Monday, May 26, 2008
Baguashan八卦山 is a great mass of hills and valleys that covers 22,000 hectares of west central Taiwan. To see everything it had to offer would take months, the more places you visit, the more you realize just how much there is left to see. From Changhua彰化 in the north, to Ershuei二水 in the south, the entire area is shot through with landmarks, theme parks, cycle routes, and hiking paths. It’s a beautiful area and I’ve been taking the time to explore just a little of what’s on offer. Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting the Tianjhong Forest Park田中森林公園.
Baguashan is not a very tall mountain; in fact, it’s not really a mountain at all. The highest point stands at a meager 440 meters, and Tianjhong Forest Park doesn’t even get as high as that. That slight shortcoming aside though, the park seems to have it all; it’s really very pretty, it has great views, and, over its course, you walk through a range of different types of vegetation. The path is also suitable for regular hikers, occasional walkers, or those just out for a breath of fresh air.
As you set out from the car park, you snake your way up and over the first of a series of hills. The route is undulating enough to give experienced hikers a good workout, but doesn’t have any of the steep climbs that might deter less frequent walkers.
The slopes and valleys make for a picturesque trail, and after a few hundred meters you begin to get glimpses of the Great Changhua Plain. The view is marvelous, and from up high, looking down on the green paddy fields below, it’s easy to see why the area has been dubbed, “Taiwan’s major granary”.
Carry on walking and you’ll start to see signs for the Tea Trail. This is my favorite part of the route, and is perhaps the prettiest path I’ve ever been on. The tea plants are so well-groomed and neatly lined that they look more like the box hedges found in the gardens of European Manor houses. Their rich green color contrasts wonderfully with the orange earth and almost purple leaves of young pineapple plants.
Coming here is like taking a step back to a more simple time. There is a small village comprised of single-story red-brick houses, complete with courtyards and perimeter walls. I’m not sure what it is about buildings like this, the attraction of other, more elaborate structures, seems to fade over time, but I still cannot find these little houses anything other than extremely charming.
When your senses have had their fill, there’s nothing left but to return home a happier, and a more carefree soul.