The Taiwan tourist industry has experienced quite a boom thanks to the restrictions on international travel resulting from Covid19. Ironically, this has meant that formerly sleepy backwaters like Taidong, Penghu, and Jiaoxi have been so swamped with visitors that the peace and calm they were once known for have been snuffed out by the noise of the traffic and crowds.
I was lucky enough to make it out to the hot spring resort of Jiaoxi (礁溪)before the boom really took off. Despite recent efforts by the county government to spruce it up, it’s not a particularly attractive town but it does provide a convenient starting point for excursions to nearby attractions in Yilan County.
The highlight of these is the Taipingshan National Forest Area (平山國家森林遊樂區), which is filled with stunning tree-clad hills and towering peaks that rise as high as 3,740 meters. The road from Jiaoxi snakes up the mountainside, taking you past luscious primal forests and pristine rivers and streams. Towards the top, mist descends over the ever tightening twists and turns – adding to the mystery and majesty of this magical place.
When the Japanese colonists discovered the arboreal riches of the area in the early 1900s, they decided to exploit them through the development of a forestry industry – an activity that continued until 1982. Traces of the Japanese influence can be found at Taipingshan Villa, the administrative center of the Taipingshan National Forest Area and home to a hotel, restaurant, and a 496-step stairway that leads up to a former Shinto temple and then on to a grove of virgin Taiwan Cypress and ancient Chinese Hemlock trees.
A stroll through the grove reconnects you to the primal peace and feral force of nature. It refreshes the spirit and clears the mind. I can’t wait to go back there once the tourist season is over and I can roam the woods and forests in serene silence.
You can find out more about the Taipingshan National Forest Area here.