A quiet corner of Shanlinsi
The Heavenly Steps
The beautiful coniferous forest at Sitou
With research on a new book well underway and a piano recital, it’s been all go recently. Hopefully soon I’ll get to write a bit about the latest favorites, but meantime here are three places in central Taiwan’s Nantou County that are definitely NOT off the beaten track, although none the worse for that (apart from the crowds of fellow visitors, high entrance fees, traffic jams on the way up and over-developed infrastructure). Shanlinsi, Sitou and the Heavenly Steps tend to look better in photos than they do in real life, but ignore the negative impact of mass tourism and they’re all well worth visiting – just start out early in the morning if you visit at the weekend to avoid the masses!
No details about any of these for now, partly because all three are well-known and well documented (even in English) on the Web already, and partly because these are three of the 101 places that will appear in my new book!
It’s a complete mystery why the rather ugly University Pond and bridge remains both the symbol of Sitou and its most popular spot, but at least it diverts the crowds from some far more lovely parts of the forest.
The Giant Rock, which fell down the hillside to its present position during the great earthquake of 1999.
The ancient tree (an estimated 1,800 years old) at Sitou, another popular spot
The Sky Walk – the only one of its kind in Taiwan
The wonderful Songlong Waterfall
The Stone Wells at the top of the Blue Dragon Waterfall
Songlong Cave and Waterfall
The view from the road up to Shanlinsi is magnificent in good weather
A quiet trail in Shanlinsi; the best places of the forest park are along the trails, away from the road, the bus, and the crowds, most of whom shuttle between the main sights along the road through the reserve
The Eyes of Heaven and Earth, at the top end of the trail network through the reserve
The rare Formosan Pleoine orchid flowers in cracks in the rock beside the Eyes of Heaven and Earth in April
The Swallows’ Grotto in the dry season
A sadly only too-common sight in Shanlinsi – the stump of an ancient giant tree, harvested before cutting down such amazing trees was illegal
The impressive Blue Dragon Waterfall is supposed to be over 100 meters high; it must be amazing in the wet season
…and the bridge just below it
Most visitors to Shanlinsi in the spring are here for the flower festival – peonies, azaleas and cherry blossom
The authorities seem determined to turn this beautiful slice of high mountain scenery into an amusement park, and I must say they’ve succeeded pretty well
HEAVENLY STEPS (Taiji Canyon)
The bit of Taiji Canyon accessible these days isn’t even a pale shadow of the magnificent main gorge a little further downstream, but until that amazing place (described here – see number 8) reopens to hikers (which might be never) this place has its moments.
The Heavenly Steps suspension bridge crosses the gorge well upstream from Taiji Canyon itself
At the lowest point of the path there’s a glimpse downstream towards Taiji Canyon itself – the best bit however is still several hundred meters downstream from here
Blue Dragon Waterfall, one of the main landmarks of the Upper Gorge at Taiji Canyon, near the end of the Heavenly Steps path
Have you visited the Wangyou Forest on the way to Shanlinxi? I’ve only been there once and it’s my favorite spots of the area. I’ve heard though it’s been getting a lot more foot traffic every year.
Thanks Todd, for mentioning that! I missed it on this visit (which is the first time I’ve been to Shanlinsi since the earthq
uake created it), because the locals discourage scooter drivers from going in by themselves (and may even forbid you going in on your own vehicle) because the road is too narrow and steep, they say. It looks great in photos – is it still unspoilt, and did you get in on your own bike? I gave up when people kept trying to get me on their shuttle minibus up there. Would be grateful for any info – if worth it I might go back and take a look!
We parked on the road near the steep road going up and took the van up which was run by the cafe at the top. After a very unmemorable meal we walked to the Wangyou Forest area. After spending some time there we walked down the hill back to our car. It’s not that far up from the main road. Anyone in decent health can make the walk up or down if you don’t want to take the shuttle. It was nice and quiet during our visit. I don’t know if it’s still as tranquil as it was during our visit.
Thanks for that Todd. I’ll have to take a look some time, and walk up – the shuttle bus fare seemed a bit steep for the short ride.