Friday, September 5, 2008

Christmas on the Cross-Island Highway

View Approaching Lishan

For my first Christmas in Taiwan, my friend Cara and I took a trip through the center of Taiwan to see the fantastic mountains there. We started in Taizhong and took the bus to Puli, where it then headed up into the mountains along the Central Cross Island Expressay. At some point, it turned onto the Northern Cross Island Expressway as chunks of one of the highways are still in disrepair from an earthquake years ago (not to mention several landslides since).

This area is extremely beautiful, quite remote, and the ride there is enough to make even the strongest stomachs hurl their contents.

We stopped in the retired veterans' town of Lishan, north of Taroko National Park, and spent two days there at the lovely Ming Xiu Farm Homestay outside of town. To get to the hotel and back we either walked up and down steep hills or hitched rides from the very friendly locals.

On our free day we took a bus to Wuling Farm, where we wandered along the road - my back hurt too much for hiking.

It was so enjoyable that my boyfriend and I repeated the trip a year and a half later, in the spring. Unfortunately I've lost those photos due to my computer crash, so I am unable to post them here.

To take the bus across the center of the island, you can start in Taizhong or Yilan. From Taizhong the bus leaves at 8am from the Fengyuan Bus Company stop across the street and to the left of the train station. It goes to Puli and passes through the towns of Ren Ai and Cingjing Farm before reaching Hehuanshan, Dayuling and finally Lishan six grueling hours later.

From Yilan the bus leaves similarly early though I don't know from where. Buses from Lishan to Taizhong leave early, but to Yilan there is a bus at 8:30am and a bus at 1:30pm (stopping at Wuling Farm).

There are also buses theoretically available between Hualien and Dayuling, where you can pick up the Fengyuan Bus service in either direction if your timing is right. You can also - theoretically - head down into Taroko Gorge from here.

Fushoushan is on a spur, and buses there from Lishan only run during certain seasons (I'm still unclear on which ones). However, it's only 4 kilometers so it should be easy to hitch a ride up there. Our hotel's owner took us. It's uphill heading there, but you can hike downhill on your way back.

From Fushoushan, you can even see Hehuanshan in the distance. To get to the higher altitudes of Fushoushan, you can either hike uphill - it's long and arduous - or hire a car and driver for 150-300 kuai.

Hiking Trails in Fushoushan: the best hiking is near Tianchi at the higher reaches of the farm, close to the camping area. There is a long and winding trail that leads back down to the hotel complex, but start early as it's a long hike and clouds tend to move in during the afternoon.

The views in all places are stunning - the six hour bus ride from Taizhong is worth it just for the scenery.

Accommodation: high end accommodation is available at Lishan (Swallow Castle and Ming Xiu Farm Homestay - Swallow is tacky and monstrous but right in town. Ming Xiu is charming but outside town), Wuling Farm, Cingjing Farm and Fushoushan. More affordable accommodation can be found at Fushoushan for campers, and there is a hostel at Wuling Farm if you're foreign and under the age of 30 or so. Lishan also appears to have some budget choices. Dayuling certainly has a guesthouse or two, and I believe you can camp near Hehuanshan.

Ming Xiu farm hotel is my favorite but you either need strong legs or a car to get there. The address is not terribly useful, as it is only listed as being on "Song Dong Lane off the commercial road", so ask directions in town.

Other information: if you are curious about the area and can speak Chinese, visit Mr. Wang in Lishan and have a pot of traditional tea (300 kuai) at his store at #12 on the main street (Zhongzheng Road, but there's really only one street so...). If you have time, he can give good advice on getting to the far-flung tea plantations and aboriginal villages outside Lishan.
View from Lishan at Sunset

Lishan in the evening

Tudor Architecture (fake, of course) and scenery at Cingjing Farm

A Cloud Sea near Hehuanshan

Sign at Wuling Farm

Near Lishan


Wuling Farm


Xueshan (Snow Mountain) as seen from Wuling Farm

Ren Ai - in my opinion more beautiful than Sun Moon Lake

1 comment:

lieruhui said...

Hi there, would like to ask more about Ming xiu farm homestay in Lishan. How do we make reservations? Or do you just drive by to check availability? Thanks!