Fri, Nov 03, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Off the Beaten Track: Secret garden: the forgotten oasis of Pamir Park

Boasting an intriguing history and appealing natural beauty, this little known hideaway is perfect for those looking to escape the crowds of Yangmingshan

By Richard Saunders  /  Contributing reporter

Despite stone steps, statues and the occasional shrine, Pamir Park is not a park at all, but an area of scenic, largely pristine wooded hillside.

Photo: Richard Saunders

For several years after I first arrived in Taiwan, my exploration of Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山國家公園), Taipei’s gift to lovers of the outdoors, basically meant following wide, stone-slabbed trails to popular spots like Juansi Waterfall (絹絲瀑布), Cisingshan (七星山), and Lengshuikeng Hot Spring (冷水坑溫泉).

My options increased a bit after picking up a copy of the rather basic National Park-produced English-language map. Yet according to that, the only trails were those wide, stone-faced pedestrian highways, and the only natural attractions a couple of attractive but rather small waterfalls, a small lake and a handful of peaks.

However, there’s vastly more to the national park than the few well-known sights, and plenty of scope for the more ambitious, well prepared hiker to explore off the beaten track, especially in the remoter northern and eastern areas.

Despite its proximity to the big city, its accessibility by public transport and the popularity of the easier hikes with families, Yangmingshan National Park can get very rough and very wild surprisingly quickly once you leave the tourist trail.

Before entering its remoter regions (some of which require permits obtained in advance), be sure of your ability and gear, check the weather and carry a good map or GPS, as it’s notoriously easy to get lost in there.

One fascinating place that can be easily and safely explored by everyone (and in all weathers) is the curiously-named Pamir Park (帕米爾公園), which sits just inside the southeast corner of the national park, right on one of northern Taiwan’s premier cycling routes.

Few cyclists or motorists chugging uphill give a second thought to the few, rather decrepit features of the park that are visible from the road. In fact, it’s not a park at all, but a densely wooded, wild patch of natural hillside crossed by stone paths and steps and dotted with weathered statues of luminaries from the golden age of the Republic of China, with the odd rest shelter or shrine for good measure.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE

The park is easy enough to reach by public transport. Minibus M1 from Jiantan MRT Station (劍潭捷運站) stops at the entrance to the park, but there are only three buses a day so it’s not very convenient. A more practical option is to take the regular bus S18 from Jiantan MRT Station, and get off at Fenglin Bridge (楓林橋). Cross the bridge and follow the road uphill. Keep left at the junction and the park is on the right of the road, about 25 minutes’ walk from Fenglin Bridge.


THE GREAT ESCAPE

It’s no accident that Pamir Park is named after the range of mountains that rise to over 7km in Tajikistan, Afghanistan and the northwestern corner of China.

Following the defeat of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during the Chinese Civil War in 1949, a group of about 400 KMT soldiers in the far northwest province of Xinjiang fled the country, passing through Kashmir, what is today Pakistan and India and across Southeast Asia to Singapore, before finally arriving by boat in Taiwan. So difficult was the journey — especially the trip over the Pamir mountains — that there were many casualties, and only about 300 soldiers completed the journey.

A society was established in 1950 to commemorate their feat, with the splendid name of Pamir Snow Gnawing Association (帕米爾同志會). In 1961, the society created the Pamir Park and the Pamir Culture Center (in a now dilapidated building just below the park).

The main part of the park is above the road, past some huge moss-covered boulders that are inscribed with calligraphy by the famed calligrapher, scholar and politician, Yu You-jen (于右任), a major figure in the Tongmenghui (同盟會), a secret society dedicated to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in the years leading up to 1911. At the ripe old age of 71, Yu followed the KMT to Taiwan in 1949, and served in the new government, formed the following year. Yu was especially moved by that epic trip across the Pamir Mountains, and wrote in praise of the soldiers’ incredible effort. A bust of the great man, with a long, flowing beard, tops one of the big natural rock formations just inside the entrance to the park. Yu died in 1964, and is buried in an imposing and very elaborate tomb above route 101甲, also known as the Balaka Highway (巴拉卡公路), about a kilometer west of Datun Nature Park (大屯自然公園).

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