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Taiwan Road Trip 2024 Part 3(a)

Route: Guanxi - Mingchi National Recreation Area - Lishan - Xincheng

semi-overcast 25 °C

24 March - 26 March 2024

We had now travelled as far north as we intended, about 50km south of Taipei. Next it was a cross island journey to the east coast once more. Our chosen route was over the central and coastal mountain ranges, to be done in three stages.
First stage was from Guanxi in the west to the Mingchi National Recreation Area, 1200m up in the central mountains.
A short drive through some rural towns got us to the start of the North Cross Island Highway. Don’t be fooled, this road isn’t a highway most people would picture. This is a narrow winding mountain road, at times not more than a single lane.
As we ascended the scenery got more spectacular and the stops to take in the view more frequent. Finding somewhere safe to stop wasn’t easy though, but we managed enough to gets some good photo’s.

View of the central mountains and the road bridge in the distance

View of the central mountains and the road bridge in the distance

A viewpoint stop on the Central Cross-Island Highway

A viewpoint stop on the Central Cross-Island Highway

Start of the drive up into the central mountains

Start of the drive up into the central mountains

New drainage channels in hope to stop future landslides and flooding which happened during a typhoon (2016) and wiped out communities below

New drainage channels in hope to stop future landslides and flooding which happened during a typhoon (2016) and wiped out communities below

Mountain road

Mountain road

The driving wasn’t difficult and even enjoyable at times. The only issue was the other motorist using the route. We have found that the quality of driving in Taiwan is generally poor, but this seemed to have dropped further on these mountain roads. All bends have mirrors to warn you of approaching traffic, which seemed to be ignored by everyone except us. Meaning cars would barrel around a bend in the middle of the road requiring us to either stop or squeeze tightly against the rock face. However, we did make it to our overnight accommodation unscathed.
Overnight accommodation was at Mingchi Resort, but before relaxing in our cabin we checked out Mingchi Lake, just a short walk away. The small lake surrounded by forest was strangely tranquil, just what we needed after the drive. The lake was short on water for this time of the year, a story that is common throughout Taiwan. This didn’t seem to concern the resident wildlife, as there were an abundance of fish, Black Swans, Terrapins, a Goose and Heron. A stroll round the lake was enough for today, we then retired to our cabin.

Mingchi Lake

Mingchi Lake

Lake fish

Lake fish

Piles of terrapins (small turtles)

Piles of terrapins (small turtles)

Goose and ducks on Mingchi Lake

Goose and ducks on Mingchi Lake

Our cabin in Mingchi Forest

Our cabin in Mingchi Forest

After a very pleasant morning walk in the nearby forest. We made a second visit to the lake, this time to visit its Japanese Garden. We got chatting to a Taiwanese couple at the garden, they spoke good english. They were interested in what we were doing in Taiwan and surprised to hear we were driving ourselves.

Mingchi forest walk

Mingchi forest walk

Japanese garden in Mingchi lake

Japanese garden in Mingchi lake

Lake Mingchi the day after, this time a sunny day

Lake Mingchi the day after, this time a sunny day

It was then back on the road again. This time descending down the eastern slope of the Central Mountains before joining a wide river valley. We were now between the Central and Coastal Mountain ranges. We followed the valley for around 20km, passing endless cabbage fields, before starting our ascent once more. All the time immersed in stunning scenery.

Views during our cross island highway drive, the fields are orchards trees cherries or apple

Views during our cross island highway drive, the fields are orchards trees cherries or apple

Taiwan road signs provide loads of informations, for the one who can read them....

Taiwan road signs provide loads of informations, for the one who can read them....

It looks like every farmer has it's own personal irrigation pipe and are strapped to any object along the side of the road.

It looks like every farmer has it's own personal irrigation pipe and are strapped to any object along the side of the road.

Central Mountain View, and for the first time we can see the highest summits (in the background) in the area which are over 3000m

Central Mountain View, and for the first time we can see the highest summits (in the background) in the area which are over 3000m

By mid-afternoon we had completed our second stage, arriving at our accommodation for the night in the small town of Lishan. We received a very warm welcome at the Lishan Guest House and quickly realised there was very little english spoken by the staff. Anne’s phone and the translation app came to the rescue. This caused a bit of excitement as we soon had all the staff wanting to speak into the phone. They were mostly interested to hear the english translation of what they had said.
Everything sorted, we went to our lovely room with a balcony looking out over the town and the mountains beyond. A stroll around Lishan and a nice traditional evening meal, completed the day and stage two of the island crossing.

Our accommodation in Lishan

Our accommodation in Lishan

Lishan at night

Lishan at night

Lishan street by night

Lishan street by night

Typical mountain meal

Typical mountain meal

View from our accommodation balcony in Lishan

View from our accommodation balcony in Lishan

The third and final stage of our cross island journey was mostly downhill towards the east coast. The usual tight narrow roads, all in good condition, were a joy to drive. Especially as the amount of traffic on them was minimal.
We thought the scenery couldn’t get more spectacular from that of the previous two days, but it did. The road cut through tight gorges with steep forest covered slopes on either side, emerging into river valleys every so often.

Narrow road

Narrow road

Tunnel cut through the bare rock

Tunnel cut through the bare rock

Mountain road

Mountain road

View from the road

View from the road

Progress was slow, but that didn’t matter as it allowed more time to appreciate the scenery. Wherever possible we would stop to photograph our surroundings and enjoy them more fully. On these occasions, locals will ask us where we are from and be surprised that we were driving ourselves and not part of a tour group.

Mountain road

Mountain road

Road side mirror, essential and very useful for driving along narrow winding mountain road

Road side mirror, essential and very useful for driving along narrow winding mountain road

Bilu Sacred tree,  Luntar fir tree, native tree of Taiwan

Bilu Sacred tree, Luntar fir tree, native tree of Taiwan

We were aware that there could be hold-ups en-route, due to landslide repairs following the most recent typhoons. At major work area’s, traffic was only allowed through once an hour on the hour. We got our timing right for the first major works but were held up for about 30 minutes at the second. As vehicles began to tail back it became a bit of a social event, with people chatting to the occupants of the closest vehicle. We had a long and interesting chat with a German couple from the Munich area.

The mountain scared by an old landslide

The mountain scared by an old landslide

Landslide repair work

Landslide repair work

Road closure sign explaining location, time, duration of the work

Road closure sign explaining location, time, duration of the work

Traffic waiting for the road to open

Traffic waiting for the road to open

It had been sunny for most of the drive but as we got closer to the east coast the cloud cover increased. Then by the time we reached the coastal strip it was raining. With only a bit of food shopping and the check-in at our accommodation remaining we weren’t too bothered by the weather.
Home for the next four nights was a two story villa with views of the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. Just what we needed after changing accommodation so frequently over the past few days.

Our villa (the one on the left)

Our villa (the one on the left)

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Red Bridges
The colour red in Taiwan signifies good fortune. What we have noticed is that many of their bridges are totally or partially painted red. This is not surprising in a country that suffers regularly from typhoons and earthquakes, together with the associated landslides.

Red bridge

Red bridge

Beautiful Drive
During our travels we have had the pleasure of driving some of the most beautiful and scenic roads around the world. I think it is only fare to add the North Cross Island Highway to this list. Starting around Daxi in the west, following highway 7 to Lishan, then highway 8 all the way to the east coast.

Tourist Survey
During our travels around Taiwan I have been undertaking an observational survey of tourist nationalities. My gut feeling results are as follows:
In the major tourist destinations, around 70% are Taiwanese, 20% Other East Asians and 10% European & American.
In the minor tourist destinations, around 80% are Taiwanese, 18% Other East Asians and 2% European & American.
In the none touristy destinations, around 90% are Taiwanese, 9.99% Other East Asians plus Anne & I.
These results haven’t been independently verified so should be used with caution.

Posted by MAd4travel 10:23 Archived in Taiwan

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Comments

Taiwan certainly has some wonderful mountain scenery. It's a beautiful place. Red is a lucky colour for all ethnic Chinese groups, even wedding dresses are traditionally red. White is an unlucky colour associated with death. Yellow is lucky and associated with fortune.

by irenevt

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