Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hongludi Mountain Trail

I recently went on a day trip to hike up Hongludi trail in New Taipei City. Surprisingly, the attraction, with a temple dedicated to the Earth God, isn't too well known, but I think the short hike up the mountain is well worth it thanks to the gorgeous panorama of Taipei. It rivals the views from Xiangshan, and it is far less crowded on the weekdays. 

Hongludi is a bit tricky to reach. First we took the MRT to Nanshijiao Station. A few blocks down from the MRT is the stop for the free shuttle 512, which arrives hourly. The shuttle stop is next to this adorable image of two koalas, in case you have difficulty locating it.  

After about twenty minutes, the shuttle dropped us off at the terminal stop at the base of the mountain. On normal weekdays, 512 ends its service at the bottom of the mountain so you have to hike up to the top of the mountain to get to temple at the top On weekends, the shuttle actually goes all the way up to a parking lot near the temple, so you would only have to climb a few sets of steep stairs instead of the entire mountain. 

Though we ended up experiencing the "difficult" option, it ended up only taking about 1.5 hours, and we got to see some interesting sights along the way. There are long stretches of steep stairs though, so be prepared for some moderately strenuous exercise. 

First we walked up from the shuttle stop to the mountain, following the signs for the trail. 

The older area around here is an odd mixture of rural fields, small workshops, and small traditional houses.

After a few hundred meters, there is a point where the road splits into two. One way leads to stairs going up alongside the main road to Hongludi, while another one takes you first to another temple lower on the hill. We walked up the path that bypassed this other temple.

There were so many steep stairs, and I knew this was only the first stretch! However, there are clear views of the city when you turn around, and seeing the slow progress upwards was quite motivating.

I'm glad we got to pass by this first temple. I didn't get the name, but it is vibrant and colorful.

Even at this lower elevation, there are already stunning views of Taipei City.

After more stairs, we arrived at the base of the top of the mountain, marked by this gigantic statue of the Earth God. There is a parking lot here, where the 512 shuttle stops on weekends. There were also some visitors who had driven up in cars.

After a few more steep steps, we finally arrived at the top of Hongludi. The beautiful temple had all the amenities of a nice rest stop, with a large convenience store, bathrooms, vending machines, and a small eatery.

The food vendor, near the back of the temple, sold many local foods like stinky tofu. We decided to get a warming early dinner.

The food was not bad at all for coming from a random small shop at the top of a mountain. I got the soup on the right, full of different vegetables and tofu in a rich, spicy broth (about $2 USD). 

There is a trail leading out from the back of the temple to other mountains, but the real stunning view is right in the front. On a clear day, you can see most of Taipei laid out in front of you. Dusk is a particularly nice time, as the orange-hued sun rays hit the city and create a warm glow.

At this time, I was quite jealous of all the people who had driven up in cars! We still had to hike down the entire mountain, and we weren't sure if the shuttle would be on schedule, or if we could even make the next hourly departure. Fortunately, we caught the 6PM shuttle.

Near Nanshijiao Station is a small neighborhood full of Burmese immigrants. There are Burmese and groceries all along a street called Huaxin St. We decided to eat dinner here, though some of the businesses were closed by the time we arrived, since they focus on providing breakfast.

The restaurants seemed really authentic! There were Burmese language posters and menus everywhere, and a bunch of rich curries laid out on a counter. It brought me back to my travels in Yangon.

We decided to try out a Burmese classic, mohinga, otherwise known as fish noodle soup. The soup is made with a pungent fish paste, giving it a savory and rich taste.

There was also a shop down the road that sold some Indian-style foods, like naan for $1USD. I had to get a piece! It was enormous but surprisingly light and fluffy. My carb craving was deeply satisfied.

What a fun day trip! I'm so glad I spent this long in Taipei, to be able to see some of the lesser-known sights in this great place. Hongludi Mountain is the place to go for gorgeous views, a moderate hike, and fewer crowds.