New Taipei City was inaugurated as a special municipality in 2010. It completely surrounds Taipei and is Taiwan’s second largest special municipality after Kaohsiung. Blogger Karen Ashley Ng recently went on a tw0-week tour around New Taipei City to visit some of the most famous districts, food places and tourist attractions across popular districts in the city. Here are the 9 places she highly recommends you check out should you decide to visit.
Great Roots Forestry Spa Resort
Near to the township of Sanxia is a unique century old resort that boasts the only low-elevation primitive tropical rain forest in Taiwan. This luxury estate even includes a vacation villa that was formerly used by the Japanese Royal family. Stay in hotel rooms or stand alone villas with forest trails leading to rare century-old buttress root trees. Mountain figs, Ficus variegata and tree ferns from the dinosaur age are among the nearly 500 species of plants in the rain forest. The forest is also home to more than 4, 000 kinds of insect and over 30 kinds of birds; among them the blue – winged pitta－a globally protected species. In the right months, you could even wander to the edge of the forests to glimpse fireflies dancing in the darkness. Enjoy the carbonic hot springs, explore fishponds, go rock climbing or order an outdoor BBQ. The resort restaurant has a great selection of delicious and healthy meals to complete your relaxing stay.
Lao Mei Green Algae Reef
New Taipei City has an assortment of rare natural wonders and one of this is just a few minutes walk east of Fuguei Cape (富貴角), Taiwan’s most northerly point. The best season to catch these odd shaped stones covered with beautiful green algae is in the months of March and April. Even though my New Taipei City trip happened in May and I wasn’t in the peak of the algae blooming season, I was still able to capture a majority of the water eroded boulders in stunning green. Go during low tides to ensure that the rocks are exposed. You can check the weather and tidal forecast of Shimen at Taiwan Central Weather Bureau’s website – www.cwb.gov.tw .
Prepare your most comfortable walking shoes and a bottle of water to explore one of the world’s most famous rock formations. The distance from the entrance of the Yehliu Geopark to the end of the cape is about 1.7 km and along the way you can see dozens of varying unique geological formations. The most iconic rock is called the “Queen Head” (女王頭) and on a popular day, you can expect long queues of tourists waiting in line for their turn to snap a photo with it. Look around and you will find plenty of interesting hoodoo rocks that are waiting to ignite your imaginations. Juxtapose the sand colored rocks with the blue skies; white clouds amid crashing waves and you can easily understand why every photo taken here is postcard worthy.
Culture rich Pingxi Old Street is the place to go to witness the spectacular Sky Lantern Festival. For just NT$100 – 200 you can choose to write your wishes on a paper lantern and release your wishes to the sky. Eco-green warriors can choose to scan their wishes and release them via animation on a huge LED lantern instead. Stay overnight at Shuangxi or Jiufen and you can consider staying late to release your lantern in the night for a more romantic effect.
The Shifen Waterfall is the broadest waterfall in Taiwan and locally known as the Niagara Falls of Taiwan. Don’t expect it to be as huge as the US/Canada Niagara Falls but it is still worth visiting especially if you are near Pingxi. Take a 15 minutes easy walk to the waterfalls then stop at the nearby little shops for some brown sugar artisan coffee for the most relaxing day. If you are craving for some excitement, you can head down to the railway town of Shifen to put sky lanterns or grab some street food.
Bitou Cape is nothing short of an incredible natural marvel. Bitou offers three trails that wind around the park area and regardless of which one you choose to hike, you can be assured of gorgeous coastline scenery and enthralling landforms. Although you might need to have some stamina for this excursion, you can always take a breather at any of the little pavilions and benches along the way. The most outstanding landmark in the area is the Bitou Cape Lighthouse. Unfortunately, the trail to the lighthouse is currently closed due to rock falls.
Minsu homestays in New Taipei City is one of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the local small town and learn their local cultures from the locals themselves. The general standard of hygiene is quite good in most of these minsu homestays and many of the owners take pride in personalising their accommodations to reflect their culture. I’ve enjoyed staying in a glass hut facing the forest in ShuangXi as well as up on the cliff with views of the oceans and minsu prepared degustation dinner.
Cloud Gate Dance Theater
One of Taiwan cultural pillars of modern dance is the Cloud Gate Dance Company. Founded by Lee Hwai Min, in the 1970s, Cloud Gate blends its roots in Asian mythology, folklore, and aesthetics with a modern sensibility. Dancers practice and perform using such diverse movement disciplines and artistic approaches as tai chi, meditation, martial arts, modern dance, and ballet. Their performances are so popular that tickets for their shows are sold out within minutes of their launch. In 2008, a fire destroyed the Cloud Gate Dance Theater and almost immediately donations began to pour in for the rebuilding of the new theater. Cloud Gate inaugurates its new home complex, Cloud Gate Theater earlier this year on April 24, 2015 and it is architecturally remarkable. A hidden little treasure located on the grounds of Cloud Gate Theater is a cafe tucked away in a corner that encourages its patrons to slow down, read a book and forget to keep time.
Famous Taiwanese artist and sculptor, Ju-Ming has exhibited his works at museums and prominent landmarks all over the world including Paris, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Montreal, Beijing and even Singapore. If you are in the Jin Shan area, you can pop by the Ju-Ming Museum that showcases Taiwan’s largest sculpture garden and Ju-Ming’s more well-known art pieces.
About the writer: Karen Ashley Ng was the winner of “Are you the New Taipei City Traveller?” contest by EVA Air. She also blogs at www.Renzze.com.