Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 19 News List

A peach of a getaway


The peaches of Lalashan are reputedly the best that Taiwan has to offer and are known for their sweet juiciness.


Lalashan (拉拉山), located on Route Seven between Taoyuan (桃園) and Ilan (宜蘭), is known for two things -- peaches and majestic cypresses, the so-called shengmu (神木), or "divine tree."

The peaches are within easy reach of Route Seven, which is packed with stalls hawking the fruit, but take care, imitations of the real Lalashan peaches are everywhere.

Instead, wait until you get to Balin (巴陵), the town nestled at the foot of Lalashan. Should cravings for the baseball-sized beauties prevail over concerns of ecological correctness (intensive peach farming corrodes top soil), at least buy from the Taiyal aunties to support the local economy.

A tollbooth collects NT$150 per head at the bottom of the steep road that climbs from Balin to the cypresses. In 13km you gain almost 1,000m in elevation and end up in the 1,500m-high parking lot of the Lalashan Nature Preserve.

The road passes through Upper Balin (上巴陵) -- and more peaches. In spots you get panoramic glimpses of the mountains.

The preserve has some 120 trees estimated to be more than 500 years old and a 3.7km trail winds through the 22 cypresses marked out for public viewing. The giant trees -- the oldest reportedly being 2,800 years old and the tallest measuring 55m -- are impressive. The virgin forest shrouded in a miasma of damp is a haven from the heat -- but not from the crowd.

Expect little solitary communion with Mother Nature, which leaves its mark -- many a cypress, prized for its fragrant timber has been stripped bare of bark.

Pack a tent to avoid the dodgy-looking hostels. There are no real campgrounds, but some polite knocking on nearby church doors should do the trick.

More Information:

Lalashan is three hours' drive from Taipei, but public transportation is spotty. Three morning buses go from Taoyuan to Upper Balin.To confirm, call Taoyuan Bus at (03) 388 3304. The trail is open from 7am to 6pm.

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