Taitung Backpack Bus Trip

Pristine Pastures in the Valley

Taking the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle through Taitung’s Charming Countryside

 

By Joe Henley

Photos: Maggie Song

 

The southeastern portion of Taiwan has some of the most beautiful scenery the country has to offer, with plenty of sun, bucolic mountain splendor, and thriving indigenous culture. A great option for discovering the area is taking the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle’s East Rift Valley Line.

 

Armed with a day pack and a ticket for the city of Taitung, I took the train from Taipei down along the eastern coast. The trip to Taitung, which takes 4 hours and 40 minutes with the fastest train, is amazing in itself, with the line south of Hualien running through the long East Rift Valley between the Central Mountain Range and Coastal Mountain Range, passing small towns and towering peaks on both sides.

 

Taitung Railway Station is the sixth stop on the East Rift Valley Line. The tourist shuttle-bus run starts at the visitor center in downtown Taitung and ends in Luye Township. From the railway station I walked to nearby Beinan Cultural Park (one stop from the station, if you take the tourist shuttle bus), to learn about the history and culture of the people who lived in the area in prehistoric times. I first stopped to have a look at a dig site where a portion of an ancient village, dating back about 3,500 years, has been unearthed, getting a glimpse into the everyday lives and beliefs of the prehistoric people. I learned that all houses in the village, and even their unique slate coffins, faced Mt. Dulan to the north of Taitung City, a sacred site revered as a holy provider.

 

 

For more comprehensive information on the prehistoric Beinan culture, visit the associated National Museum of Prehistory, which is not far away. Visitors can view ancient weaving instruments and stone tools, along with pottery and examples of Beinan architecture. There are also explanations of rites of passage, such as the teeth-extraction ceremony performed on both young men and women to prove, through tolerance of extreme pain, that they had indeed come of age. Most of the signage around the museum is in Mandarin only, but English audio tours are available.

 

Leaving Beinan Cultural Park, my next stop was the Yuan Sen Applied Botanical Garden (three stops from the park), a mountainside area where tourists can learn all about the approximately 1,000 herbs that grow in Taitung and all around Taiwan. Over 300 are cultivated at the garden, and tour guides are available to show visitors around (English-speaking guides are available). To avoid information overload, you might want to keep things simple, as I did, and focus on the most important herbs used in Chinese medicine. These include heartleaf, the Chinese name of which translates as “fishy-smell herb.” That should give you a pretty clear indication of the odor of the plant.

The botanical garden also has a large herbal-products gift shop where you can browse through items such as tea, snacks, beauty products, and over-the-counter medicines. A short walk away from the centrally located shop is a huge herbal-hotpot restaurant, with many local greens served fresh daily. All the food available in the restaurant has been produced organically, so it's a great place to enjoy a healthy midday meal in the midst of your trip around the Taitung area.

Next up was Chulu Ranch, the next stop on the tourist shuttle-bus line. The expansive 72-hectare ranch overlooks the botanical garden and the Pacific Ocean, in the distance to the east. The ranch is an active dairy farm, with around 200 head of Holstein cattle, along with horses, goats, ducks, turkeys, and assorted other farm animals. That might seem like a lot of ground to cover, but just recently the ranch rolled out a speedy and highly entertaining way to get around – Segway! A patient staff member showed me how to drive the two-wheeled, eco-friendly transportation tool which, much to my surprise, was quite easy to maneuver.

The curious calves caressed my outstretched hand with their rough tongues, their large eyes irresistibly adorable

 

 

 

 

 

I drove past the grazing grounds and over to the milking pens. Once there, I was introduced to a few of the ranch's newest inhabitants, some calves born just a few months before, including a rare set of twins. The curious calves caressed my outstretched hand with their rough tongues, their large eyes irresistibly adorable. Here you can see how raw milk is processed, with the opportunity to tour the working factory if you arrive in the morning, and you should also take the time to sample a few of Chulu Ranch's home-produced milk products. You can't go wrong with a tall, cool glass of fresh milk, along with some milk pudding or milk crackers. After seeing where my favorite breakfast cereal accompaniment comes from, I ramped up my Segway to its top cruising speed of 20 kilometers per hour on an open straightaway and was able to catch the shuttle bus to my final destination, the historic village of Longtian.

 

 

Getting off the shuttle at Luye Visitor Center (the second-to-last stop on the bus line), I quickly found A-Do's Bicycle Rental Store and Guided Tours. A young guide named Xiao-Min, a proud member of the Bunun Tribe and at times a touring performer in an indigenous song-and-dance troupe, was ready to show me around. We hopped on a pair of rental bikes, the best way to take a relaxing, slow tour of the area, and pedaled off down the road. During Taiwan’s period of Japanese colonial rule (1895~1945), which ended with the close of WW II, Japanese immigrants settled in Longtian, and there are still a few preserved historical buildings from that era, including an elementary school that dates back nearly a century. We passed by pineapple and Buddha-head fruit farms, along with a landing area for hang gliders sailing down from the Luye Gaotai (Luye Plateau), that look down over the village. A favorite spot for most tourists is the Longtian Green Tunnel, a road where trees on either side curve up and over the pavement, providing a natural overhang that stretches over a kilometer in length. Motor vehicles are so few and far between that it's actually possible to lay down on the road, look up at the green foliage above, and enjoy a few peaceful and uninterrupted moments of solitude.

My visit to Longtian literally ended with a bang, as my last stop was a small gunpowder factory. The owner put a few rocks of the explosive substance inside a bamboo tube and instructed me to hold a flaming torch near a small circular opening at the bottom, explaining that this is how local farmers scare pesky, crop-eating animals away. A sonic boom reverberated throughout the valley, drawing a hearty chuckle from Xiao-Min as I jumped back, startled and amused at the same time. With my heart still racing, I jumped on my bike and headed off to get the bus back to Taitung Railway Station, a thoroughly enjoyable day in the city of Taitung and surrounding Taitung County complete.

 

English & Chinese

Beinan Cultural Park 卑南文化公園

Bunun Tribe 布農族

East Rift Valley 花東縱谷

Longtian 龍田

Longtian Green Tunnel 龍田綠色隧道

Luye Gaotai 鹿野高台

Luye Township 鹿野鄉

Luye Visitor Center 鹿野遊客中心

Mt. Dulan 都蘭山

 

Taiwan Tourist Shuttle

Website: www.taiwantrip.com.tw

 

National Museum of Prehistory (國立臺灣史前文化博物館)

Add: 1, Bowuguan Rd., Taitung City (臺東市博物館路1號)

Tel: (089) 233-466

Website: www.nmp.gov.tw

Admission to Beinan Cultural Park is NT$30 for adults, NT$80 for the National Museum of Prehistory. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

 

Yuan Sen Applied Botanical Garden (台東原生應用植物園)

Add: 8, Shiyanchang, Mingfeng Village, Beinan Township, Taitung County

(台東縣卑南鄉明峰村試驗場8號)

Tel: 0800-385-858

Website: yuan-sen.com.tw

Ticket for adults are NT$250. There is also the option of purchasing entry along with a meal in the restaurant (NT$618 for adults), and discounts for children and groups are available. Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Chulu Ranch (初鹿牧場)

Add: 1, Muchang, Lin 28, Mingfeng Village, Beinan Township, Taitung County

(台東縣卑南鄉明峰村28鄰牧場1號)

Tel: 0800-571-002

Website: www.chuluranch.com

Ticket for adults are NT$100.

 

A-Do's Bicycle Rental Store and Guided Tours (阿度的店)

Add: 232, Guangrong Rd., Longtian Village, Luye Township, Taitung County

(台東縣鹿野鄉龍田村光榮路232號)

Tel: (089) 550-706

Website: www.facebook.com/AdoBike

 

Through the Grapevine

The Tatami of Dongshi

Lacquerware

Lion’s Head Mountain and Beipu

Exploring the Valley of the Glowing Sky

Fruit of the Angels

Its Cake Culture

The Amazing Bamboo

Yilan’s Kumquats

Lovely Nanzhuang

The Sea of Flowers in Xinshe Festival

Healthful Eating and Delicious Flavors

The Black King Kong of Yuanchang

From Art Brush to Beauty Brush

A Strange Fruit

The Sound of Drums

Zuoying Wannian Folklore Festival

The Hot Springs of Beitou

Simakusi (Smangus)

Meinong

Water Frolics

Overnighting on the Northeast Coast

Giant Buddha, Old Temples, and Glass Art

Mt. Beidawu

The Most Joyous Thing in the World is Music

Taiwan Fun on the Tropic of Cancer

FUN WITH CHINESE - Men in the Fields during Rain

NK 101 Tea @ Style

Taitung Backpack Bus Trip

The Life of Pi

Taipei’s East District Where the Art of Shopping Is Serious Business

Spring Onion Country Yilan's Sanxing Township Offers Ideal Conditions for Cultivating Scallions

Sandy Beaches, Rocky Coastline, Quiet Country A Whirlwind Tour Round Hengchun Peninsula

What Happened at Wushe

Confucius Day

Keeping It in the Family: I Wan Jan Puppet Theater

Taiwan Has a Unique Culture

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit and the ROC's 100 Years

All the Flowers You Can Dream Of

Music from the Marshland

Pristine Scenes

Fierce Faces

Following the Tide

A Wonderful World Out There

Off to the Beach and the Rocks

Taiwan’s Easy Rider Goes Into the Wild

HAKKA TUNG BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Taipei Int'l Flora Expo

HIDDEN HOT SPRINGS & LANDFORMS

JOURNEY into the PAST

YOUNG, GIFTED, AND DEAF

Taiwan's Ultra Man Going Beyond Extreme

Rice by Any Other Name

Taiwan is Beautiful!

TAIPEI EYE

Slate Houses and Mud Rivers

From Fir Formosa

Touring Kaohsiung by KMART

TOURING TAIWAN

Taoyuan HSR Station

Taking Taiwan's Slow Train

Bus Trip to Central Taiwan

Establishing a Beautiful Taiwan

High Mountain Ecology

Exploring High Mountain HighsTaiwan at Her Peaks

Cultural Tourism in Taiwan:What's in It for You?

Getting to Know Taiwan's Indigenous Cultures

Leaving Stress Behind

Taiwan! "Feel Good" Country

Exploring Taiwan's Rural Side

Aboriginal Tribes & Festivals

The Famous Lantern Festival in Taiwan

Night Markets in Taiwan

Great Arts, Culinary Exhibitions and Events in Taiwan's National Palace Museum and Other Places

Mountains in Taiwan

Water Fun in Taiwan

Taiwanese Arts, Arts Festivals and Interesting Artifacts

"Taiwan's Ghost Festival and Other Religious Events"

Dragon Boat Festival

City: The Tallest Building Taipei 101 & Kaohsiung's Love River

National Scenic Area (IV)-Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area, Penghu National Scenic Area, Matsu National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (III)-East Rift Valley National Scenic Area, East Coast National Scenic Area, Maolin National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (II)-Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Alishan National Scenic Area, Southwest Coast National Scenic Area

National Scenic Area (I)-North Coast & Guanyinshan National Scenic Area, Northeast Coast National Scenic Area, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area

Offshore Islands- Penghu、Kinmen National Park、Matzu、Green Island(Lyudao)、Orchid Island(Lanyu)

Eastern Taiwan- Taroko National Park、East Rift Valley、Rueisuei & Hongye、Jhihben

Southern Taiwan- Alishan、Tainan、Kaohsiung、Dapeng Bay & Little Liouciou、Kenting National Park

Central Taiwan- Miaoli、Taichung、Changhua、Nantou、Yushan National Park

Northern Taiwan -Taipei City、Yangmingshan & Beitou、Danshuei、Wulai、Jioufen & Jinguashih、Yilan、Taoyuan & Hsinchu