The rebirth of Lishan
By Josie Wu Translated by Angel Pu
Lishan Tourist Center
95, ZhongZheng Rd, Lishan Village, Heping District, Taichung City
Hours: 8:30 am-5:30 pm
Fu Shou Shan Farm
29, FuShou Rd, Lishan Village, Heping District, Taichung City
Following the 9-21 earthquake in 1999, the Central Cross-Island Highway link to the alpine fruit-farming tourist town of Lishan was largely cut off. This meant that one needed to detour through Puli in Nantou county or Sanxing in Yilan county to get there from Taichung or Taipei, respectively, making for an intimidating five-hour journey. However, with the more recent opening of National Freeway No. 6 and the Xue Shan Tunnel, people in central and northern Taiwan can respectively enjoy these more direct routes to this mountain getaway, saving at least an hour in travel time. Helping to underline Lishan's more convenient access is the fact that following the Dec. 25 merger of Taichung city and county this town is now officially part of Taichung city.
Although Lishan was long a famous, popular tourist destination, the 9-21 quake abruptly brought an end to this. A decade later, this continuing scarcity of tourist crowds has instead served to transform Lishan into a quieter, more natural attraction, mostly drawing visitors who want to enjoy scenic beauty and nature.
The town, which sits at an altitude of about 2,000 meters, every spring hosts a "Flower Season in Lishan" event, when tourists can progressively view the peach blossoms, plum blossoms and pear blossoms. When summer arrives, the air is filled with scent of fruit. This is followed by fall and winter times, when the maple leaves turn red. (Before heading there to enjoy these sights, it's a good idea to check first for more information from the Lishan Tourist Center.) The best spot to see these leaves are Wuling Farm, Fu Shou Shan Farm, Huan Shan Village (in Ping Deng Village, Heping Destrict) and along the road from the 110km marker of Bilu River to Lishan's ZhongZheng Road. Among the above spots, the maple trees around Wuling Farm, off of the Yilan spur of the Central Cross-Island Highway, are usually the first to turn red.
The vintage Lishan Guesthouse at the 84km marker of the Central Cross-Island Highway has well-known classic Chinese architecture that makes it the most notable landmark in the Lishan area. The guesthouse is also one of the most important Chinese palace-style buildings in Taiwan, together with The Grand Hotel in Taipei and Kaohsiung, and in its heyday was usually completely filled with guests. After its renovations are completed in April, 2011, it will be the first former Chiang Kai-shek guesthouse operated by a private enterprise.
Although it is not yet open for business, the Lishan eco-trail--just completed in January--at the back of the guesthouse is already offering visitors a brand-new experience. The one-kilometer trail was built using tiles removed from the roof of the old guesthouse, and has steep stairs climbing at almost 70 degrees and two cable bridges, necessitating a bit of care by walkers taking it. Walking along this once-closed trail allows you to enjoy the rich ecosystem here. The best time for bird watching is around 6 a.m., when you can not only see the greatest variety of birds but can also go to the Lishan Tourist Center observation deck for great views of the rolling mountains and forests. Just 50 meters away from Lishan Guesthouse is a garden area and a marketplace, where visitors can take the opportunity to buy some of the town's famous agricultural products, such as apples and pears.