Here is a quick summary of our trip along the Northern Cross-Island Highway in Taiwan. We drove down Freeway 3 from Taipei to Daxi in Taoyuan and then took the highway first to Jiaobanshan, then to Little Wulai, Lalashan, Mingchi, and Qilan. Finally we went to Taipingshan, which is not on the Northern Cross-Island Highway, but further east.
The thing to do here is visit the park with President Chiang Kao-shek’s residence. The War-Prepardness Tunnel is interesting, so is the little museum about CKS, if you are interested in history. The park has beautiful trees and art installations.
Best known for the gloss-bottom Skywalk, which allows you to walk right above a roaring waterfall. Only mildly exciting. Weekdays are fine without the weekends crowds. Need to buy a ticket, which also gives you access to a suspension bridge. Note that they have a lunch break, during which the Skywalk and the suspension bridge are both closed. There is another smaller waterfall and a small suspension bridge, both pleasant. If you have time and want to hike a bit, take the trail down to the base of the first waterfall. Especially after heavy rain, the waterfall is extremely impressive when seen from below. You can also see it from the highway, there is an observation platform you pass before reaching the Little Wulai car park area.
If you come to this area during late summer, definitely try the honey peaches and honey peach smoothies, so refreshing and good tasting!
Close to where the Little Wulai road meets the main highway there are two bridges across Dahan River, one is the highway bridge, one the older pink suspension bridge, both good places to take photos.
Great mountain scenery. The Ancient Forest Area was unfortunately under construction, so we only so the first few giant trees, which were nice. We would have loved to walk there a bit more. Maybe next time.
The place we stayed was in a nice location. The tiny road there is not in the best condition. We saw a nice sunset and the owners of the villa were very friendly. They have a small Foosball table we played with, which was fun!
Lalashan Visitor Center and Baling Trail
The Visitor Center is close to the main highway. We didn’t expect there to be this trail from the center down to the two Baling bridges. Was in very good condition (recently built). There are a few small exhibition rooms introducing you to the butterflies, bugs, etc. of the Lalashan area. Kind of interesting, but only in Chinese. There are two small suspension bridges kinds will like. The view over the river valley and the two Baling bridges is great. There is a short tunnel leading to the older bridge. Inside are a few indigenous decorations. Strangely, there are fake cherry trees on the bridge.
Drive to Mingchi
From Lalashan to Mingchi and all the way to the end of the highway, the road is quite narrow and has many curves. If you drive on your own, turn you headlights on and drive slowly. Some drivers in the opposite lane will cross the middle line, so be careful. There is also the chance of rock fall in certain sections, especially during rainy day.
Mingchi is a small park around a lovely lake surrounded by forested mountains. On weekends this can be a very quiet and peaceful plays. There are, however, musicians who like to play there from time to time. The Japanese/Chinese park area has probably seen better times. I found the frogs more interesting. The Fern Garden boardwalk was a bit too artificial for my taste, I prefer mud paths. The LeaLea hotel offers accommodation and dining, but there is not much to do in Mingchi than walking through the park.
Qilan is close to the end of the Northern Cross-Island Highway. There is another residence used by late president Chiang, and LeaLea also operates a hotel there. The thing to do though, is going on a guidedn bus tour to the ancient tree area, which is like an hour away. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do this. Maybe next time.
Ying Shi Shan Zhuang
We stayed here because we couldn’t get rooms at Taipingshan (you have to book months in advance). The main attraction of the place is a large revolving restaurant (it’s actually floating on water). The food was good too.
We good up very early and drove up the mountain to Taipingshan. Made a short stop at the visitor center on the way. Scenic ride with great views.
We went there first, because it’s quite a long way (even on an empty road early in the morning). There is a trail all around the lake which is very scenic. We first walked to the Lakeview Deck first and then took to another trail further up.
Taiping Villa is the main center of the Taipingshan area. There we were reminded why you better avoid weekends. We were lucky to find a parking spot, and place in the restaurant. People everywhere, lot of noise. I was very disappointed that the Beng Beng trains are not running anymore, going on a ride would have been fun. Instead we walked up to the small temple above the Taiping Villa.
Jianqing Historic Trail
This trail is somewhere between Taiping Villa and the visitor center further down the mountains. It follows an old narrow-gauge railway track. Very quite there when no one is around. The mist gives the area a mysterious feel.
Jiuzhize Hot Spring
A relaxing soak in pleasantly warm waters. The water had created a film on the skin, probably good for the skin. The little bathtubs carved out of boulders are cute.
And that was our trip. All the places we visited are highly recommended! 🙂