A Summer Dream Paradise—Xitou

--By Lishea Zheng Transiated by Cara Steenstra

Xitou (Hsitou), located in central Taiwan's Nantou county, resembles an Impressionist painting of a forest, with trees and mountains floating amongst the clouds. A mid-summer arrival in this dreamlike paradise is perfect for a cleansing of the mind, body and soul.

Xitou is situated at the source of the Beishi River, an offshoot of Taiwan's largest waterway, the Zhuoshui River. The annual average temperature is 17 degrees celsius and it is usually five degrees cooler than down on the plains. The cool, refreshing climate and abundant plant, bird and insect life attract tens of thousands of people to Xitou each year to enjoy nature's gifts. The NTU Experimental Forest here is also carefully preserved to showcase the natural beauty of the area. There are 12 walkways, each with its own characteristics. This includes a five-minute walkway made with giant stone slabs, or the 60-minute route along the Phoenix Mountain Range Walkway, completed using granite and stone slabs.

Another walkway is paved with wood shavings, which provides quite a surprising sensation--a natural carpet that is soft to the sole and relaxing. A 20-minute stroll on the University Pool Wood Shaving Walkway and the 25-minute Scenic Walkway are both enjoyable, relaxing experiences. There is a lookout and an observatory at highest point of the trails, where you can see the peak of the Jade Mountain and even Sun Moon Lake.

A very unique experience can be enjoyed on Taiwan's one and only "corridor in the air", which allows tourists to experience looking down on the world like a bird perched on a treetop. It is 180 meters long with its highest point being 22.6 meters above the ground. Take a deep breath and cleanse your lungs of the accumulated urban pollution as you look out from atop half-century-old cedar trees. Bird lovers will be able to see and listen to a lot of medium-elevation bird species, including different kinds of thrush. You will also find a lot of Atrichornithidae birds under the trees. Swallowtails, frogs and a variety of other wildlife can be found amongst the misty ponds and trails.

There are four types of Xitou Park entry tickets and a full ticket is NT$200 (NT$150 on weekdays). Parking for all vehicle types is NT$100. For accommodation information, contact Xitou Educational Center at (049) 261-2111 to rent wooden chalets. For other styles of lodging, contact Leader Hotel and Resort at (049) 261-2588. The special cuisine on offer here focuses on dishes cooked with tea leaves and bamboo shoots.

Xitou's wonderful forests, flora and fauna all combine to create an unrivalled, refreshing mind, body and soul summer spa. For more information, check out the following website: http://www.exfo.ntu.edu.tw

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