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Yangmingshan: Taipei’s Backyard

On top of Mt. Cising in Yangmingshan

Located on the northern tip of Taiwan, Yangmingshan Park is a popular weekend getaway for Taipei’s city dwellers, thanks to its proximity, its wealth of hot spring retreats and undulating mountainous landscape. One of the most popular hikes is up to the summit of CiSing Shan (1,120m) – the tallest peak in the park. Any local will tell you that “it’s just like a walk in the park”. Translated, it means “don’t attempt it in your flipflops”. After all, the locals are used to living on an island that is 70% mountains.

The hike starts out with a straightforward stair-climbing exercise from the carpark. Halfway up, expect to be occasionally engulfed in wafting clouds of sulphur emitted from various cracks in the mountain, giving a new meaning to the word ‘Stairway to Heaven’. This area is, after all, Taipei’s hot spring paradise.

Walking on the Stairway to Heaven

Non-hikers can experience these fumaroles from a viewing point near the carpark, which busloads of tourists do. However, it’s always a far better experience getting close enough to feel the fizzing ground beneath your feet; just don’t stand there long enough to melt your soles.

The trail zig-zags its way up the rather steep mountain, its sides flanked by stunted trees that (unfortunately) do nothing to give any form of shade. Hats are essential, although some older locals do carry umbrellas on hikes to some strange effect. The many viewpoints along the way give you a bird’s eye view of the mountains with steaming vents, and the roads that snake their way through the valleys. Come winter, the entire area will be carpeted with flowering pink cherry blossom trees.

The trail up Mt. Cising

From the summit, there is an impressive 360º view of the rolling Yangmingshan mountains and beyond. If you’re lucky, you can see all the way to the ocean on a clear day. Be prepared for a sudden change in the weather – it may be hot and sticky on the climb up, but once you reach the top, the wind could freeze-dry you.

The way down involves climbing up the neighbouring peak before the descent really begins. The descent is definitely more impressive, mostly due to the fact that you’d be staring at the expansive undulating green landscape, rather than the mountain path right in front of you.

The trail finally takes you through a shaded forest where you can spot some of Taiwan’s endemic birds, the most impressive of which is the long-tailed Formosan Mikado Pheasant. The other species that you can find here are bird fanciers, whom are easily spotted as they sport conspicuous binoculars and long zoom lenses.

Night market Squid lady

Beitou and Yangmingshan
Located just a short drive (or MRT ride) north of Taipei City, Beitou marks the midway point to Yangmingshan. Dozens of hot spring spots line the road near the Beitou MRT station, giving you options like day soaks (at the public bath) and private hot tubs in your own room (at some of the hotels). Nothing beats a soak after being punished by the mountains.

Since this is Taiwan, the other thing to indulge in is night markets. The ones in Taipei City (like Shihlin Market) are popular and are therefore great places to get your face stuck in everyone’s armpits.

If you’ve ever wondered about what ‘stinky tofu’ smells like, you’ll find out right here. If you’re starving after a long hike, you can easily stuff all the calories back by packing yourself full of cheap street food, from deep-fried mushrooms to pickled plums and everything in between from just NT$10.

2 Responses to “Yangmingshan: Taipei’s Backyard”

  1. Elektrische Zahnbuerste says:

    I dont leave a lot of comments on a lot of blogs each week but i felt i had to here. Do you need many drafts to make a post?

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