Four Days, Four Hikes

Four Days, Four Hikes

When people think of Taiwan, they think night market, building 101, high-mountain tea. But, once you scratch past the surface, you’ll realize how much more Taiwan has to offer, especially for hikers. The island is beautiful outside the city. No wonder the Portuguese called it ‘Ilha Formosa’ when they first set their eyes on the island. The Taiwanese love hiking. It is not uncommon to see elderly Taiwanese sporting hiking gears, riding the MRT heading to and from hiking trails around Taipei. And the hiking trails are where you get to truly appreciate what the island has to offer.

With Joe out of commission for BJJ for the next couple of months due to a ruptured medial epicondyle ligament suffered during a BJJ roll, we ventured out to the trails.

Maokong 貓空, located near the Taipei zoo, can be reached by taking the MRT brown line to the end and switching to the gondola. Then you’d need to change to a mini bus to get to the various trails. Luckily dad drove, which saved us a bundle of time.

Most hiking trails around Taipei are paved, allowing easy access to all. All those stairs translate to a great quad workout.
Most paved trails are what I would consider mini length trails that are under a mile or two.
Pothole bridge
Unique Taiwanese suspension foot bridges
Unlike the southwest US, waterfalls are a dime a dozen in Taiwan.

Xiang Shan 象山, is at one end of the MRT red line. It abuts the wealthy XinYi district where apartments are in the multi-million dollar range. What this trail offers is a view of the 101 building in a little oasis within city proper.

The beginning of a nonstop stair climbing session
Paved trail
View of 101 building at the top
This is also where you’d view Taipei’s New Year’s Eve fireworks.
一線天, a line in the sky
A great trail within Taipei, but one to avoid on weekends.

For Christmas, we brought mom and dad to Hsinchu for an overnight stay at a Hyatt property. My parents are very simple people and enjoy the little things in life, such as free hotel breakfast, and for dad, a hot bath or onsen since they don’t have a bathtub in their home.

Once outside Taipei, trails are harder to reach via public transportation. Hiking trails also become true trails like the ones you’d find elsewhere in the US. But for my parents’ sake, we stuck to the paved stair trails.

Shitou Shan 獅頭山 in Hsinchu/Miaoli district is another one to avoid on weekends and holidays. This popular trail strings together 5 Taoist temples and 6 zen temples along the way. I suspect it’s popular with the locals for the simple fact that the temple provides free vegetarian lunch meals to all. While Joe and I went on to hike the rest of the trail, mom and dad stopped part way for lunch.

The typical visually overwhelming Taiwanese temples
A less chaotic view of the rooftops
Nicely shaded trail
Beautiful cursive stone etchings
We started the hike in Miaoli district and crossed over the county line into Hsinchu district, where the zen temples are located.
In contrast, the much simpler zen temples.

Unfortunately, the rest of the trail in Hsinchu was uninspiring due to the pavement trail.

Before heading back to Taipei the next morning, we made a quick detour to Feifeng Shan 飛鳳山 outside downtown Hsinchu.

Starts off mostly paved
With real trails towards the top
關音亭 at the top
Offers a tiny tiny view of the 101 building in the far far distance on a very very clear day. Today was not that day.

Next year, Joe and I plan to get our international driver’s license, so that we can venture off on our own to do some real hiking on the rest of the island.

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