From paragliding to popsicles: a mix of travel experiences in Luye Township
By Cheryl Robbins
The most well known tourist site in Luye Township, located in southeastern Taiwan's Taitung County and the southern part of the East Rift Valley, is the Luye Plateau. This is the venue for Taitung County's hot air balloon festival, held every summer. However, year round it is an excellent paragliding destination. Best of all, you don't need much advance planning. You can sign up when you arrive. Paragliding happens when weather conditions are suitable and doesn't when they aren't. Launch points include the Luye Plateau which is for beginners wanting a few minutes of flight time just to experience the sport, without committing to staying aloft for a long period of time (NT$1,800). Those up to the challenge can launch from Taiping Mountain, claimed to be the highest paragliding departure point in Taiwan at 900 meters and land on the Luye Plateau at about 350 meters in elevation (NT$2,500). All flights are in tandem, meaning with a licensed instructor. English-speaking instructors are available. Soar Paragliding (Tel: 089-552200 or 0917-075990) has a registration booth at the Luye Plateau, as well as a shuttle service to Taiping Mountain.
After your flight or on a hot Taitung day, what's the best way to relax? With a frozen popsicle made from locally grown fruit, of course! Flavors include roselle (an edible flower), pineapple, custard apple, lemon, passionfruit, mango, and orange, to name a few. The Spring Trading Company (https://www.spring-selection.me/) was founded in Luye with the mission to buy fruit too ripe for market, that was once given away or discarded by farmers, and use it to make flavorful popsicles. Their branch near the Luye Plateau is very unique in that it is based on the honor system. There is no staff on site. Customers pick the popsicle they want from the freezer and place the money for it in a box. Then, they can enjoy their popsicle in a seating area overlooking the slopes below. Children can color and adults can leave a message in a large notebook laid out on a wooden table.
Heading downward to Guangrong Road in the Longtian Community, there are several distinctive shops, such as A Rong's Gan Zai Store (Tel: 0910-176827). "Gan zai" refers to a type of orange. This is a farmers market or grocery store that mostly sells produce from local, small farms and other locally made items such as cards and pottery. Behind the store is the home where the owner grew up. It is an old farmhouse with two rooms available for those who would like to exchange work for room and board. There is also an area for drying pineapple slices. The juice from the pineapple steaming process is sometimes served in the coffee shop. The menu there also includes organic coffee grown in Taitung and tea that is produced by the owner's family.
Speaking of growing things, diagonally across from A Rong's shop is Cui Dei Yuan, a small botanical and butterfly garden run by Ms. Chiu (Tel: 089-551138 or 0922-701433), a retired educator. Her passion is seeds, which she turns into art works that she sells in her shop adjacent to the garden. Visitors can stroll through the garden and try making their own works of art using seeds, wood and betel nut calyx. If traveling alone or just with a few people, reservations are not absolutely necessary for DIY projects, but should be made at least a day or two in advance if your group has 10 or more people.
Along the same road is Ado's Bike Rental Shop (https://zh-tw.facebook.com/AdoBike/) and visits to these two sites can be included in a self-guided cycling tour of the area. In recent years, this community has gained in popularity and several restaurants and guesthouses have opened, making it possible to stay overnight or even longer in this quaint, rural community.