A priceless trip to two lakes and a botanical garden in Yilan, Taiwan

If you go, you can also take a train to Yilan and rent a scooter to get there

If you go, you can also take a train to Yilan and rent a scooter to get there

If you go, you can also take a train to Yilan and rent a scooter to get there (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan)--My recent trip to Da-Hu Lake (大湖), Shuanglian Pond (双連埤) and Fushan Botanical Garden (福山植物園) in Yuanshan Township (員山鄉) of Taiwan’s northeastern county of Yilan bears witness to the truth of the saying, “Yilan is blessed with good mountains, good water and good scenery.”

If you go, you can also take a train to Yilan City and rent a scooter to get there, but please note that you need to apply online (Chinese) in advance for a permit to visit Fushan Botanical Garden.

I started driving from Taipei late on November 17 (Friday), around 10:30 a.m. I drove to Yilan City via National Highway No. 5 as usual and then through the south edge of the city to connect to Provincial Highway No. 7, which is the highway leading to the North Cross-Island Highway, Taipingshan and Yilan Branch of Central Cross-Island Highway (Lishan).

I made a small detour to have lunch at a noodles eatery called “Tang Cheng” (湯城麵食) also on Provincial Highway No. 7, which sells one of the most delicious noodles I ever tasted. I turned back towards the Yuanshan direction after lunch and continued to drive a few blocks before I made a right turn to Yuanshan's Fushing Road (復興路). Soon after crossing a bridge, I came to the junction with Provincial Highway 7D (台7丁線), and took the one on the left to Fushan Botanical Garden.

After driving a couple of kilometers, I turned left to Huchien Road (湖前路) to visit “Da-Hu Lake,” which literally means “big lake.” The lake is located about 500 meters off of Provincial Highway 7D on the edge of a plain at the foot of some hills. There is a trail along the lake on each side of the parking lot. I took a slow stroll along the trail on one side and found some cute ducks on a pond that is connected to the lake. I also visited the clear spring that flows out of a small cave into the pond. Nearby a portion of the lake was fully covered with a kind of aquatic plants that made me mistake the water body for a meadow.

Da-Hu Lake

A natural spring on one side of Da-Hu Lake

My next stop is Shuanglian Pond, which is located on one side of the Provincial Highway 7D about six or seven kilometers up the mountains from Da-Hu Lake in a quiet valley 470 meters above sea level. Among a number of lakes in Yilan, I like Shuanglian Pond the most because of its natural beauty and tranquility. When the weather is sunny, the lake clearly reflects everything around and above it, including the surrounding mountains, the blue skies and white clouds.

Shuanglian Pond

Shuanglian Pond

In wet weather conditions, the mists on the lake give it a very poetic and mysterious feeling. There are forests and vegetable farms on the hillsides along some portions of the lake. It’s really a great pleasure to take a slow walk around the lake, which takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

From Shuanglian Pond, the country road to Fushan Botanical Garden is narrow but scenic, and the drive takes about half an hour. A checkpoint, where entry permits are checked, is located about 5 kilometers from the parking lot of the botanical garden, where visitors start their walking tours to visit the area that’s open to public visitation.

The road to Fushan Botanical Garden from Shuanglian Pond

The checkpoint

A view of the road from the checkpoint to the parking lot

As a matter of fact, most of the botanical garden is located within Wulai District of New Taipei City.

“The Fushan Botanical Garden functions as a living tree museum of Taiwan that presents its tree and plant collections for education, research, display, and conservation. Diverse endemic plant collections are maintained in the garden. Currently, more than 700 species of vascular plants have been planted in this area,” according to a brief introduction of the garden on its website.

Fushan Botanical Garden

However, when I visited the place, I didn’t pay attention to the educational side of the man-made forests. Instead, I was looking for beautiful scenery, which I found in some outer corners of the open area. I especially liked the corners where the Hapen Stream, which is upstream of the Nanshi River in New Taipei, flows through.

Fushan Botanical Garden

The Hapen Stream in Fushan Botanical Garden

So if you are there, try to take the biggest circle around the area instead of smaller ones. A slow walk around the area takes about 80 minutes.

Admission to the garden is free, yet advance register is required. Please register online. Applying and acquiring permits on the same day of the visit is possible depending on whether the booking is full. There is a limit of 500 people per day and 600 people per holiday. The result will be informed to all applicants by e-mails and posted on the application web (checking by the admission numbers).

Wild animals spotted in Fushan Botanical Garden

Wild animals spotted in Fushan Botanical Garden

Wild animals spotted in Fushan Botanical Garden

In the past, I jogged from the bottom of the mountains to the checkpoint of the Fushan Botanical Garden a couple of times, and found two spots along the river that runs alongside the highway were popular with people playing in the clear water or barbecuing on the riverside. As an enthusiast of all things related to the water, I certainly didn’t miss the opportunities to cool myself off by dipping into the cool water.

I had dinner in Yilan before I headed home.