|picnic tables at the Railway Garden, alongside old carraiges and remnants of the original narrow-gauge Taiping Forest Railroad|
The Luodong Railway cultural garden is a former Japanese logging centre which, like many old Japanese industrial hubs, has been transformed into a tourist attraction, appealing to local nostalgia for this bygone era, a taste for Japanese aesthetics. It's a great spot for a picnic, especially on fine days, or to spend a few hours as a stopover along the route from Taipei to Hualien.
|Luodong Log Pond|
The heart of the park is the large log pond (small lake), which has transformed itself in the decades since into a refuge for birds and fish. Most visitors walk around the pond, stopping by the various old Japanese buildings which have been restored and converted to small cafes and shops. It's possible to buy a few forestry- and bamboo-related souvenirs, but most visitors spend their time outside enjoying the scenery. Train enthusiasts will appreciate the old steam engines, and may even want to enjoy a coffee (bought from one of the cafes) inside one of the old wagons.
HistoryThe logging centre which is now the park was established in 1905, at which time the logs were exported by ship out the Lanyang River. In 1921 the Japan Forestry Agency purchased a narrow-gauge railway from the Taiwan Sugar Company, and expanded it into the 36-kilometre Luodong Forest Railway, which it used to haul timber out from the inland Taiping Forest Area. The railway was decommissioned in 1979 following the decline in the logging industry; however, parts are likely to be re-opened as tourist lines, as has already happened with the Pinxi Railway, Jiji Railway and, most famously, the Alishan Forest Railway. In 2004 the remaining buildings were recognised and protected as cultural assets, and the the Railway Cultural Garden was opened in its current form in 2009.
While most Taiwanese view the Japanese colonisation of Taiwan in a mostly positive light - hence the boom in tourism around anything left over from this era, like this and especially Jiufen and Jinguashi - there is also some resentment at how much of the country's timber was exploited by the empire, especially from Alishan. The upside, of course, is that Japanese also established nature reserves to protect the oldest and most sacred trees, such as the two thousand year-old ones at Lalashan and Alishan.
So What's a Log Pond?When I first read about this attraction, I was stumped as to what a log pond was. Wouldn't putting the timbre into water cause it to spoil and rot? As it turns out, storing logs on water allowed easy transport from their delivery point from the trains to the mills, washed away dirt, and prevented fires and the splitting of logs as they dried out. According to information at the park, merchants could also identify the quality of the logs for sale by determining whether or not they floated or sank when unloaded from the trains.
FoodThe cafes inside the park serve simple drinks and snacks. There are plenty of picnic tables, which visitors are free to use for food brought in from outside. There are no vegetarian food options, so vegetarians, vegans or anyone with food allergies or other dietary needs should bring their own food.
Luodong Loving HutFor vegetarians, vegans and anyone wanting a healthy, inexpensive and satisfying meal I recommend the Luodong Loving Hut. It's great for take-out meals for the forestry park, or for the train back to Taipei or Hualien.
|The Luodong Loving Hut serves hearty, traditional meals which are exceptional value (mostly under NT$100).|
Price: Inexpensive (satisfying meals cost around NT$70-150)
5 minutes' walk (650 metres) from Luodong Railway Cultural Garden
10 minutes' walk (800 metres) from Luodong Train Station
No.93, Cangqian Rd., Luodong Township
Directions from your location.
Railway Garden EssentialsOpening hours: 8:00-17:00
The museums and other displays are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Some special exhibitions have limited hours.
Five minutes' walk north of Luodong Train Station.
The main entrance and carpark (which includes parking for scooters and bicycles) is a few hundred metres further north of the train, but there is also an entrance closer to the railway station.
No. 118, Zhongzheng N. Rd, Luodong Township, Yilan County
Directions from your location.