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This Hidden Climbing Path in Taipei Results in the Most Beautiful Viewpoints — Particularly at Sundown

After winding via the backstreets of Taipei’s Xinyi district within the late afternoon, I lastly arrived on the signal I had been looking for: the trailhead of the hike to Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain). I glanced upwards with a mixture of dread and shock — there was no means this uneven stone staircase tucked within the again nook of an city neighborhood might result in one of the beautiful views of the Taiwanese capital.

I ducked right into a shrubbery-shrouded nook, debating whether or not to let my foot points win out and admit defeat already. However then I heard a gaggle of Taiwanese ladies chattering away, virtually skipping down the steps, with pleasure springing out of each step. They should have been many years older than I. Coveting that very same spirit, I exhaled deeply and began my ascent. 

Named for its form resembling the trunked mammal, the sandstone mountain Xiangshan path is a part of the Nangang Mountain System. It has lengthy been a favourite of Taiwanese locals for night strolls because it winds up craggy cliffs and rocky terrain via endemic vegetation just like the Taiwanese Cibotium and flying spider-monkey tree fern, each markedly verdant and barely fantastical, enveloping hikers right into a subtropical paradise hovering above Taipei’s basin. 

For the final twenty years, the pathway has led to essentially the most postcard-ready views of the town. Extra just lately, it has captured the eye of photographers and Tiktokers alike ever since Taipei 101 — the tallest skyscraper on the earth when it opened in 2004 and now in eleventh place — went up, changing into one of many metropolis’s most recognizable icons. 

Technically opened 24 hours, twilight has turn out to be the selection time to climb the mountain, hopscotching via the pathways via varied platforms, every with its personal gasp-worthy vantage level at various elevations. 

Alongside the best way, the path tosses in a dose of Grand Canyon-like vibes because it passes via a gaggle of huge stones known as Laolaixia (Six Big Rocks). Feeling dwarfed between the pure partitions, I appeared as much as see fellow hikers climbing atop them, some posing for impromptu picture shoots, others having fun with picnic meals, however all with eyes on the colourful material of the sundown simply beginning to wash over the complete scene earlier than us. 

I appeared for a spot to plant myself right here among the many mixture of locals and fellow vacationers, who had assembled to observe the sundown. With spectacular pure rocks within the foreground, the long-lasting skyscraper background, and fern-filled foliage in between, absolutely it could not get higher than this. 

Then I noticed a number of folks proceed upward. Curious, I adopted. 

The steps grew steeper and narrower, however not lengthy up the trail was an indication that learn “Xiangshan Peak 184 meters.” Out of breath, however happy, I reveled in stumbling as much as the summit. Simply across the bend was an elephant silhouette body, completely framing Taipei 101 within the middle, an Instagram-worthy technique to commemorate the ascent to the highest of the 604-foot mountain. 

As fellow vacationers and I took turns exchanging telephones to take our summit pictures, squeals of enjoyment erupted spontaneously as buildings began to gentle up. Slowly, the colourful sundown scene morphed into a ravishing skyline of metropolis lights, with the most important “oohs” and “aahs” coming when Taipei 101 illuminated.

In that one 90-minute hike final spring, I had managed to see three sides of Taipei — standing robust and daring by day, feeling romantic and flirty by nightfall, and at last displaying off its magical evening lights after darkish.

Lucky sufficient to return to Taiwan once more within the fall, I make a degree to repeat the expertise, however this time altering the setting by venturing out within the morning.

The scene was notably quieter. At each intersection, I selected the trail I hadn’t taken on my first journey, discovering new corners of Nangang Mountain, at one level feeling like I had wandered straight right into a “Harry Potter”-adventure passing via a mini cave.

However on this journey up Elephant Mountain, it wasn’t a lot the views, however the those that drew my curiosity. My journey actually doubled in size to a virtually three-hour journey, as natural dialog sprung up with fellow hikers, each in English and Mandarin. 

I sat down for a chat with a gaggle of People from Utah and Florida, who shared their ideas for the place else to go to on the island, whereas a pair of younger Taiwanese ladies informed me about their lives jetting between their hometown and their jobs in Mexico. I handed by a Gossip Woman-type atop the hill, misplaced in her cellphone with a Chanel purchasing bag in hand, after which bumped into a gaggle of Korean businessmen, as we tried to determine the right way to navigate a tough portion of the trial. Collectively, we ran right into a neighbor native, who amusingly informed us she couldn’t assist us with instructions since she will’t learn maps and needed to proceed on her every day route.

Whereas Xiangshan might lure hikers up via its maze of trails to seek out various views to soak up the town, it is the playful interactions with the folks alongside the best way that make this elephant expertise one which’s really unforgettable.

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