Shuili Township (水里鄉) in Nantou County has plenty of history and scenic beauty for visitors to enjoy. A good starting point for both is the village of Checheng.
Checheng Village (車埕), situated in northeastern Shuili, Nantou County, is a quiet town flanked by picturesque mountains, including the majestic Mount Wandan (萬丹山). The enclave served as an important rail depot in the Japanese colonial era, with services to Puli (埔里) -- home to major Japanese sugar plantations -- and other points such as Ershui (二水). The Japanese used hand-powered railroad carts to ship sugar cane from Puli to Checheng, where it was packaged. The many carts waiting to be hand-powered to Puli and other stations became a permanent fixture at the depot, inspiring its original Taiwanese name, "Chechang" (車場) or "Parking Lot."
PHOTOS: LIU CHUAN-YU
Later in 1923, the Japanese widened the Checheng-Ershui rail line to facilitate construction of the Daguan Electrical Power Plant (大觀發電廠). This route evolved into Jiji Railway (集集線火車), as it is known today. The expansion brought workers and their families to the area, turning Checheng into a bustling village.
However, Checheng quickly reverted to its former sleepy self in 1936, when the power plant came online and the engineers and laborers left town.
In 1960, Sun Hai (
Checheng's "Prettiest Little Station" (
Double Dragon Waterfall
The Double Dragon Waterfall (雙龍瀑布) is located on the Double Dragon tribal grounds near the village of Dili (地利村), Hsinyi Township (信義鄉), Nantou County. The waterfall is 30m high; its waters barrel down precipitous peaks, pound boulders, and are tamed by a pool at the falls' base. Its mist and roar haunt the mountain and draw hikers, who sometimes cool themselves in the falls' refreshing spray.
To get to Double Dragon Waterfall, follow Provincial Highway 16 from Shuili in the direction of Hsinyi, and follow the signs for Dili. Once in Dili, a sign pointing in the direction of the Double Dragon community shows the way. Be sure to cross the Double Dragon Bridge (雙龍大橋), after which a further ten minutes' hike will get you to the Double Dragon police station, where you will find the trailhead. About 300m up the trail, you will come to a crossroads marked with a sign to the falls, which will lead you down a narrow cement path that snakes through a stand of plum trees. After 20 minutes of navigating this meandering mountain trail, you will eventually hear the falls' roar.
The Renlun Forest Trail
The 7.3km-long Renlun Forest Trail (人倫林道) runs between Shuili and Hsinyi townships in Nantou County. The trail cuts across over 2,000 hectares of forest comprised of Taiwanese red and yellow cypress and conifers. The trail was constructed in 1959 as an access road for loggers in the area.
To get to the trail, follow the New Central Cross-Island Highway (新中橫公路) towards Hsinyi. After crossing the main section of Choshui River (濁水溪), hang a left after the Hsinshan Elementary School (新山國小) and you'll find yourself at the trailhead. The trail itself zigzags up a mountain, leading to the first lookout spot at approximately 1.5km along the path. Although this point is not particularly high, it boasts a commanding view of Shuili Mountain and other surrounding mountains.
A Forestry Bureau outpost stands at the 17km marker. Originally, an outpost was situated 38km along the trail, serving as a logging base, but was later abandoned. A landslide 18km in has rendered the trail impassable for vehicles; therefore, climbers seeking to access mountain trails to Hsiluan Mountain (西巒大山) must travel the 20km to the trailhead on foot.
Standing 3,081m high, Hsiluan Mountain is ranked 84th among Taiwan's "top hundred peaks"(百岳) and offers inspiring vistas of the nearby peaks of Yushan (玉山) and Jun Mountains (
The Shangan Magpie Bridge
The Shangan Magpie Bridge (上安鵲橋), located in Shangan Village (上安村) in Shuili Township, is a suspension bridge that spans the width of the Sanlang River (三廊溪), linking the village's northern and southern banks. At 205m long, the Shangan Magpie Bridge is Nantou County's longest suspension bridge, and offers a beautiful bird's-eye view of Sanlang River. The lofty green peaks of Jun Mountain frame the river. From this vantage point, onlookers can usually make out the Central Mountain Range (中央山脈) in the distance and Chenyoulan River (陳有蘭溪) meeting the ocean.
The nearby Jiuhsiungping Guest House (九芎坪民宿) offers an environmentally friendly, do-it-yourself origami service that allows couples to inscribe their wishes on paper, which is later folded into the likeness of a dragonfly and launched from the bridge. Bachelors and bachelorettes take heart -- phone numbers do suffice in lieu of messages, and have been known to hitch a fateful breeze to that special someone.
Nantou County is the epicenter of the Taiwanese plum industry; the region's juicy plums are popular in Taiwan and Japan.
The plum trees produce snowy, fragrant blossoms once a year around New Year's and bear fruit which ripens between late March and late April.
The fruit is high in organic acids, potassium, sodium, and other minerals, and is said to balance the blood's PH level, cure liver ailments, and help digestion. Most of Taiwan's top-grade plums are picked from trees that grow to the east and west of the Central Mountains in the Shuili, Hsinyi, and Renai Townships (仁愛鄉) in Nantou County.
Directions: Exit National Highway 3 at the Minjian ramp (
▉ April is the prime picking season for plums in the region. Some local guest houses and the Hsinyi Township Agricultural Association organize DIY picking and preserving activities for visitors.
▉ A Type A mountain permit is needed for visiting the Renlun Forest Trail. (Information on the application process can be found at www.twem.idv.tw/7/7a.htm or call (02) 2357 7377.) The trail is only partially accessible by vehicle. The last 20km of the trail to the Hsiluan Mountain trailhead must be completed on foot.
▉ Permits are no longer required to visit the Double Dragon Waterfall.
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