Breathe in the crisp mountain air, feel the cool mist of the forest, listen to the music of the running streams, revel in the colours of nature and taste the freshness of highland herbs.

Jade Lake

Breathe in the crisp mountain air, feel the cool mist of the forest, listen to the music of the running streams, revel in the colours of nature and taste the freshness of highland herbs.

August is around the peak of the hot summer season. That is the time when droves of people head to Central Taiwan where they can enjoy the cool respite of the green highlands and forests. I did not particularly choose to join the summer crowd but it was just a spur of the moment that I hopped on a flight to Taiwan. The central part of Taiwan consists of the city of Taichung and the counties of Miaoli, Nantou, Changhua and Yunlin.

Well, this time some of my family members came along with me. As they were all first timers to Taiwan, I decided to engage the services of a chauffeur driven car. It was indeed a wise move as they need not deal with the hassle of dragging their luggage up/down the bus and trains; and it also saved them some energy for some refreshing strolls in the national parks. The chauffeur picked us up from Taichung city and took us around to all the places that we have planned. We also had the pleasure of making brief stops and also detour for some additional interesting pictures.

Puli– the centre of Taiwan

Puli, located in Nantou county, is the first township on our itinerary.It is only about 60km away from Taichung city. As this little township is fed with clean water by the rivers from the mountains, it is quite appropriate for making quality wine. Hence, Puli is famous for producing fine Shaoxing wine. Puli Winery has a visitor centre where you can browse through the history and the process of brewing Shaoxing wine; and also some philosophy on wine drinking. At the GuangSing paper factory, the workers are still preserving the manual method of making paper without the use of bleach that harms the environment.Much my surprise, they even produce edible paper! With a dash of pepper and flavour, it tastes like savoury crisps.

The Chung Tai Chan Monastery is a majestic piece of architecture propped in the green mountains of Puli. It has a large landscaped garden with lotus ponds, fountains and green foliage. In the monastery itself, there are huge carved statue of Buddha and his disciples while images of the guardian deities are carved on the tall pillars. It is supposedly the largestBuddhist temple in Nantou county. Puli is also famous as the geographical centre of Taiwan. A pole with a monument standing in the park signifies the point that was identified as the geographical centre of Taiwan. The Jade Lake is a brief stop we made on the way up to CingJing. It is a lake with a breath-taking view that is nestled amidst the mountains of Nantou. We also made a detour to the Tiger Head hill which is the take-off point for para-gliders. The breath-taking panoramic view of Puli township can be seen from here.

Tai Yi Ecological Leisure Farm

Chong Tai Chan Monastery

In Taomi Village of Puli, there is a unique building – a churched called the “Paper Dome”. This church had its origins in Kobe, Japan where it was built as a temporary church after the devastating earthquake in 1995. Shigeru Ban the Japanese architect built this church out of recycled paper materials. When the community planned to build a permanent building in 2005, this church was donated to Taomi Village which had suffered a major earthquake in 1999. The reconstruction was finally completed in 2008 and it has helped to re-invent this village into a tourist destination.

Sleeping amidst the sounds of flowing water and the occasional chirps of the swan is such a pleasure at Tai-Yi Ecological Leisure Farm. Tai-Yi is famous for their special floral cuisines that you can enjoy amidst the beautiful landscapes. The butterfly sanctuary is also an interesting spot that has so many butterflies flapping around you. By the way, Puli is also well known for being the home to butterflies of Taiwan. There will never be any boring moments here as there are DIY activities, gardens and coffee house to while
your time away.

Tiger Head Mountain

Paper Dome Church

Shangrila Hanging Garden Resort

CingJing Scenic Route

Going up to the CingJing scenic route, we passed by Ren-Ai township before we ascend the narrow winding roads. As we wound up the little road to the highland; we were so awed by the beautiful castles, manors, bungalows that propped up in the mountains. (Had it not been for the effects of the typhoon,CingJing Scenic Route would have been a spread of picturesque flower fields and farms.)

Anyway we were glad that the hotels have reopened and we could still visit the magnificent architectures here. Walking into the Shangrila Hanging Garden Resort is quite like being transformed into a cosy cottage. If I had the chance to stay here, I’d love to while my time away with a cup of coffee at the terrace overlooking the valley. Winding further up is the Shangrila Music Villa, this Victorian architecture is the place for people who appreciate music in a tranquil environment. A little distance down the slope is the elegant boutique hotel, The Old England which is tastefully decorated in the antiquity of the Shakespearean era. The garden is decorated with sculptures, fountains and flowers that make you feel relaxed and refreshed. The buildings of CingJing Brilliant Twins of Seattle are designed to reflect the Spanish Segovia and Mijas architectures. From the gardens of the hotel, the view of the Jade Lake of Ren-Ai is clearly visible.

Brilliant Twins of Seattle

Brilliant Twins of Seattle

Shangrila Music Villa

The Old England

The Old England

Jiji – the Railroad Nostalgia

Jiji is the little township where life slows down and everybody is relaxed. This place has attracted my attention some 8 years ago when I saw a picture of the nostalgic railway station but I did not have the opportunity to be here in my previous trip. This time I made sure that Jiji must be in the itinerary, no matter what happens. It was much like a pilgrimage for me to visit the railway station and then taking an easy cycling around the little town. It is such a small town and the guide maps are so clear, you will definitely find your way around town. The shops are usually closed by about 7:30pm (except for 7-11) but the night market keeps running till about 10pm.

If you are keen to try the railway experience, you may take the train from Jiji to CheCheng which is only about 10km away. CheCheng is the terminal (final) station for the Jiji railroad line. CheChengwas one a flourishing town for lumbering, coal industry and power generating station. Now the station is still there with the wood logging museum.

CheCheng the Terminal Railway Station

Cycling at Jiji

Jiji Railway Station

Detour – to the Magical Charms of Alishan

Although Alishan is not part of Central Taiwan, I have included it in my trip itinerary because of the strong allure of its natural forests and the most special railway line – the Alishan Mountain Railway. Actually the Alishan National Scenic Area is located just at the border of Central and South Taiwan, in the county of Chiayi. It is about 4 hours of drive from Jijitownship (minus the many brief stops that I took on the way).

I am particularly impressed with the Alishan Mountain Railway even though I only managed to walk on thetracks. I could imagine the ‘choo-choo’ whistle of the train when it pulls up at the Jhaoping station which 2,200 m above sea level. I believe this could be the highest railway line in this part of the world and it is one of the only three mountain railways remaining in the world.

Alishan has all the ingredients of magical charms in its forest trails that could take all the weariness out of you. The crisp and clean mountain air could really make me walk miles upon miles without feeling tired or hungry. Sounds of the little running streams, the occasional streaks of sunlight that pierced through the leaves and followed by a barrage of mist are allthe pleasures of the nature at Alishan forest trails. The trails are fairly easy to walk and it took us about slightly more than 3 hours to go around the park
winding through three of the four trails in the park.

Be prepared for a drop in temperature when the mists come sweeping over. Always keep a warm jacket in the bag even in summer. A bottle of water and some light snacks may come in handy because you could be too engrossed with the beauty of the giant red cypress trees that time slipped off unknowingly.

Another place to enjoy the cool mountain air is LongYun Leisure Farm. It is located mid-way to the Alishanmountains. The beauty of staying at LongYun is that you can enjoy day & night walks in the forests safely under the guidance of their staff, gazed into the starry-starry nights from the roof window above your bed and have fun learning to prepare some local delicacies like awkeotsang jelly and mochi.

Jiji WuChang Temple

NeiHu Elementary School in the forest

Xitou Fairy Tale Garden



Jungle trail at LongYun

Even though it is the first time my family members joined me on a trip to Taiwan, they have truly enjoyed the rigorous agenda that I have arranged for them. I did not hearany complaints like “o…so tired!”Taiwan is certainly a country that is so “travel-friendly” with all the proper facilities forall categories of travellers from novice to experts.

Text & Photo by Travelution