Saturday, July 24, 2010

Yuanshan River bike path 圓山河自行車道

Although not very long, this is an excellent urban cycling path. This path takes about an hour round trip if you don't stop. The surface is smooth and almost completely flat for most of the way, so it's a very easy ride. If you don't have a bike, the path is also a pleasant place for a walk in good weather.

The bike path starts at the parking lot where the Road Number 9 (the main road between Jiaoxi and Yilan City) crosses the river into Yilan City. Head west (upstream). This park path is reserved for bicycles and pedestrians. At first you pass through well landscaped urban park along the flood plain. On a nice day this would be a great place for a picnic. Eventually the path goes up onto the flood embankment, so you're down looking at river on one side and the city on the other.

The path follows the river out toward the western suburbs of the
city. Eventually the landscape becomes agricultural, and you're looking down at the river and farms with different local crops - guavas, taros, bamboo shoots, and bananas. Finally the bike path just comes to a sudden dead end, and you turn around and head back.

Not too far from the dead end, there are some stone steps going up a hill. On the other side of the hill is Yuanshan Park. There isn't anything special about the park itself (athough they have public restrooms if you need them). However, above the park is an interesting historical curiosity.

Climb the stairs to the hill that looms above the park. At the top are the remains of an old Shinto
shrine built during the Japanese colonial era. After the Japanese left, the KMT rebuilt the shrine in Minnan style to look like a Taiwanese ancestral temple and used it as a martyr's shrine to fallen Chinese soldiers. Recently the shrine has been beautifully restored to the post-war condition. During the restoration, fragrant hinoki wood was used for the interior, so the little shrine room has an intoxicating natural odor like cedar incense. The two modern additions to the sides of the shrine are a mini-museum with which introduce the area and also explain the history of Shinto shrines in Taiwan.

Behind the shrine is a path to an excavated prehistoric site. Altough the site has been preserved, it is not open to the public.

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