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Monday, November 5, 2007

Walking in one of the eight scenic spots of Taiwan

In two weeks' time we will be leaving for a two-week visit to see my family in the United States. I'm really looking forward to the trip as it will be my first real Thanksgiving in 19 years. Seeing as we will probably spend next Sunday cleaning the apartment before we leave, today was going to be our first and last chance for a family outing this month. So we took advantage of the clear skies and warm temperatures, and headed off in the car to the Pahsienshan (Basianshan) 八仙山 National Forest Recreation Area.

Pahsienshan is located off of Highway 8, the former Central Cross-Island Highway 中部橫貫公路, just before the hot-spring resort of Kukuan (Guguan) 谷關. Including the two stops we made in Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原 and a break for lunch at a roadside noodle restaurant while en route, it took us just over two hours to reach Pahsienshan. Once there, we set off on the Evergreen Trail 長青歩道, the easiest of several walks in the area. It should take about an hour to walk the kilometer-long path, but with a 22 month-old child in tow, it was more like two. Amber enjoyed the experience, frequently stopping to pick up rocks and sticks, touch the flowers and plants and point out butterflies. She also proved to be very popular with almost everyone we encountered on the trail.

The trail begins from the parking lot by the visitor's center, and passes by some wooden cabins. Pahsienshan looks like it would be a nice place to spend the night.

The surrounding mountain scenery reminded me of the Japan Alps 日本アルプス. Here, Taiwan didn't seem so small after all. Speaking of Japan, we soon came to the Paching (Bajing) 八景, or Eight Scenic Spots, Memorial. The stone marks the fact that, during the Japanese occupation (1895-1945), Pahsienshan was considered one of Taiwan's eight most scenic spots. The other seven were Tamsui (Tanshui/Danshuei) 淡水, Taroko Gorge 太魯閣, Hsukang (Syugang) 旭崗, Alishan 阿里山, Sun Moon Lake 日月潭, Shoushan 壽山 and Eluanpi (Eluanbi) 鵝鑾鼻.

Past the Paching Memorial was another reminder of the Japanese era, the ruins of a Shinto shrine 神社. The shrine itself was long gone, unfortunately, a victim of forest fires and earthquakes, with only a pavilion and a sign to mark the spot. Nearby, however, was an atmospheric grove of tall bamboo trees.

From the bamboo grove, the trail looped back towards the visitor's center. The glimpses of the mountains through the trees were fabulous, but the best view was to be had from the small Chinghai (Jinghai) Temple 静海寺, which is also the gateway to an 8-hour round trip hike to the main peak of Pahsienshan. If we should ever spend the night here, this is a hike I would like to attempt.

We finally found ourselves back at the car, and headed for home. On the way back, Pamela wanted to stop off in Tungshih (Dongshih) 東勢 at a shop called "Chin Mama (Jin Mama)" 金媽媽. It's a very popular kimchi キムチ outlet set up by a Korean woman who bares a remarkable resemblance to the Japanese actress Shima Iwashita 岩下志麻, at least at the time when the portrait that adorns her shop's sign out front was taken. Traffic slowed to a crawl on the final leg of our journey home, between Tungshih and Fengyuan, but at least the sunset was spectacular.

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