Luodong (羅東) Travel Guide

Luodong (羅東) is a sleepy Taiwanese town just south of Yilan City, and the smallest township in Yilan County. It's most famous for its night market, which is what virtually all local tourists (and that's virtually all tourists) visit the city for. It's far from a necessary stop on the tourist route, but since most visitors only come during weekends (for the night market) it can be worth stopping here between Taipei and Hualien (for Taroko Gorge). Railway enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Luodong Railway Cultural Garden.

History

Luodong was first settled in 1804 by an aboriginal (Pingpu) tribe from Changua. Han (ethnic Chinese) settlers soon followed, and while there were violent clashes between these two ethnic groups, they settled down and worked together to develop the town long. At that time, the two groups had such bad relations that they rarely lived in close quarters, with the Han occupying the lower and coastal areas and the Aborigines remaining higher up the mountains. As a result, Luodong became known for having a blend of Han and aboriginal characteristics.

After Taiwan was ceded to the Japanese Empire in the Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895), the Japanese government quickly recognised the logging potential of the nearby Taiping Forest. A log pond was established on what is now preserved as the Luodong Railway Cultural Garden (see below), and t Luodong Forest Railway was established two decades later to transport the logs down the mountain.

The logging industry was taken over by the Republic of China government after World War II, but fell into decline in the 1970s, from which time Luodong has been the sleepy town it is today.


Luodong Night Market (羅東夜市)


Luodong Night Market

I'm not a fan of Taiwanese night markets: they are dirty, crowded, and in my opinion they serve substandard food - not bad, perhaps, for food cooked up without such basic necessities as running water, but I just don't understand the appeal of eating this food on a crowded street when I could enjoy better food, for a comparable cheap price, cooked in a real restaurant, and enjoy it in a clean, pleasant restaurant atmosphere.

The Luodong Night Market does offer a pleasant balance between the dangerously overcrowded night markets in Taipei (with the worst being the Shilin Night Market) and the less-interesting (but often very enjoyable) night markets found in Taiwan's smaller towns. It can still, however, become very crowded during weekends, especially Saturday nights, when hotels around become expensive and run out of rooms. 

My Favourite: Peanut Dessert

This traditional peanut sorbet pancake stand is just under the Family Mart, at the far end of the night market if coming from Luodong Station.

This traditional Taiwanese favourite is unique and delicious. A block of peanuts (held together by a lot of sugar) is shaved off with a kind of a plane, and the freshly-powdered peanuts are combined with sorbet and fresh coriander, and wrapped up in a flour-based pancake, which is more like a tortilla. It's a unique but delicious combination of flavours, especially on a hot day, with the sorbet and coriander giving a refreshing and cooling sensation and the peanuts adding substance and calories.

Vegetarians and Vegans

The peanut dessert (above) is confirmed vegan at the time of writing (December, 2018) as it is made from fresh fruit, sugar and soymilk.

There is a vegetarian food stall, but I would recommend vegans especially go to the nearby Loving Hut first, which is open until 20:00. (Directions to Luodong Loving Hut from your location). 

Essentials

12 minutes' walk (1 kilometre) from Luodong Station. 
265宜蘭縣羅東鎮興東路6號
Number 6, Xingdong Road, Luodong Township

Directions from your location.  


Luodong Railway Cultural Garden (羅東林業文化園區)

Main article: Luodong Railway Cultural Park 

It's all about the logs and the lake at the Luodong Railway Cultural Garden

Many people outside of Taiwan are unaware that Taiwan was part of the Japanese Empire from 1895 to 1945, history which was all but wiped from history during the years of harsh totalitarian rule under the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) from after World War II until the 1980s. Since martial law was lifted (in 1987) and Taiwan transitioned to democracy there has been a revival of interest in the few remaining Japanese sites, appealing to a sense of nostalgia from this by-gone era.

The Luodong Railway Cultural Garden was once the centre of Yilan's once-thriving logging industry. Japanese-era buildings have been restored and converted into shops and restaurants, all log-themed. Visitors can walk around the log pond, which is now home to several fish and bird species. Old steam trains attached to logging carts make some great photographic opportunities.

Essentials

8:00-17:00
Admission: free
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
宜蘭縣羅東鎮中正北路118號
Directions from your location.  
Website

Accommodation

The Luodong Night Market attracts domestic tourists from all around Taiwan, especially students from Taipei, but these mostly come only during weekends. Prices drop considerably during the working week, when it's a great place to stop between Taipei and Hualien (for Taroko Gorge).

Yilan has a lot of B&B accommodation which requires private transport (or a bicycle, as Yilan is great for cycling). These places offer beautiful views over rice paddies or forests, but are generally beyond the reach of short-term visitors who don't speak Chinese.
 

My Choice: Hua Wang Business Hotel

Nothing luxurious here, but rooms at Hua Wang are clean, functional and great value for the location close to the train station and night market.

For budget travellers just passing through, I recommend the Hua Wang Business Hotel. It's 5 minutes' walk (350 metres) from Luodong Train Station. Like most business hotels in its price bracket (that's most hotels in Taiwan) rooms are outdated, poorly maintained and have certainly seen better days, but they are clean, functional, and great value at at NT$1080 during weeknights. This is where I stay when I am in Luodong. The hotel does take walk-in customers, but I prefer to reserve a room for exactly the same price on Agoda. There are plenty of other hotels available in and around Yilan, many of which offer notable discounts mid-week. 

See Also

Jiaoxi Travel Guide

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