The hills of Neihu offer the chance to get a bit more in touch with farm life, with a visit to the strawberry fields around White Rock Lake or BaiShiHu (白石湖) in the BiShan (碧山) district.
By Stuart Hill
Many of the hills around Taipei offer the chance for some solid hiking opportunities. In Taipei’s Neihu district, home to a group of strawberry farms, one such place is the community centered around the ponds of White Rock Lake. A visit there during the strawberry season could easily become a half, if not whole day trip of walking, fruit picking and eating!
Nearby are a number of temples including the mountain-perched BiShanYan (碧山巖), which features commanding views of the entire north-eastern section of the Taipei basin. On a clear morning with the sun behind you, the place offers a fantastic vantage point for looking over the city and taking photos.
In fact it is a pretty popular spot for taking shots of the city at night too.
The families living in the nearby hills produce a range of fruits including strawberries and peaches, which are suited to the cooler climate of the surrounding mountains. Meanwhile other farms grow various vegetables, passionfruit, and even produce honey.
The Neihu strawberry picking season starts around November-December each year and extends into April-May. Harvesting the fruit is very DIY, and you pay for your fruit by weight. Remember to observe the ettiquete of not eating anything before you’ve paid for it, no matter how tempting it looks.
You can get to the strawberry farms by bus, but the relatively recent addition of the BaiShiHu suspension bridge links the BaiShiHu community to the base of the BiShanYan temple parking lot.
While the Small (小) 2 Bus can take you all the way to the temple and winds its way through the narrow streets near BaiShiHu, a hike from the base of the mountain in Neihu to the temple is a steep 1.5-2 hours walk along the road. Weekdays when there is no traffic the route provides a good solid hike with increasingly elevated views of Neihu.
You can also drive or scooter from Neihu Road Section 3 up to the temple in approximately 10-15 minutes and there are several levels of parking below the temple.
If you are coming from within Taipei, you can catch the MRT to GangQian or NeiHu MRT stops and switch to the 247 bus.
Alternatively, catch the 247 bus all the way from Taipei station.
Weekends, especially on sunny days and during the fruit-picking season, bring in the Taipei hordes.
But the temple is open during the week when there is almost no-one around. Some of the cafes around BaiShiHu are also open in the afternoon during week days.
An afternoon sitting in the dappled sun among the gardens having something to eat and drink — even on a winter’s day – can be a pretty pleasant alternative to other activities you might typically do down in the city center.
If you can come here during the week, you’ll find it a relaxing contrast to activity that you know is going on down below.
If you have any ideas for a Top Taipei Day Trip, please let me know!