Fri, Mar 08, 2002 - Page 7 News List

Wake up and smell the peonies

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

This winter may have been a complete dud weather-wise, but that's no reason not to celebrate the arrival of spring. And nothing heralds the advent of the new season more punctually than the Yang Ming Park Flower Festival (陽明公園花季), which starts tomorrow and lasts through this month.

The annual event coincides with the spectacular blooming in Yang Ming Park, located within Yangmingshan National Park, of vast groves of cherry trees, azaleas, camellias, peach and apricot trees and predictably draws a staggering number of people on weekends.

The huge number of pleasure-seekers and flower-watchers should not deter anyone from joining the fun, however, as the extravagant colors and cooling breezes of Yangmingshan are more than worth the trip.

This year's unseasonably rapid thaw has triggered a nearly synchronized blooming of practically all the flowers in the park. Already earlier this week busloads of retirees and school groups clambered their way up and down the labyrinthine paths of the park, cameras and sketch pads in hand taking in the early blossoms.

The explosion of color in the park is expected to last for at least three weeks, according to the park authorities, but judging from the number of trees already in full bloom, a strong rain or wind over a couple of days may take the color out of the festival earlier than expected.

The park's main entrance is decorated with perfectly manicured flower-adorned statues and sculptures, which are impressive in their size, if nothing else. Most visitors will want to head toward the riot of color and picturesque Chinese-style pavilions that fill the park's 107 hectares of steep slopes, dense forests and stylish walkways.

A number of events have also been organized by the national park administration aimed at educating the public about the ecology and history of Yang Ming Park and Yangmingshan National Park.

Four bus tours will be operating throughout the festival period and until May 26, which leave from the Yangmingshan National Park Visitors' Center (陽明山國家公園遊客中心) and take in such spots as Yang Ming Park, Bamboo Lake (竹子湖), Chihsing Park (七星公園) and Tatun Nature Park (大屯自然公園).

The tours will allow visitors to see firsthand how the volcanic and thermal activity on Yangmingshan have allowed for a rare and huge variety of fauna and flora and created the mountain's fascinating geographical features. For information and tour schedules contact the visitors' center at (02) 2861-6341.

Another highlight of Yang Ming Park is Yangming Studio (陽明書屋), which was previously a state-run guesthouse for foreign dignitaries visiting Taiwan. The house is now open to the public and holds a wealth of historic documents and antiques. The 15-acre grounds of the guesthouse are filled with peonies and maples, which in this season fill the gardens with magnificent color and fragrances, as well as day trippers.

Entrance into the studio for individuals during the festival season is restricted to between 9am and 10am; 10:30am and 11am; 1:30pm and 2:30pm; and 3pm and 3:30pm. Only groups with reservations can enter at other times.

The Yang Ming Flower Festival is the year's biggest event on Yangmingshan and attracts throngs of people on weekends. For this reason, the park administration will be enforcing strict traffic restrictions on private vehicles entering and leaving the park between 7am and 3pm over the next four weekends.

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