The rain became heavier as we left the charming Chishang Township in the northern part of Taitung County back south towards Luye Township. Most travellers who have heard of Luye Township would probably know it because of the popular annual hot-air balloon festival every July at Luye Gaotai. But no, we weren’t going to try a hot-air balloon journey, because of weather & timing. 2017 hot-air balloon festival would only start on 30 June & end on 6 August. Outside the festival period, hot-air balloon rides are available only early in the morning or in the evening when the air is cooler, & only permissible to fly in dry weather.
So you may ask, what else is there to check out in Luye Township? Because of its strategic location in the East Rift Valley in Taitung, Luye is home to the largest plain in Taitung, & the plateau, elevated 350m above sea level, is ideal for paragliding. Luye is also known for its tea plantations, Luming Suspension Bridge & Wuling Green Tunnel.
哪鹿野乡除了热气球还有什么好看好玩？位于花东纵谷的鹿野乡，拥有台东最大的高台大草皮，而这高台的视野辽阔，是台湾东部最佳的飞行伞与滑翔翼练习场。当然，鹿野乡广阔的茶园，昔日台9线交通联络要道 – 鹿鸣吊桥，以及武陵绿色隧道也很有名。
Enroute to Luye, we passed by Yanping Township, a mountain indigenous township populated mainly by the Taiwanese aborigines – Bunun people. The small & lesser known township (455.8 sq.m.) used to be administered by Luye Township until 1945. Over 95% of land area in the township is mountainous with an average altitude of 400m. We didn’t visit the more well-known Hongye Village in the township. Instead, we were driven to a historical suspension bridge constructed since the Japanese Occupation.
Situated by Luliao Creek, construction works for Mingye Bridge was completed in 1933 during the Japanese Occupation. Back then, the wide suspension bridge was one of the main roads that connected the aborigines in Wuling Village to other parts of East Rift Valley. However, as traffic to & fro Taitung continued to grow after the end of WWII, Mingye Bridge couldn’t cope with the increasing traffic load. Thus, the provincial highway bureau decided to build another bridge (Wuling Bridge) on its right in December 1965. Overtime, due to lack of maintenance & usage, Mingye Bridge collapsed. Now, what we see is only the 2 bridge piers that remain, with paintings of the tribal folks on its walls. The historical structure certainly evoked rustic charm, enhanced on a rainy day hidden amidst the misty backdrop of mountains.
Just a 3-min quick drive from Mingye Bridge, we took a scenic drive through the Wuling Green Tunnel. The 4.5 km long stretch of road is covered by 2 rows of tall shady trees – the camphor tree & casuarina tree. It was quite a lovely sight driving through this long stretch of evergreen trees. Although the colours were different, it somewhat brought back pleasant memories of the cherry blossom trees during my road trip in Gyeongju, Korea last April. Too bad the weather wasn’t favourable that day, & we were running short of time, hence we couldn’t alight to take some beautiful shots of the place. In fact, my friend only managed to snap a photo while in the car, which I believe doesn’t do justice to how awe-inspiring the sight was!
Following, Mr Wang drove us to a hidden gem in neighbouring Luye Township, up some narrow hilly paths before our car stopped at the secret spot for photo-taking. He mentioned that so far, only travellers who booked a private tour with them would be able to visit this huge Red Cedar Tree of more than a century old as it’s relatively unknown to others.
Most travellers would have known about the sacred red cypress tree in Alishan, a renowned tourist spot in central Taiwan. If you do a search online, you would probably only find the one in Alishan too. Both species of trees may have a similar physical appearance, but on closer look, the cedar is an evergreen while the cypress is a deciduous. This sacred tree thrives in low altitudes of 1,500 m or below, & is a native tree worshipped by the locals due to its sheer size & age. I stood beside it & could feel how tiny I was compared to its towering height.
Next, it was time for some cool desserts (although the weather wasn’t exactly hot since it was raining since the day before). There is a famous Spring Trading Company that produces fresh fruit ice pops using seasonal fruits bought from local farmers in Luye Gaotai. Although this fresh fruit ice pop brand is sold in other parts of Taiwan, this flagship Luye 76 shop that we were brought to did not have any cashier or staff stationed here.
The male & female restrooms are located on the ground floor of the building, alongside the famous vast grass plains in Yong-an Village. As we arrived at the shop on level 2, we saw a few customers playing marbles at the games table. There were also some who were eating fresh fruit ice pops at the balcony overlooking the plain. Indeed, we couldn’t find any staff, but there is a cash box next to 2 fridges containing a variety of fresh fruit ice pops such as passion fruit, orange, kumquat, lemon & roselle, so that you can “pay” on your own after getting the ice pop of your choice. Trusting yet interesting concept that not only resolves the manpower crunch faced by many businesses around the world, & also tests the honesty of everyone who patronizes the shop. We also paid for our ice pops without any hesitance, reasonably priced between 30 to 60 TWD (~S$1.40 to 2.80) per stick.
Finally, the last stop of the day was Luming Suspension Bridge, a suspension bridge built since 1959, listed as one of Taitung’s historical architecture. Back then, it was an important road to connect to Provincial Highway 9, linking Yanping, Luye & Beinan townships. Legend has it that there used to be a lot of wild deer roaming & snorting around the bridge in the past, & so the Japanese named this area a “deer hut”, That’s how the bridge got its Chinese name.
The part where we snapped some shots, actually belongs to the Luming Suspension Bridge Recreation Area under the administration of Yanping Township. Completed in 1992, the recreation area comprised of the viewing platform & pedestrian walkway to allow visitors to marvel at its beauty from the best spot. Its striking red colour certainly creates a stark contrast with the surrounding natural scenery of Luye Creek. Pity it was getting dark at 6.30 pm so we didn’t have time to walk along the bridge to enjoy the scenery & check out the old bridge at the other end.
This marks the end of our first day exploring the beauty of East Rift Valley. Weather might not have been perfect, adding a mystical feel to the mountain views throughout the day, but it was a fruitful day nonetheless!