|From Diary 5 and the
central Taiwan, I now head up the north-western coast into the North.|
12/2 I did not finish my work yesterday, and do it now. I have booked one more night here in Lukang, and should have time to catch up on things. Despite it is sea-level, here is cold! It can' t be more than 13C at night, and 20C at daytime. The winter have finally caught up with Taiwan, despite it actually say spring in their calendar. At least this is a sunny day.
I figure I better remove my car from the private lot I ditched it on, but finding another space, is nearly impossible. Then I find a football stadium sized lot, sealed and marked for parking. Well, they do charge for it, but not that steep. I park and head into the religious festival.
The festival is still on, although the LED lights are dimmed by the sun. But the parades are still walking from temple to temple. A lot of huge fire-crackers announces their arrival, and the music, gong-gongs and drums are loud too. The streets are still pretty packed with winter-dresses locals and dressed up actives.
The food stalls
and shops on the streets are still
going strong. It seems like most are the normal shops, who have extended
their area into the street. Here are so many different shops, even one
who sell the most lovely tea-pots.
The parades passes bye from time to time, but it seems to fade out over noon. I head for my favourite vegetarian restaurant, and get two new, great dishes. Then I head back to the hostel to figure why I'm actually here. It is because of the old town, making up around ten percent of the town, and its old temples.
Longshan Temple is 10.000 square metres, and some parts are quite old. Here are no special things going on, but a rainbow coloured tent is found in one of the courtyards. Here are some fantastic carvings, and I especially enjoy their little garden.
When I return to the central part of the city, things have quiet down, and I head into the back streets, to find the original Lukang. Here are even some of the old wooden houses along with cast-iron water pumps. Many houses are gone missing, while others are ruins. Some of the lots have become gardens, others just abandon. Many of the old houses have a lot of potting plants in front, and it all look so idyllic.
At five, I return to the hotel. The sun have gone, and the temperature is dropping uncomfortable. I don't miss much from Myanmar and Cambodia, but I could do with the temperature! I start the usual work, but at seven, I figure I better get some great vegetarian dinner.
The photos have to get their own slideshow: Lukang.This include the west coast, and I'm not heading into the north of Taiwan.
13/2 I stocked bakery yesterday, and only passes the 7-Eleven to get two mugs of tea - and a spare bun for lunch if the planed restaurant should fail. I find my car, still alone on the huge parking lot, and pay my 100 TND in fee. Then it is through the town, this time on the long way. Where I only saw the old part, it sure have a new too.
I find the Highways 1 and 3, and try to get the 120 kilometres done as fast as possible - without getting caught on camera. This is right through the area most Taiwanese apparently live and work. Amazingly enough, the traffic still runs smooth, but here are not really that much, and the big trucks keep up with the most. It is a sunny day, perfect for a tour into the nature.
I head inland, and meet the mountains before ten. It is an area known as Shitoushan; Lion's Head Mountain. Here, the green and dense forests on the mountains sides are scattered with Buddhist, Confucius and Taoist temples. Many of them have been started in caves in the sandstone. Some are still in there, others have outgrown the cave. In general, the three religions are quite alike in their basic thoughts, Live in harmony with the nature. And one must say they almost do, considering how long they have been here, and how unspoiled the surrounding nature appears.
I do a long walk around most of these on the southern
side of the Lion's Head, but the trail is undergoing reparations, and
blocked off to the northern side. The temples are magnificent craftsman's work. Both the inside
with the roof constructions, the sandstone carvings, the figures and the
entire decoration. Outside, the roof and especially the dragons and other
figures are astonishing.
While I walk in-between them, I try to find new, interesting plants. Here are the huge bird-nest ferns and many other epiphytic ferns. Huge bamboos are among the trees, and several species of Oxalis' are flowering. The views are great over the valley, but I fail to find some trails, not leading to a temple.
As the trail over the mountain is blocked, I have to drive around to get to the visitor centre and especially their vegetarian restaurant my intell have informed me about. Just before I get to it, a sign show off to Shoilian Cave. It is a great trail, leading down through the deep gorge the river have cut. In a bend. it have carved out a cave, and here are a tacky temple. It look more like a bathroom.
The trail continues along the river, and so do I. The water is crystal clear and bluish. An ancient stone bridge; Glutinous Rice Bridge crosses it, and the historical trail leads on. The trees are huge, and everything so green. It passes the visitor centre, and I find the restaurant, which do serve vegetarian dishes. The food is good, but the tea even better; Brown Sugar Ginger Tea. I get it to go, as I else will have swallowed it too fast.
I head on, following the Liouliao Historical Trail up hill. It passes a few, old farms, but it mainly run through unspoiled nature. A part of it is newly sealed, but right next to the asphalt, the nature seems unspoiled. They sure know have to take care.
Then I reach the unchanged part, where it is dirt, rocks and roots that forms the trail. It passes the Qixing Secret Tree, which is a 400 years old Camphor tree, which the locals have prayed to. To make the platform, they have chopped of one of it roots! I like the asphalt work way more. It is fare from as big as I have expected, only 5,7 metres around.
It marks the high point for my trail, and as I head down lands again, I meet the creek. It look so fantastic! The rocks within it is covered in mosses, ferns and the "grasses" with blue fruit. I make a lot of photos of it, and doubt I delete many. A sign show of to "Bservation Deck", and I guess I'm not the only one having difficulties with other's signs and letters!
I reach my car at three, and feel I have walked enough on the head of the lion. The nearby big town of Hsinchy should have a old part which should be worth a visit, and I need somewhere to sleep anyway. It is 25 kilometres on mainly small roads, and even the last it through the big city is smooth. On the way, I passes a valley with orange tree plantations.
I find the hotel I want, around 50 metres from the centre of town. Drop the bag and head out in the town at four. Here are truly many old houses, Taiwan style. The town was founded in 1711, and by accidence, I stumble over the tiny wooden plate who states it.
I find the almost closed market and the small shops around it. Here are what seems unchanged through time, to the most fancy you can imagine. I see a lot of the shops, some of the temples and a lot of the old streets. It have started to be a bit chill, and people look at me as I'm insane, only warring a T-shirt. I wished I had brought more, but I play cool - the Viking style.
I think I get some good photos before the light vanishes. Then I head back towards the hotel, looking for dinner. One place claim they have, but sushi tend to contain some animals, and so do their. I pick them off, and eat the rest. To comfort myself, I pass by a patisserie, which have some great looking cakes lined up. They are dry and tasteless, but never the less expensive.
Back to work on diary and two special slideshows; Shitoushan and Hsinchy. I had planned to do the last laundry, but despite it is a nice hotel room, it have no fan or air condition. With this temperature, nothing will dry without help!
14/2 I am heading back the little Highway 7, this time significantly slower. Last was the late afternoon drive round Taiwan due to snow-closed mountain passes. As I got a pretty clear feeling of last, it is a fantastic road. It is partly one lane, and here are almost no people living along it.
It is a 120 kilometre drive, and a make a break halfway, when I leave the Freeways and head into the countryside and the mountains. Here, a huge nursery and a temple offers some entertainment. The nursery have almost all the usual plants I know from Denmark, and a large group of huge bonsais - or potting trees. And they have a real fat little pig, walking around everywhere.
The temple is made by same system as most of the others, with several alters, some stature/dolls, some amassing carvings in wood and stone and a lot of golden stuff. It seems like they draw a prayer from a bunch of sticks. While the recites the pray, they hold two pieces of wood, a bit like the two halves of a huge bean. When they have done, they throw the "bean" on the floor, and see how the two pieces land. Apparently, they do it until they are satisfied with the outcome. I might have lost something in the lack of translation!
What I missed the first time I drown this road, was that the first part, coming from west, is lined with almost endless bamboo mountains. They are being harvested in at least some areas, but the share area they covers, seems endless. Huge trucks are loaded with the cleaned stems.
It is another sunny day, although the shadow is a bit chill. I do a lot of stops due to the fantastic views through canyons, valleys, rivers, huge mountain ranges, mist covered peaks and the beauty of nature in general. At some point, I figure I better get a grip, of I won't make it to the sights of the day, and especially not down to the pre-booked hotel in Taoyuan. It is a bit fare away, but it kind of make sense.
A bit before noon, I finally make it to Lalashan Forest Reserve. Unfortunately, they have closed a big part of the trail of. And in Taiwan, that mean you have to return. Here are no "wild" trails, no paths you can walk in any forest you want. Here are some specific and well maintained trails everyone walks - or they stay at home. And trust me, there are no other trails, I have searched.
At least, their iconic cypress trees can still be seen. The trail is vide and smooth, and here are 3700 metres boardwalk, helping the access to the wild. The trail leads through deep gorges, magnificent views, lush green mosses of many types, even more ferns I believe and a lot more.
It is a temperate broadleaf forest, and the cypresses have company of many species of leaf shedders. Some are giants as well, and they look great up against the blue sky. The first of the giants are only 1400 years old, and "only" 9,8 metres. I'm not sure which of this giants who hold the record, but one is 55 metres tall. The stems on all of them are oval or flat, stretching op/down the steep mountainside is stands on.
A bit further in the trail, the true giants are found, some quite close together. The biggest one is 2800 years old and 13,4 metres. They all look quite healthy, and it is a great sight. I wished I could walk some more in this ancient forest, but they don't appreciate that kind of "fooling around".
Back on Highway 7, I drive through a small area
with farming. Here are mainly apples. Where the nature look so unspoiled, the farmers
fields on the slopes look a mess.
I have time to enjoy the tour, and I make some detours through small villages and interesting side-roads. In the larger town of Sanxia, I spot sigh showing of to Sanxia Old Street. I ditch the car, and see the old red-brick houses. They are now real posh shops, and it sure look great. They look like they have been build around a hundred years ago, when the Japanese ruled Taiwan. The sun is not really any help, but I must try to capture some of this idyllic street.
I might have forgotten to mention it before, but people here are obsessed with figures. Anything from huge religious dragons to Pokemons. Her are shops dealing with some areas, like cartoon heroes, porcelain figures, wooden statues, religious persons, Kitty, motorsport - you name it!
The river that runs through town is almost dry, but it is a joy to see how clean it is. Here are trash in the ravines, but not compared to Cambodia and especially Myanmar! Here, even the back streets and narrow allies are sealed with bricks and clean.
I reach Taoyuan at dusk, and find my hotel. I have to park the car in a parking house, and I fear it spend more than I, this night. I do a walk in the main street while the shops are starting to close up. I end up trying to capture the many neon- and especially LED signs the streets are lined with. No chance I can get to read anything on them, driving bye - even if they were in Latin letters. They sit in layers!
I find a
pizzeria which have four vegetarian pizzas! I get a "Hippie", and it is
quite good - and real expensive. Back to work, and again postpone the
laundry. Lets face it; I have one clean T-shirt for the flight, that will do.
15/2 I did not have to fear the car had spend more than I; The hotel was 700 TWD while it only spend 600 TWD. I will try to avoid parking houses in the future! It is soon a pleasant drive in the sunshine out in the countryside towards Manyueyuan Forest Reserve. The last bit of the road follows the huge, but almost dry river.
Here is an entrance fee, but only 80 TWD. Here are the normal track and even a unsupervised one. A feature I have misses in the other parks. It seems like disable people have to be able to go there, or none can. I start with the newly sealed, leading up right next to the river.
At first, I notes the many and large ferns in the trees. Some are more or less covered in these huge ferns, and it look great up against the light. Then I find an epiphytic plant, I can't determine what is. It might be a Rubiaceae, but I can't tell. It is almost caudiciformic, and it have some strange fruits - almost strawberries.
I spot two orchids, the first one I have been able to find. Considering Taiwan it the world's leading orchid producer, I had expected more! Some areas are completely covered in Evans Begonia; Begonia evansiana. Besides from that, I also find a few other interesting plants in the dense and lush vegetation.
A branch of the main trail leads to Chunu (Virgin) Fall, which is quite spectacular. It falls over a vertical, ten meter wall. A roundtrip passes the other fall; Manyueyuan Fall, and the path leads through a gorge, sitting on the vertical wall. It is also ten metres, but hidden behind some rocks. Only the many smaller falls can be seen, but the entire area is a nice place to explore.
I find the unsupervised trail, but it is still pretty smooth and most is sealed with nicely cut granite stones. It leads over a ridge, mainly inhabitated by conifers. I try to use the Information Centre to get a name for the mysterious plant I found, but fails.
On the way out, I see my GPS call the area Nazi. Google maps; 24.836380, 121.444861 have Nazi Industry Road. I have gotten use to see the swastika on the Taoist temples, but had not imagined, they had a town by that name. I leave right away, and despite I want to go to Wulai, only ten kilometres away, it is on the other side of the mountain, and actually 60 kilometres, at the edge of Taipei.
Then Wulai is really out in the countryside again. It is a village, famous for its hot springs, but it does not seem to give it much income these days. A single street survive by selling delicatessen, roasted pork and souvenirs. A bit further up the road, the mighty Wulai Waterfall is found.
It seem like it use to be a big business with cable cars, and small railroad and a whole little city, servicing the tourists. A few shops in front of the fall are alive, and the cable cars are still running. The rest is a ghost town, and it have been so for some years.
The fall, on the other side, look great even here in the dry season. The vertical fall is 80 metres, and it end in a blue pond. The huge mountain sides continues deep into the gorges, but only the trail to the town is open. I head further on to Neidong Forest Recreation Area, but is is closed?! The staff is there, but they are apparently getting new sealing on the parking lot. Never mind, the sun have gone, and the clouds are rather dark.
I start driving towards my hostel for the night in Keelung. It is again on the other side of Taipei. And then on the other side of the huge Keelung too. I pass some of the many silos people are living in here. It seems like there don't have to be room for the windows cleaner between the buildings. Most have pretty nice designs, but they stand with less than half a meter in some places.
I find the Keelung port, which I apparently have a booking at. It is the narrow and steep streets along the port, where the big squid fishing boats are found. The area is a maze, and I have to ask for help. A nice lady show me to the door, and I would never have guessed it was here.
The porch is partly broken up, it look a mess and here is not a single Latin letter. Further more, none opens the door. Well, I am a bit early, and I might see the area anyway. I don't bother dropping the back-pack in the car, as it only hold what I need. Next to the harbour is a huge fishing industry museum. The the villages shops starts, and here are an overrepresentation of restaurants. I try them all, but none will serve vegetarian. At least, I can see one Family Mart and two 7-Elevens, and I won't go hungry to bed - if I will have a bed?
Back to eat in the car, and then I try another combination of the phone number I have. Cutting+ and 886 of didn't work, but with nine digits, I get a guy who give me the code for the door. I start working, and eventually, the house are filled with young Taiwanese. The photos from Manyueyuan can be seen in the Manyueyuan slideshow. The rest is in the general tour slideshow from the Northern Mountains.
It is time for the last Diary 7, which is about the northern shore and Taipei.