Distance: 3.1km with a couple of options to shorten or lengthen.
Time: 2½ at a really gentle summer pace.
Difficulty: 3/10 – there are quite a lot of steps which felt harder in 35°C heat, but in reality there’s nothing too tough here.
Water: 0.6L – a couple of small temples on the way offer water if you need a top up.
Shade: on and off – I needed an umbrella to avoid turning pink.
Mobile network: pretty good throughout, it’s still in the city really.
Enjoyment: This trail is definitely not going to take you into the heart of wild Taiwan, but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit, the second half in particular was worth the time and energy.
Downloadable route available here.
To get to the path we first had to cross forecourt of Taishan Yan Temple (it also is known as Upper Taishan Temple and Chizaichiao). We had a little wander inside and Teresa prayed in that slightly token-gesture way which seems common here, (sample conversation – me: “What are you praying for? Her: “I don’t know, it’s just tradition.”). There has been a temple on this site since the 1750’s when a wealthy Chinese family from Fujian province in the Mainland settled here. They built the temple to house statues of their ancestors and they called it Fushan Yen. The temple has undergone two large renovations since it was built, first after it was destroyed by fire in 1853 and then more recently in the 1930’s. I really liked the narrow arched doorways and many windows, the whole place felt very light and airy inside which is in contrast to some of the more Taiwanese-style temples.
The path starts at the edge of the temple next to the toilets. I’d gotten three mosquito bites by the time we started walking so we stopped here to apply some cinnamon-y insect repellent before setting off up the steps.
At first the path feels quite urban, climbing up next to a great breeze-block wall with some garden land to the right.
At various points on the ascent there were paths veering off to the right marked “to the mountain top garden” – it sounded intriguing, but knowing I probably won’t be getting out much, I wanted to get the most out of my walking and we continued going up on chitou path/崎頭步道 – eventually they would go to the same place.
There were two small temples/rest areas/karaoke halls on the way up. At the first one we passed, a man was belting out tunes in his deep, (and only slightly off-key voice), whilst a sprightly old couple danced under the shelter of a tin roof. We both took the opportunity to dampen our clothes with cool water before continuing.
The route gets a little greener for a while which I enjoyed, but the lighting and water pipe running alongside the steps don’t allow you to feel like you’ve escaped the city.
At the second temple we encountered a guy sitting eating from a tupperware box. He nodded at us and then got back to his fruit. We had a quick drink and then continued.
At the next junction we decided to turn right towards the mountain top park. (If we’d continued up we would have reached Nanlin Road – looking at the map, it’s possible to take either path and arrive at the same place).
The next short section was the only unpaved part, but only for a really short way.
The path quickly joins a road where there are a few homes, some old graves and (at least when we went), quite a lot of taxi-drivers taking a break to play mahjong.
After following the road all the way up, we arrived at Nanlin Road and turned right.
Almost immediately we left the road again when the path went up some steps on the right which were signposted as heading towards the mountain top park.
It was clear to see that this area is popular with the local aunties and uncles – as we drew nearer to the park itself we saw more and more signs of human activity. At this crossroads we carried on straight up the steps, passing the grave of someone who had moved here from Fujian and a gaggle of fit looking ah-beis who were sat around chatting and smoking.
Just beyond the smokers we found the gym grandpas (although to be honest, they’re normally one and the same here). At first it seemed like one of the many old-people outdoor gyms we’ve encountered all over the place – but then it quickly became apparent that this was something else.
These places are different to the government-installed, brightly coloured exercise equipment that you see in parks all over, these are set up by local groups of old people and while I sometimes encounter younger individuals using them, more often than not it’s retired people. A basic mountain fitness station has a couple of pull-up bars, some calf-stretch blocks, hula hoops hung up on all the nearby trees and a few tyres to flex your back on. At a slightly more equipped place you might find a swing, multiple height bars and possibly a climbing ladder. If you’re really lucky, your local outdoor gym might come equipped with a shelter to run to if it starts belting it down whilst you’re exercising, parallel bars or gym hoops. This place had all the above and literally everything else too. Bench presses, cables and pulleys, monkey bars, lat pull-down bars, abdominal benches and while array of stuff I couldn’t name. On top of that, all of the equipment with moving pieces were sheltered under canopies to prevent them from getting too rusty.
There’s also a viewing platform where one aunty was doing her stretches whilst taking in the view of Taishan district and its many metal-roofed factories.
The area was buzzing with activity, there were lots of older guys, a few older couples and a young family all out enjoying the park.
A sign said that those under 21 shouldn’t use the equipment and somewhere else another sign said the whole gym had been put together by a hiking group. It must have taken them ages to establish somewhere so well equipped.
*Note the upside-down man in the above picture – he was at least in his sixties (probably older), and exercising in a button-up shirt and long trousers with a belt – he looked like he was dressed for the office! Just prior to doing hanging sit-ups he had been doing weighted pull-ups with a plate weight gripped between his knees. I seriously hope that I am lucky enough to have such rude physical health at that age.
At the far end of the park there were a couple of contraptions I’d never seen before, some kind of sliding ab machine and this device which looks like it could double up as an implement of torture – turning the wheel anti-clockwise forces the two sides open so that you can increase your flexibility.
Leaving the park we turned right down some wooden steps, (it would have been ok to go straight and turn later too).
I enjoyed the change from concrete to wood, but you need to watch your step as a couple of the slats are in the process of rotting away and others are coming a little loose.
Part way down there’s a look-out platform where you can watch the planes taking off from Songshan Airport and spot Taipei 101 lurking in the haze beyond all of Taishan’s industrial units. An information board (with pretty good English save for the typo in the title) explains that Linkou Terrace, (the small hill that rises over Taishan), is a foothill fault – a raised area caused by the movement of tectonic plates around 60,000 years ago.
The steps meet a small road and we continued on the path between two bird hides -the view here opened up to look south over Xinzhuang district.
As the path gets nearer the traffic, it runs through a small bamboo farm and next to a stream.
At the end of the path we stopped to talk to an old man who was smoking in a small private garden area. He spoke with a strong Mainland accent and said that he’d come from Fujian – in the garden behind him were many grapefruits growing on the tree and protected by white plastic bags. When we hit the road we headed straight down to rejoin Mingzhi Road Section 2.
To loop back to the start, we turned right on Mingzhi Road.
On the way we passed this building, Mingzhi Academy – another mark left by Chinese immigrants, Mingzhi Academy was built in 1763 and was apparently the first official private academy in Taiwan. The founder then donated the building and enough funds for it to become a free school. The building has since undergone two re-buildings – the first in 1921 and the second in 2003 after lack of care and tree falling on it caused it to collapse. According to information boards in the building, that was a lucky escape – the tree fell at 8:30 in the morning, just half an hour before there was due to be a group of people in there. The boards also document the renovation process, it’s all in Chinese but there are a lot of photos.
Leaving the academy building, we continued along the road until we met the paifang which signified that we’d arrived back at the temple where we’d started.
How to get there
Google maps address: Taishan Yan Temple, No. 32號, Yinghua Street, Taishan District, New Taipei City, 243
GPS location: N25 02.630 E121 25.445
Public transport: there are several buses which run from Danfeng MRT station to Taishan Yan Temple, the 637, 638, 797, 801 and 880 all stop at Taishan Yan – it should take 10-15 minutes.
My new words learnt on this walk were:
- 膽小 / dǎn xiǎo / timid or cowardly – I learnt this as part of a noun a few weeks ago but this was the first time I heard the adjective.
- 你腦袋裝屎 / nǐ nǎodai zhuāng shǐ / literally your brain is filled with feces – I think it’s pretty close to the English insult shit for brains.
- 發霉的 / fāméi de / mouldy
- 貓頭鷹 / māotóuyīng / owl – I’m sure I’ve learnt this one before but I forgot it.
- 飲水機 / yǐnshuǐ jī / drinking water machine
- 不穩定 / bù wěndìng / unstable – can be used to talk about a person or situation
- 重心不穩 / zhòngxīn bù wěn / unstable centre of gravity
- 農夫 / nóngfū / farmer
- 福利 / fúlì / benefits or welfare – (from the conversation with the old Fujian man)
- 書院 / shūyuàn / accademy
- 櫻花 / yīnghuā / cherry blossom – the name of the road that the temple is on is ‘Cheery Blossom Road’
- 夏天 / xiàtiān / summer – another word I keep forgetting
- 不紅 / bù hóng / literally not red, but the secondary meaning is not famous, Teresa couldn’t explain why.