Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Taiwan Travelogue: Lala Shan 拉拉山

Lala Shan is located in Taoyuan County about halfway out the #7 Cross-Island Highway toward Yilan.  One word of warning this is not a drive to take if you’re in a hurry.  The drive is difficult with a lot of one lane sections, a speed of about 30 km/hr (20 mph), the good part is that it is through some of Northern Taiwan’s most beautiful scenery.  There are steep cliffs, many waterfalls, bamboo forests and beautiful river overlooks. 

At one point the highway crosses over the river on a red bridge.  Next to that bridge is a walking bridge, which is home to a three-legged monkey, who spends his time bumming food from tourists.  He’s pretty aggressive and will climb onto and try to get into your car. 

Turn off Highway 7 onto the Shang Baling road, follow it up to Baling and then follow the signs to Lala Shan Nature Protection Zone, or do what we did and head up the little road to You German Garden 侑德國 Bed and Breakfast.

The Big Cabin sleeps up to 10 people
This is a beautiful bed and breakfast that's made up of cabins that sleep four people.  They rent for about  $3,000NTD ($100USD) a night.  There is also a large cabin that will accommodate up to ten people that rents for $6,000NTD ($200USD) for eight people or less and $8,000NTD ($267USD) for nine or more.  Please note that these are off-season rates and who knows, they may change. 

If you are a disabled person the place is a bit difficult.  Doorways are narrow and if you’re in a wheelchair you will definitely need to remove the bathroom door to get in.  The beds are mattresses on the floor, so they are difficult to get up into your wheelchair.  Finally, the walkways from the path to the cabin door are made of loose stepping-stones and there are large steps into the building. 

The view here is magnificent, many times you’re over looking clouds in the valley, or watching clouds rim the higher peaks.  The cabins are rustic but modern.  The big cabin even has karaoke, if you like that sort of thing.  My family can sing, I can manage to croak out a verse or two and start the dogs howling and the bullfrogs singing along.

The four person cabin 
In the morning you can have a breakfast of Congee.  Congee is a type of rice gruel.  The rice is cooked in a lot of water until it’s very soft.  Congee is served plain as a side dish to real food or with flavorings, to stand on its own.  Personally, I don’t really like to eat Congee.  I think it bland and tasteless.  But that’s just me.  I’m one who uses liberal amounts of hot sauce when I eat.  I’m partial to Mexican hot sauces, like Chipotle and Habanero, but Chinese "Rooster" sauce is good, too. In the morning we just grilled up some pancakes on the gas grill provided on our picnic table. 

The B&B also provided a charcoal grill for cooking but they are shallow and wholly inadequate for barbecuing.  I would recommend that you bring your own grill.  It took so long to cook shish kabob that we finally carried it over to the gas grill to put some fire to it.  I’m just glad we didn’t try to do steaks.

This beautiful area is also the home of the Lala Shan Nature Protection Zone.  There are beautiful, towering Red Cypress trees there.  Some of them are between 500 and 2,800 years old.  In addition, you'll see yellow Cypress and color changing (deciduous) trees like green maple and Beech.  It must be really spectacular in the fall when the reds and yellows are mixed in with the greens of the conifers. I may have to make a return trip.

The trails here are well developed and easy to walk.  They have stairs that go up most of the steepest inclines.  (Once again difficult for disabled people.)  The trails pass by many ancient trees and the scenery is gorgeous.

 The Lala Shan Nature Protection Zone
Well developed trails

Signs are in Chinese and English

This tree is 1,400 years old

Stairs help you do the steep parts

Caterpillar Trains

The #7 Cross Island Highway

A tea shop along the road

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Photo Credits:
All other photos:  Chris, Brenda, Elizabeth, and Emily Banducci

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