Each can be reached from Taipei within a day and each will give you solitude and coolness.
While there are many large tourist destinations that everyone wants to go to, some smaller ones are well worth seeing if one has access to a car and some time for a daytrip.1 Comment
Standing for a group shot in front of the simply named Ancient Tree no. 1, there's ample room for ten of us to pose, lined up in a row and leaning on the tree's prodigiously broad, curving trunk.
There is an uncanny similarity between ghosts and gold. For starters, both are difficult to acquire, being untouchable elements that many people talk about, but few get the opportunity to witness.
I am floating in the steaming hot springs of the aboriginal mountain village of Chingchuan (清泉), an hour's ride from the foothills of Chutung (竹東), not far from Hsinchu (新竹) City. Outside, the air is chilly.
Guidebooks and maps are great ways to explore the countryside, but, as with so many things, some of the best discoveries are passed on through word of mouth.
When it comes to scenic beauty, Taiwan offers everything from remote alpine summits that take a week's hard trekking to reach to grassy, roadside slopes made for a blanket picnic; a fantastic variety of natural beauty of a rare order can be found squashed into this small island if you know where to look.
Many beautiful scenic spots and marvelous hiking discoveries appear in none of the mushrooming number of guidebooks covering the various regions of Taiwan, but exist simply as a humble dot and place name on larger-scale maps.
It seems the only way is up, up and up as the interminable road--a rough, single track affair lacking a single helpful signpost or trail ribbon to prove we're on the right route--climbs ever higher, leaving the stream far below.
It doesn't matter which way you approach it; the little aboriginal village of Shilei (石磊) takes some getting to. While the sting has been taken out of many mountain roads throughout Taiwan that just 10 years ago would have been quite an adventure to negotiate, local route 60, which connects the village with the outside world, has somehow been left behind.