travel by iPhone: Zhishan + Huiji Temple
while dragons and mountains are some of my favorite Taiwan sightings... I'm also a sucker for red lanterns. so imagine my joy when I discovered that the "hike" to the Huiji Temple in Zhishan Park involved a winding staircase up a mountain, guarded by dragon carvings, and lined with bright red beacons guiding the way.
I actually came into the park the wrong way - or at least the less scenic one. the park is shaped like a squished half-circle, and I entered from the north side along the curve [near the hospital.] I climbed some plain stone steps before reaching the top and spotting the temple roof through the trees. as I wandered closer, I found the lantern-lined stairway and followed it down.
for a more impressive first look, I would suggest entering the park by the gateway on the southwest. that's where you'll spot the giant archway. the steps heading up were numbered, but by the time I had gone all the way down and then made it to the top again, I forgot to look and see how far I'd climbed.
related: there are no pictures of me in this post because I was way too sweaty. trust me, you don't need to see that.
along the stairs you will pass under the old stone Chi-Shan-Yen Gate. fun fact about the romanization of traditional characters into Pinyin words in Taiwan: the spellings are not standardized under a single system. [let me oversimplify by telling you it's for political reasons.] the result is a bit confusing. Chi-Shan and Zhishan are actually the same word, though you will see it spelled both ways depending on what map or road sign you look at.
regardless, it's a cool looking gate. according to the sign nearby, it dates back to 1825 and was one of four used to defend the area during a conflict among Chinese immigrants in the area. going up past the gate an many more lanterns, the stairway emerges at the entrance to the Huiji Temple. guarded by, of course, dragons and a scrolling digital marquee.
there were a few things that kept me from exploring the temple in more detail. one, I was only armed with my iPhone and the battery was at 12%. two, there was either construction or typhoon damage repair going on and it was tough to navigate the barricades and piles of materials. three, some kind of event was happening [involving chanting and a processional around the area] and I didn't want to be that annoying intrusive tourist. also, I was distracted by a cat for a few minutes.
needless to say - I will be returning on a sunnier day, armed with a zoom lens and more battery power.
on the way out I made a detour down another trail, in hopes of an epic mountain-and-city view. the visibility was not great, and there were branches blocking most of the mountains. [maybe next time I should also bring tree trimmers?] it was definitely not the most photogenic day.
regardless, it was fun to explore this colorful little mountain park and get to see a new view of my neighborhood. for those coming from the MRT, the park is only a 15 minute walk west of Zhishan Station.