Friday, October 5, 2007

Dinghu, Chiayi County

Dinghu: A natural gem

From the dark and brooding to the bright and lurid, green in a hundred shades and tones lies in swathes across the Dinghu頂湖 landscape. Trees, ferns, tea plants, bamboo, bushes, there is such a wealth of plant-life here that whether you look up, down, right, or left you cannot escape it. Nature surrounds you at every turn.

Situated about 20 kilometers down the road from Alishan阿里山, Dinghu is usually overlooked in favor of its famous neighbor. Lacking the big attractions like Cherry Blossom, a charming old train, and sunrise viewing platforms, it will never pull in the same number of visitors as Alishan. Strange as it may seem however, these deficiencies are actually Dinghu’s greatest strength.
The very fact that it doesn’t need to cater to huge numbers of tourists, or satisfy those who are not quite at home when out of doors, means that it is left to simply be what it is, one of the best places to immerse yourself in nature. Without the mass crowds, without the hawkers, or regimented and sterile hiking paths, Dinghu has a rawness and a purity to it that you just can’t find in most places.

The hills above Dinghu are laced with a riddle of criss-crossing pathways. Each one has its own individual personality and will show you something slightly different. Not only are there a myriad different species of plants and trees covering the hills, but there are also a number of other features littering the paths. As you walk, every now and then you’ll come across a tiny shrine squeezed underneath or in between rocky outcrops, there are glimpses of mountain views that come through clearings in the foliage, and then perfect beams of sunlight piercing the high bamboo leaves.

It doesn’t matter whether you plan on hiking for five hours or just five minutes, there’s so much nature bursting out around you that, as long as you keep your eyes open to it, you’ll be entranced.

You’ve probably guessed by now that Dinghu doesn’t have a big hotel, restaurants, or a shopping street. Having said that though, the town is not without facilities. Most people who stay here sleep in the camping ground, which is quite large and comes equipped with hot water and showers. The fee for staying there is 200 dollars per person, per night. There are also some rooms you can hire for the night, a small shop, and a place where you can buy simple hot food.
At about 1100 meters above sea level, Dinghu isn’t high enough to ever get really cold, though winter days are often quite chilly. The altitude does help to keep average summer temperatures around a cool 20 degrees. You should expect some heavy rainfall in late summer and fall, so the best time to see the landscape in all its glory is during spring and early summer. Dinghu doesn’t have its own tourist information office but the Alishan office (05 2679917) should be able to give you some more information.

The starting point for a trip to Dinghu is Chiayi City, from there take the No. 18 road to Alishan. A few kilometers after Shijou石棹, watch out for a small sign marking a side road going off on the left. From there it’s just a few kilometers to one of the jewels in the Alishan Scenic Area.

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