Rid of a full time job, time to tick and re-tick off some items on my Taiwan bucket list. For the first adventure as a free agent, I knew I had to revisit the beautiful sights of Qixing Mountain, one of the peaks of the Yangminshan National Park with the bestest views.
We struggled out of bed and made a spontaneous decision to catch the 11:30am bus just 30 minutes before its departure. Despite not boarding the MRT until 11:15, we got to Taipei Main and hopped on the No. 1717 bus heading for Yangminshan by 11:27. Taiwan’s impeccable efficiency in public transportation never ceases to amaze me.
We were the only ones who got off at Siaoyoukeng (小油坑), making me wonder if I got my notes right. But after walking over a hill, you can follow the strong smell of sulfur and see the gas clouds omitting from the volcano. If you’re into some post-apocalyptic geothermal beauty, this is definitely a great spot. We could hear the hissing and spraying of gas misting out of the earth as we approached the site, rocks bare from the geothermal heat. You can get an arms-length to the main attraction, just pass an unimpressive bubbling pool of hot spring water with a very considerate sign explaining what to do if tourists get burned. The little puddle is about as big as a dinner plate, and is a popular spot for people to illegally boil hot spring eggs. Gotta get that protein somehow!
The Qixing hiking trail starts a bit to the side, hidden behind another bus station. It’s mostly well-maintained stone steps, vertical enough to make you winded, sandwiched in between dense walls of tall bamboo. Specks of yellow rocks and sulfur gas puffs around you throughout a part of the trail, adding some extra points to the cinematic affect of the whole hiking experience.
After about an hour of incline and a few scenic rest stops, you’ll end up at the main Qixing peak. Last time I was here on a weekend, there was a line formed just to take pictures with this damn wooden pillar. Thanks to funemployment, it was all ours on this peaceful Tuesday afternoon, as we got to take as many silly pictures as we wanted. The incredibly generous peeps of the Yangminshan National Park also built these comfy platforms perfect for a picnic, surrounded by a 360 view of Taiwan’s northern end. You could see all the way from Taipei City and Tamsui River to the northeastern coast. The amazing view almost makes my soggy 7-11 rice ball taste good. Note to self – research how to prepare some better hiking food.
Although the hike to the peak was pretty short, the way down is an impeccable journey of its own. The view is an endless plain of beauty. The dried up grass and pine trees make you feel like you’ve temporarily escaped Taiwan, as you try not to fall off a cliff from the blazing winds. Just gorgeous!!
The whole hike took about 3 hours, and we ended at Lengsuikeng (冷水坑), after a few detours to the peaceful Qixingshan Park (七星山公園). We caught the S15 mini bus back to Jientan, a ride where I got to really work out my biceps thanks to the mountain roads and thrilling bus driving skills.
Outgoing: About NT$100 in bus fare.
Incoming: Better eye sight after staring into the green distances.