike/). It is not only possible to rent a bicycle here, but also to sign up for a guided tour and to purchase souvenirs and beverages. A variety of bicycles are available from a regular two-wheeler (NT$100) to tandem bicycle (NT$200) and four-wheel pedal-driven carriage (NT$400). Electric versions are also available from electric bicycles (add NT$100) to electric scooters (add NT$200) and electric four-wheel carriage (add NT$400). The guided tour package including regular bicycle rental is NT$200 per person.
Usually the first stop along this guided tour is a historical one, an 88-year-old former school principal's dormitory adjacent to the Longtian Elementary School. It is not possible to enter this wooden structure, but from the exterior, elements of Japanese architecture common to that era are evident, such as the raising of the foundation to prevent flood waters from entering and sliding shutters.
Continuing with the Japanese era theme is the Luye Shinto Shrine, next to the Kunci Temple. If you think it looks too new to be from that era, you would be correct. The current version was completed in 2014 with the participation of traditional craftspeople from Japan. The original shrine was built in 1923 and moved to this site in 1931. Following World War II, all that remained was the pedestal. The temple itself is also quite interesting, as it has an even longer history, and is devoted to the worship of the wife of the Jade Emperor. It is brightly colored, which is an interesting contrast to the wooden shrine.
A major stop is an area of grassland that serves as a paragliding landing area for those taking off from the Luye Plateau above. The roadway next to this grassy area is lined on both sides in Madagascar almond trees, creating a natural "green tunnel". On a clear or mostly clear day, an interesting optical illusion is created. In the past, Ado's guides would ask tour participants to lie on the roadway and look up . The sky appears like a lake surrounded by mountains and forest. Due to safety concerns voiced by local residents, this has been modified to working in pairs, with one person leaning backward.
The ridge of Guanyin (Goddess of Mercy) Mountain in the distance appears like a woman's face, from where it gets its name. On that mountain, a Japanese geologist discovered sapphires four decades ago and mining of these gems was carried out until about 25 years ago to prevent too many sapphires from flooding the market and driving down the price and to protect these resources and the surrounding natural environment.
The tour, which lasts for one to two hours, continues along this green tunnel before heading back to where it started. Along the way are numerous pineapple and tea plantations. This tour normally covers only the flatter areas of Longtian Village making it a good choice if traveling with children or for those who are not up to the climb to the Luye Plateau.