I was amazed by the nature of Taiwan and by all the hiking possibilities that are easily accessible from Taipei. Just hop on the subway and you can easily get to Elephant Mountain or Maokong tea plantations. A short bus ride takes you to the heart of Yangmingshan National Park or in the Wulai jungle. Even the beautiful Taroko National Park is only three hours away by train from the capital …
To conclude my stay, I decided to visit one last mountain before leaving. I opted for Hemeishan Mountain in the Bitan area, mainly because the place was easily accessible by subway.
So I went to the end of the green line, up to Xindian Station, like I did when I went to Wulai. Except that when I exited the subway station, rather than turning right towards the bus station, I turned left towards the river and Bitan Lake.
“Bitan Lake” is not really a lake. Rather, it is the Xindian River, which at this point widens and looks like a turquoise lake. Since the Japanese occupation, it has been a popular place for locals seeking to escape noisy Taipei. It is also the only place in Taipei where it is possible to rent pedal boats to spend a few hours on the water.
During the Japanese occupation, people were crossing Bitan Lake by boat to Hemeishan Mountain on the other side where there was an amusement park. The amusement park no longer exists, but a suspension bridge now allows easier access to the other side of the lake. And I went to that other side, precisely because I intended to do some hiking on Hemeishan Mountain.
The trail entrance is at the end of the bridge, but not indicated very clearly (I walked past the stairs leading to the trail without realizing that it was indeed there).
But, once on the trail, it’s easy to orient yourself. Maps and signs clearly indicate the path to the summit of Hemeishan. There are two ways to get there: either following the “blue” path along the river or following the “green” path through the forest. I opted for the latter.
The hike is not very complicated. The trail is asphalted and has a few steps. It passes by the ruins of the old amusement park and it is amazing to see how quickly nature can take over in an abandoned place.
The summit is at the end of a long wooden beams staircase (which seem to have been worn out by time). It took me thirty minutes to reach it. The summit is not very high (120 meters elevation I think), but it offers a nice view of the Xindian River, the mountains and Taipei.
As I retraced my steps, I took the blue path along the river. It was still early in the day, there were few hikers, but I could see that some paddle boats had been put in the water in anticipation of what was to be another beautiful day in Taipei. I took a few moments to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and the peace of the morning.
I left Taipei the next day, my head still filled with everything I had seen, learned, and taste. The head still filled with these unique trails and the smiles of the people I met there. I know that I have only explored a tiny part of this beautiful island. But I also know that I will come back one day.