Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Da Jiaoxi 大礁溪

The name of this place is misleading. Even though it's called Da Jiaoxi ("Big Jiaoxi"), it's not in Jiaoxi township. In fact this area is just south of Jiaoxi, over the border in Yuanshan,closer to the town of Zhenshan 枕山. Da Jiaoxi is a pretty valley covered with fruit orchards, mostly guava trees. There are some guest houses and other facilities for tourists. People come here for a scenic drive down the little country road through the middle of the valley,

The road you want is Yilan Road 13. First you need to go to the town of Zhenshan 枕山 northwest of Yilan City. Unfortunately, the start of Road 13 isn't well marked. One way to find it is to look for the big temple in the middle of town. Road 13 begins on the left side of the temple. You can also look for signs pointing the way to Huideng High School 惠燈高中, a private school on this road.

Once you're on Road 13, just keep driving and enjoy the pretty scenery. You might want to stop and buy something from the vendors by the side of the road. Of course you should buy some guavas. You can also buy homemade country-style preserved foods such as kumquats pickled in heavy syrup and femented black beans.

There are a couple of places to have a cup of coffee or tea where you can sit outside and enjoy the bucolic scenery.

There are several things to do on this road. The first stop can be reached by going down the road
to the left of Hushan Elementary School 湖山國小. This takes you to a pleasant little lake called Wanglongpi 望龍埤, also known as Ruanpi 軟埤. You can either walk around the lake or else have a drink at the little cafe.

Head back to the elementary school. On the right side of the school is a little trail marked by a sign which reads "tiaofu budao" 挑夫步道. This trail leads up the mountain. Although well constructed, when I visited it had been mostly reclaimed by the forest. You can still walk to the top if you want to spend 15 minutes pushing your way through weeds. But it isn't worth the trouble. If the trail has been cleared, however, this would be a good chance to take a short walk through the forest. .

The final stop is at the end of the Road 13. Continue down the road, over the bridge, and follow the
road as it veers to the left. You will see lots of signs pointing the way to a guesthouse called Left Bank (Zuo'an 左岸). Just beyond the guesthouse is a swimming spot where people go to splash around in the mountain stream. There isn't any shade here and the water isn't deep, so I wouldn't recommend stopping here unless it's a cloudy day or you have a big beach umbrella. But if you're prepared and just want to enjoy the beautiful natural setting, it's a nice place to spend the day. Since the water is shallow, it's a safe spot to bring small children.

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