Taipei (Taiwan News)--What else to do besides peddling a swan boat on the waters of Bitan, walking across the famous Bitan Suspension Bridge, and dining at one of the waterfront restaurants? Once one of the most famous tourist attractions in Taiwan, Bitan has something better to offer than the above-mentioned two seemingly boring activities -- the Hemei hiking trails on the Hemei Mountain, a small mountain immediately across the river.
Bitan Suspension Bridge
Even though the trail system is incredibly close to a populous city area, it affords hikers the same views of verdant plants and stately trees as well as the same feeling of tranquility and relaxation typically associated with walking on remote trails.
The Hemei trail system is unquestionably the most easily accessible in the Taipei metropolitan area. Getting to the entrance of the trail is only a five minutes’ walk from the MRT Xindian Station, the terminal station of the MRT Songshan-Xindian Line. Upon exiting from the station, walk to the Bitan Suspension Bridge, cross it, and the trail entrance is right behind the bridgehead on the left side. It’s odd that the entrance is a flight of narrow passageway steps, which is not easily visible.
Soon after the climb up the entrance steps, hikers come to a rest area where the trail is divided into the blue (riverside) trail and the green (mountain) trail, differentiated by the colors of the railings. Places worth visiting along the blue trail include the Double-heart Plaza and the True Love Wharf, both can be reached by a branch trail leading down to the riverside.
Along the trails, hikers can often find no-entrance signs erected in front of abandoned and unrepaired old trails that hark back to decades ago.
The end of the blue trail is a community, where hikers can turn back and take the green trail that connects with the blue trail at a few points, or continue on to explore the neighboring areas.
The green trail passes through the Happiness Plaza, one of the ruins of the deserted Bitan Amusement Park, and the 152-meter high Hemei Peak, which commands an expansive view of the Bitan area.
The Happiness Plaza
The amusement park used to be a popular tourist destination, but it was shut down in the mid 1980s due to declining business.
What’s wonderful about the Hemei trails is that there are many shaded and spacious rest areas with comfortable benches that allow hikers to rest or picnic.
These two trails make a scenic loop through the forested mountain, and it takes about 1.5 - 2 hours to finish the loop. It's recommended to plan a half-day to a full-day trip to explore the Hemei trails, loiter in the woody mountain, and then maybe peddle a swan boat or dine at a riverfront restaurant.
Hemei Mountain summit