Fri, Jul 14, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Off the Beaten Track: Mount Lidong Fort

Ruins from the Japanese colonial era and panoramic views await intrepid hikers in this remote part of Hsinchu County

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing reporter

Apart from its interesting history, the main reason to visit Mount Lidong Fort is its location. Perched atop a mountain at 1,913 meters, it makes a great trip, first by vehicle and then on foot, into one of northern Taiwan’s remoter corners.

Arriving at the trailhead, it’s impossible to miss the richly eccentric Mount Lidong Villa (李崠山莊), and its tumbledown hotchpotch of ornamental pavilions, covered terraces, corridors and footbridges is something of an attraction in its own right. As you pass through you’ll almost certainly meet and get to chat with the shelter’s friendly owner, a retired army soldier who collects a small fee for the privilege of sweating up the steep, hour-long trail to the fort.

There’s a height increase of 400 meters between the villa and the fort, and the trail (clearly marked with signposts and plastic trail-marking ribbons) is a seemingly endless series of steep zigzags. After about half-an-hour, the trail meets a stony track which leads to the summit and the fort. Follow either the easier winding track, or take the much steeper short-cuts that intersect it at intervals, and about an hour after leaving the villa, the gateway of Mt. Lidong Fort looms out of the fast-encroaching forest.

There’s a fantastic view over the central mountain range if you can find a break in the tall grass and trees that now encircle the fort walls; otherwise climb a few meters up the ladder serving one of the aerials inside the fort. Snow Mountain (雪山), Taiwan’s second highest and Mount Nanhuda (南湖大山), its fifith, are visible on a clear day. But even if the mist has already rolled in, defeating any ambitions of enjoying the superb panorama, the dead silence and slightly eerie atmosphere of the site makes it a place to linger awhile, before heading down for another chat, and perhaps a cup of tea, back at the trailhead.

Richard Saunders is a classical pianist and writer who has lived in Taiwan since 1993. He’s the founder of a local hiking group, Taipei Hikers, and is the author of six books about Taiwan, including Taiwan 101 and Taipei Escapes. Visit his Web site at www.taiwanoffthebeatentrack.com.

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