Whenever the forested area called Xitou pops into my mind, I recall a very amusing conversation I once had with my 5 year old students when I taught in Taipei. I was introducing the word ‘bamboo’ to them, but none of the students fully understood what I was talking about (too bad the famous baby panda at the Taipei Zoo, Yuanzi, wasn’t around at that time. I could have just told them that bamboo is what Yuanzi eats every day.)
Anyway, after several failed attempts at drawing, I finally admitted defeat and promised I would bring a picture of bamboo that I took in Xitou.
I was met with confused looks!
A little while later, my Chinese co-teacher returned to the classroom and they asked her ‘Why is Teacher Constance bringing in pictures of washing her hair?’
Another situation of same pronunciation, different tones! Xitou, the place, sounds like xitou, meaning ‘to wash one’s hair’; however, said with different tones!
Now, let’s get to the real purpose of this post and I promise that if you continue reading, you will not see any pictures of me washing my hair! 😉
General Information about Xitou
‘Xitou Nature Recreation Area’ (溪頭森林遊樂區), often referred to as just ‘Xitou’ (Sitou), is located in Nantou County. It is a beautiful area known for its spectacular natural scenery, good hiking trails, and pretty high ‘sky walk.’ (Well, high for me! – I am not a fan of heights!) It is one of the places I love returning to again and again.
This forest recreation area is the perfect weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of every day life. And at an elevation of 850 meters, it is the ideal spot to cool down from the hot humid heat of summer and it is the perfect hiking area in winter as temperatures don’t get too cold there. The well-maintained trails weave through wooded areas and are perfect for a weekend leisurely stroll. Benches are also scattered around the trails and paved walking areas for those who would like to take a moment to relax and soak up the natural scenery. Plus, there are a few hotels conveniently located near the entrance as well as a campsite.
Xitou has a lot to offer so get there as early as possible. Here are a few of the highlights from our last visit.
The Sky Walk
This is one of the latest additions in Xitou and one thing that is not to be missed. It gives you a different perspective of the forest as you are above the tree line and looking down.
I hadn’t been to Xitou in awhile and I couldn’t wait to check the sky walk out. However, as we walked along the path from the entrance to the sky walk, I began to over think the whole thing. Just the thought of crossing it made my heart start to pound and my head feel dizzy. And who could blame me? I am terrified of heights and crossing a 22.6 meter high structure, which is equivalent of a 7 or 8 story tall building, is not for the faint of heart. Picturing myself walking those 18 meters above the trees started to terrify me.
However, I wouldn’t dare allow my husband to have sole bragging rights that he crossed it and I didn’t, so I did it. It provided me with a bird’s eye view of the forest above the tree line. Once I adjusted to the height and the constant shaking of the structure as people passed, I enjoyed the views from above. I couldn’t believe that I had the nerve to stay on it for so long, especially since the walking platform was made of see-through grids of steel.
The ‘Forest Trail’
This trail offers awesome scenic views as the path weaves through a forested area. The surrounding tall trees provide the perfect shade from the sun.
As we made our way passed the old tree and continued through the forest, we enjoyed the surrounding natural scenery. I could still feel the adrenalin in my body from crossing the sky walk. Yes, there was a bounce in my step as I trotted along the path passing the neatly scattered trees. I bet everyone noticed the huge smile on my face that day as I relived those minutes on the sky bridge.
The trail is absolutely lovely – I mean, who would not love walking a well-maintained path surrounded by tall bamboo trees? There is also a bamboo cottage along the way as well.
This is another one of my favorite areas to explore in Xitou and last time was no exception. Once we veered left off the main paved trail and walked for a minute or two, I was surprised that the bamboo forest was deserted. A sole hiker passed every 5 or 10 minutes, but other than that, we had the entire place to ourselves. We sat, ate our lunch, and just enjoyed the sound the birds and insects. And from the looks of the picture located above, it just proves that you don’t need to pay top dollar for perfect views!
University Pond is a another beautiful area and it is located in close proximity to the entrance and parking lot. However, it tends to become congested with visitors during the weekend – with people who want to enjoy the fresh clean air and cool mountain breeze but are not willing to do venture too far. It is here where you can find the iconic bamboo bridge, which has become the image associated with Xitou, with its reflection casting a reverse image in the water. There are also several places serving food here – the perfect place to refuel after a day of hiking.
This was our last stop. We knew it was going to be crowded but that was okay. We still got to stroll around, enjoy the beauty of the flowers surrounding the pond before making our way back to the entrance and parking lot and commencing our journey to lower elevation and continuing towards home.
~~ Note: An admission fee of NT$200 per person is charged on weekends (NT$150 on weekdays) and there is also a NT$100 parking fee. For more info, check out this website. Also, if you continue to drive a little further up passed Xitou, you can also enjoy another forested area which is free.
Now, over to you! What is your favorite hiking area? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment box below!