If you missed it, check out the first two posts in this three-part series here and here! And now, for the grand finale…
On Sunday I went with a group of friends to go exploring in shī tóu shān 獅頭山, Lion-Head Mountain. The mountain park is huge and borders both Xinzhu and Miaoli Counties. Just as any good adventure, we went in with only a vague idea of what we were doing and where we would end up, and as usual, Taiwan did not disappoint.
The most challenging part of the day was getting to 獅頭山, which isn't easy if you don't have a car, but it is manageable. We took a shuttle-bus from Zhongli to the Taoyuan HSR station and bought our tickets. Honestly, this was part of the fun of the trip in itself, as I had never been on the HSR (High-speed rail) in all of my time in Taiwan. We didn't get seats, and surprisingly had to stand, which I would have thought was not allowed, but I'm not going to complain as it was just a ten minute train ride to the Xinzhu HSR station(the normal train is around an hour). From the HSR station, we went and hopped on a shuttle-bus to the 獅頭山 visitors' center. The tickets ran us 100NT a person and included round-trip fare(though be careful, the last bus back is at 6pm).
Once in the park, we visited the visitors' and got maps of the local attractions, then we hit the trails!
(Check in at the visitors' center to get a map)
It was a surprisingly hot day, but luckily I had sunscreen this time. The hike up the main trail was not very difficult, though it was pretty steep. It took us well under an hour to climb. Along the way were tons of smaller side-trails and temples, but we didn't check them out this time, as we had thought we would see them on the way back, but plans have a way of changing. More to explore next time!
(on the way up)
At one point at the top of the trail, you have an awesome view of the mountains and a giant Buddha in the distance. And then you head down a trail, into the jungle and towards the mountain's main attraction.
(You can just make out the giant Buddha in the distance…grab a hiking stick if you need one, you're not there yet!)
(Descend through the jungle, and you will be well rewarded!)
After hiking through the peaceful forest trail, you come out into a clearing where you find yourself dwarfed by the area's huge temple, which is carved out of the face of a cliff. This place has such an incredible view of the surrounding mountains, and it's unreal to think about the manpower and dedication that went into building it.
(Go ahead, soak-up the view!)
We rested at the top and enjoyed the view for a bit, then we went into the temple and burned incense and I explained some of the traditional religious practices to my friends before we left.
We headed down to the lower levels and were pleasantly surprised to see a group of musicians playing traditional music in a pagoda by the cliff-edge, as well as a store selling many traditional items, such as paper money for burnt-offerings and intricately detailed folded-paper dragons and boats for the same purpose.
(A good chance to take a look at the traditional side of Chinese culture)
By this time we were hungry, so we followed the signs to the temple's restaurant. The meal was delicious and inexpensive, only costing us 600NT for five people. And the food was vegetarian, naturally, as we were in a temple! There are also rooms available for travelers who want to stay the night and watch the sunset in the majestic mountains.
(You'll be hungry when you make it up here!)
Wile we were up-top, we spotted a giant Buddha statue in the distance and decided that we wanted to get a closer look.
We hiked down to the road level and found a bus to the 獅頭山 visitors' center, then took two other buses to get to Emei Lake é méi hú 峨眉湖, the home of the giant Maitreya Buddha.
(A view of the temple from down below, the bus stop is down here)
It was difficult getting there without a car, and in hindsight I think that a cab ride would have been far more practical, but that's what made it an adventure!
(Nice country roads the bus will take you down as you go to Emei Lake)
Unfortunately you are not allowed to go into the enclosure where the Buddha stands unless in a tour group, and there weren't any when we were there. The Buddha easily dwarfs the nearby building, which is massive in its own right, and there are lots of other impressive sculptures in the surrounding area, but they pale in comparison.
(That's one big Buddha!)
(The sign above the entrance says "the world is one family"…that includes pigs too!)
The area surrounding the Buddha was originally built as a reservoir, though it is no longer used as such, and there is a nice trail which you can follow around the lake and across a suspension bridge, though it was under renovation when we were there so we couldn't take a closer look. Still, it was worth the trip to see a Buddha statue that is taller than the Statue of Liberty!
(The world is in the palm of his hand)
Check out the rest of the pictures here!
How To Get There:
Lion-Head Mountain- The easiest way to get here is by car, but you can also take a bus from the Xinzhu HSR station directly.
Emei Lake- It's tricky getting here without transportation, I suggest taking a bus from the Lion-Head Mountain visitors' center and then switching buses, or take a taxi
Chinese phrases of the day:
獅頭山= Lion-Head Mountain
峨眉湖= Emei Lake