hiking at Ba-Shian-Shan (Gu-Guan)
A good escape from the city exists at Ba-Shian-Shan before you enter the Gu-Guan hotspring hotel service area.
Some good hikes exist here including an 8 hour hike, a few 2 hour and 1 hour hikes. The scenery is good, typical steep mountain side scenery for taiwan. Some interesting areas we noticed included a bamboo forest area and a short trail we walked. I have not yet done the 8 hour hike but it probably will happen in the next 3 months.
To go there:
Leave Taichung using Wen-Shin. Go past the traffic circle in Da-Keng and take the second exit. drive to a small town called Tian-Leng. Stay right on the traffic circle (first exit). Look for the bridge to HWY 8 which will be a left turn (it is marked). Follow HWY 8 to Gu-Guan. you will reach a T-intersection- to go to Ba-Shian Shan go right.
- Hiking and Walking
Taichung Park (Taichung Gongyuan) (Zhongshan Gongyuan) (台中公園) is a large park not far from the center of the city. It is popular among locals, though it might not be so immensely attractive to foreign visitors. The park has a large central pond in the middle of which there is a small island with a kiosk on it that is the most famous landmark of the park. A few bridges cross the pond to large grassy areas and a small pond with water lilies. On the northern edge of the park, there are two statues of horses which are both at least 60 years old. It is possible to rent a boat and row out onto the pond.
Central Taichung Walk
A green strip of trees in the middle of Taichung is a nice place to take a walk. It is possible to walk from the science museum up north down to the Art museum down south following a nice long boulevard. You pass through some large parks and by some of the main shopping areas on the way. Occasionally the city puts up some displays of art or photo-essays on occassion along here.
Start by parking somewhere by the science museum botanical garden park. Wander around the grounds and head south. Wander down across the road past caves book store and keep wandering south past Taichunggong. Obey traffic laws and you will be ok. This area gets heavily policed and laws are enforced at this area so pedestrians can wander through, but keep your eyes open when you cross here. Wander past some major hotels and pass by Kung-Yi Road, near Nova electronics market. (also worth checking for reasonably priced electronic gadgets in taichung.) You will see a large square grassy field across from you. Follow this, keep left and keep following the boulevard under the large skyscraper. Keep going down until you hit the art museum. On your way you will pass Xiang Shang.
This walk probably takes about 45 mins to one hour one way. Its a good thing to do in the evenings.
Da-Keng walking, spas and restaurants
Well, Da Keng is a big area and there is a lot to do. Its nice because it has trees and mountains all around you, and its only 20mins from central taichung by scooter. probably 45 by car. (I am a mad mad driver like most scooters- insanity is the only protection we have.)
I generally like to get up to here and scoot around and look interesting looking places to stop. On occassion I actually even hike some of the easier trails, like trail 7 or 8.
More difficult pain lover trails include #4, which taiwanese love. And I dont. But if you like steep stairs and hot sun hitting you like anvil, and you wish to pay for your sin early, hey go ahead. I think its called 4 cuz it is the trail of death. Trail 2 is a bit better but not by much. Trails 1, 3, 5 and 6 i actually have never done... owell. I think its mostly because my wife is lazy. And so am I LOL. But there are several good hikes to be done.
Another good place to wander is any temple you pass by. There are a few.
Spas and hot springs also advertise heavily around here. If you have a significant other you can spend a couple thousand NT and rent a room at a spa to spend some time with them. Its a good thing. Watch out for the 'sex chairs' inside the rooms -they are an interesting looking combination of weight lifting machine and gyno chair.
A few ok restaurants exist here. near the central part of town, before you see the holy tree in the center of a traffic circle you can see a group of interesting looking restaurants with outdoor seating...
- Hiking and Walking
NMONS: Botanical Garden
The National Museum of Natural Science's Botanical Garden is an unmissable glass building across the street from the main entrance of the museum. Looking somewhat like a giant insect, admission to the Botanical Garden is NT 20. The Botanical Garden actually covers much more than just the building; it includes the large grounds surrounding it. The building houses a tropical rain forest, complete with a waterfall and artificial rain. It is possible to walk a loop around the forest; plaques help you identify the various plants of what are said to be examples of Central and South American Rain Forests. If you enter the gift shop, you'll also see a giant fish tank containing a couple of tropical fresh water fish (though they look a bit overcrowded; poor fish). Outside the botanical garden are examples of different forests found around Taiwan. The grounds offer good views of the building as well as the Taichung skyline.
NMONS: Science Center
The National Museum of Natural Science's Science Center isn't exactly the most interesting part of the museum; admission is NT 20, but if you have a ticket stub for the main exhibition hall you can get in, too. The science center has 6 floors; the first floor is a gift shop, the second floor concerns technology and chips, the third floor is about Astronomy and includes interactive exhibits about moon phases and a model of the nine (now eight) planets. The fourth and fifth floor I think are children's playgrounds. The basement level is an interactive area with the standard stuff you see at science museums, like producing tornados, cloud rings, etc. This is a good place to bring children but I wasn't too interested in it. Some people will be able to have a lot of fun here...
- Museum Visits
National Museum of Natural Science
The National Museum of Natural Science (Kebouguan) is one of Taichung's most popular tourist draws. As far as I know, this is the largest museum of natural science in the Republic of China. The museum tries to draw comparisons of itself with other worldwide natural history museums but in my opinion, it isn't quite up to par. This museum has a collection of 832,000 artifacts. The museum is actually quite large, covering a larger area than Washington DC's Smithsonian Air and Space Museum does. There are three main halls: life science, earth science, and Chinese science. There are also two restaurants in the museum, a McDonalds and Hua-cha, a more Chinese style restaurant. The museum also has a science center, a Space Theater (IMAX theater), a 3-D Theater, and a large botanical garden. The exterior of the museum is quite ugly, and I don't know who designed it. Admission to the main exhibition halls is NT 100, or NT 70 for students; the science center is NT 20, the botanical garden is NT 20, and the IMAX theater is NT 100. The museum is open from 9:00 to 17:00; many exhibits are in Chinese, but there are some in English. Audio guides can be rented.
- Museum Visits
NMONS: Chinese and Earth Science Halls
The National Museum of Natural Science's Chinese Science Hall was, in my opinion, the most interesting; however, the exhibit didn't really have much on Chinese science as on Chinese philosophy and Chinese history. The museum has a handful of artifacts, making a sort of mini-National Palace Museum. More impressively there is a recreation of a Chinese water clock and observatory. This giant two-story structure is made of a large water clock on the first level, and an observatory on the second level that helps astronomers find stars at different times, based on the water clock. It is really quite amazing. There are also models of Chinese junks and ships, and a bridge built without a single nail. There is also a detailed exhibit on the seven aboriginal tribes of Taiwan, and information on Chinese religion, philosophy, and medicine. Interactive touch-screen exhibits help explain concepts like Bagua (Eight Diagrams, or something like that), the Five Elements, and Daoism. There is also an aisle full of small statues of Daoist and other Chinese deities, including Guanggong, the Jade Emperor, Judge Pao, and Ma-tsu. There are also many drawings, including ones concerning Chinese visions of heaven and hell.
The Earth Science Hall is less interesting; there isn't much to read, and most of the hall is made of models of different biomes in the world.
- Museum Visits
NMONS: Life Science Hall
The most popular wing of Taichung's National Museum of Natural Science is the Life Science Hall. There are some relatively mediocre exhibits here like 'Rhythms of Life'; more interestingly, there are the giant bones of what apparently was a mastadon (or maybe an elephant, can't remember) that lived in the Penghu islands (Pescadores) and is now extinct. Then there's an exhibit on evolution; head into that exhibit. It will eventually lead into a larger exhibition room concerning the development of life on earth and DNA; continuing on, it covers the Precambrian and Cambrian Eras. However, a good amount of these exhibits are in Chinese only; try and make out what you can. The exhibit eventually reaches the museum's famous Dinosaur Hall, where there are a collection of dinosaur fossils as well as a 8-meter model of a dinosaur that moves and roars. Exhibits continue on about birds, early mammals, and eventually humans; including exhibits about population, birth, death, and other things.
- Museum Visits
Taichung City Hall
The Taichung City Hall has been slowly relocating from this older building to a newer one outside the old downtown. The original Taichung City Hall is a brick Western-style building constructed by the Japanese during their occupation of Taiwan. The building is now open to the public and entering the building is free; there isn't much to see inside though, since it's made of mostly deserted offices. You can walk around the square-shaped building and see all there is to see in 10 minutes.
Wufeng (Fog Peak) (霧峰) is a 'small' village with a population of 80,000, south of Taichung. The town sits at the base of Tiangbi Shan (Elephant Nose Mountain) and is mainly an agricultural village; there is a major agricultural research center in the village. Driving around the city, you're likely to see rice paddies, and on clear days, distant views of the Taichung skyline. The big draw of the town right now is the 921 Earthquake Museum; this town was one of the heaviest effected by the 921 earthquake. There aren't too many tourist sights in this town, but there is plenty of good food.
921 Earthquake Museum
The 921 Earthquake Museum is Wufeng is one of the better earthquake museums I have been to, with exhibits all conveniently in both Chinese and English. The museum commemorates the earthquake on September 21, 1999 centered in Jiji, Nantou County. The 7.3 magnitude quake caused more damage and deaths than any other earthquake in the recent history of the Republic of China (In the 1970's, a similar earthquake hit Tangshan in the People's Republic of China; see my Tangshan pages about that). The quake leveled thousands of buildings, destroyed basic infrastructure (including the Wuxi Bridge from Wufeng to Caotun) and killed around 2,500 people, 100 in Wufeng alone. The museum sits on the former site of Guangfu Guozhong (Guangfu Junior High School), which was completely destroyed by the quake (my grandmother used to teach here...). The new museum is (unwisely) built on top of the earthquake fault. I don't remember the admission, since if you visit on Wednesday morning before 10:00, it's free (hours are 9:00 to 17:00). The museum has a good video on the quake, and interactive exhibits on how earthquakes occur and tectonic plates. Currently, the museum also shows a 49-minute video about Indonesia's 2004 tsunami. There is also a large screen that identifies all recent major quakes (at the time I was there, a 5.5 had just hit Java). Outside the museum is the former sports track of the high school, which was split in half.
- Museum Visits
Donghai University's famous Luce Chapel is considered to be one of Taiwan's most beautiful buildings (it certainly is one of the most interesting). The building has been around for quite a while, and was constructed in memory of Henry Winters Luce, who died in 1941. The chapel lies in the middle of an open lawn, with paths leading to its entrance; on most days, the chapel is not open. It is worth wandering around the area. You'll often see couples around the chapel.
- Religious Travel
Shi-hua International Tower
The Shi-hua International Tower is currently Taichung's tallest building (though this is slated to change, since a new 307-meter tall Taichung Tower is being planned). The tower was not completed until 2004, although construction began in the 1990's; the tower now stands 192 meters tall with 47 stories. Sadly, there is no observation deck on this building, or in fact on any other building in Taichung. The building is immediately recognizable, with the words ONE plastered on the top.
Donghai University (Tunghai College) (East Sea University) (Donghai Datsue) (東海大學) is one of Taichung's best institutions of higher learning. While the university is best known for the Luce Chapel, wandering around the campus is also fun (a few facts you're probably not interested in: one of my parents taught here). Near the entrance, you can see students playing basketball and baseball; further in, there is a path into a forest designed by the students of the college. The Luce Memorial Chapel is unmissable; if you turn left near the chapel, you'll eventually reach a student activity center with a bookshop and a cafe. Turn right and you'll pass the university's various departments and reach the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Auditorium. Not much to see there. There is also a library nearby.