Taoyuan District's Scenic Areas
【◎Written by Chen Ting-fang ◎English translation by Hou Ya-ting ◎Photos by Huang Jing-wen】
Taoyuan is Kaohsiung's most northern district. It has a spectacular mountainous landscape and rich indigenous culture. Two thirds of the district is situated from 1,000 to 3,000 meters above sea level.
The Hla'alua tribe were Taoyuan District's earliest residents, and now the Bunan tribe makes up the largest part of the population within the region, migrating elsewhere on the island like Nantou, Hualian, and Taidong. Taoyuan District is comprised of eight villages, including Baoshan, Jianshan, Gaojhong, Taoyuan, Cinhe, Fusing, Lafulan, and Meishan.
Comprised of approximately 200 households, Jianshan is the district's most populated village. Ms. Jin A-mei is the Chief of Jianshan Village. She points out how the Bunan people's cultural identity is illustrated through the totem poles that mark the village's entrance. One of these customs is still practiced in the fall and winter when males must go out hornet hunting. They then brew the hornets into a medicinal alcoholic beverage. This custom is illustrated through hornets' nest sculptures situated at the top of the totem pole.
Gaojhong Village hosts the annual Miatungusus, which means Ceremony of the Sacred Shells. During this time the tribe worships the deities, prays for peace, bountiful harvests, and a flourishing community. Legend has it that the ancestors of the Hla'alua and black hanitu had established a deep friendship. Before the black hanitu left the village, they were given a large shell, which signified a bountiful harvest. Every year, the Hla'alua commemorates this event.
Following the devastating 2009 Typhoon Morakot, the South-Cross Highway was completely destroyed. It took the Highway Commission over ten years to completely repair it. The road was of particular importance as it runs by Meishan, the entrance to Yushan National Park. Finally, in January of this year, after more than a decade, the Meishan Kou-Tianchih section of the road was repaired and reopened to the public.
Meishan has spectacular views and hiking trails. Visitors come to hike the Jhongjhihguan Trail, up to the famous Tianchih Highland Lake. Tianchih is a heart-shaped lake, which is located at the top of the mountain, 2,280 meters above sea level. The walking trail is located at the South-Cross Highway's highest point. It is a great place to see Taiwan's various flora and fauna, such as the Trochodendron aralioides, cypress trees, and various other trees. The Jhongjhihguan and Tianchih trails provide visitors with gorgeous views of Taiwan's central mountain range.
However, it is important to note that this section of road is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Currently it is only open from 8:00 AM to 01:00 PM. No traffic is allowed into the Meishan Kou entrance after 01:00 PM, and all visitors must be out by 03:00 PM.
Taoyuan District is full of scenic beauty and distinct native culture. It is highly recommended to check out some of the local festivals and explore the areas' natural surroundings. However, remember driving in the mountains should be approached with caution, so be sure to follow the government's stipulations in terms of road safety and visitor's hours. A trip out to Taoyuan's cultural villages and scenic areas will indeed be a unique experience.