After our trip through Sichuan, China, my mom and I decided to venture outside of Taipei for a change: to 溪頭 [xi tou], a city south of Taichung. We stayed at the 米提大飯店 [mi ti da fan dian] or Chitou Lemidi Hotel. A surprisingly luxurious resort, styled in French architecture, in the midst of dense bamboo forest and mountainous Xi Tou.
An expansive continental breakfast is included, so I definitely recommend staying there if you ever head down to Xi Tou–since finding food in the mountains is inevitably difficult without a car. There’s also a small arcade with ping pong tables, as well as a tea tasting room. :)
My mom took me to visit the 溪頭自然教育園區, which I guess could be translated as “Xi Tou Natural Park” (?). It’s essentially a park where you can find tons of trails, see several hundred-year old trees, walk through bamboo forests, flower fields…etc. Basically requires a full day to explore! It was a pretty cloudy and misty day, but the sun came out to play when we hit the gardens. There is a beautiful arch bridge at “University Pond”, which is definitely worth the stop. It’s constructed entirely from bamboo, and considering how many tourists it’s manage to carry, it’s quite the engineering feat.
Mom and I also stopped by the ever-popular 竹廬 [zhu lu], or “Bamboo Cottage”. This place was previously the Chiang Kai-shek line shop; we couldn’t go in though, since the cottage isn’t open to the public. The cottage was completed in 1977 and is made of 100% bamboo. Each stalk is cut and fitted perfectly with the others. Another popular attraction is the trail up to Shen Mu ‘神木’ giant tree. My fear of heights noted the trailhead’s marking as a “challenging uphill climb” of about at least 1.5 hours, so my mom and I ended up on not seeing the tree. Next time! I think I’m a lot less afraid of heights now than I was before. The 神木 spans several meters in diameter and remains standing after over 700 years, even though lightning split it in two years ago.
One of my mom’s best friends from college, Uncle Chen 陳叔叔, took us to what I believe was the Neihu Elementary School 內湖國小. Totally just basing it off of my memories matched with the pictures provided in the link. What I do remember is that there are a lot of butterfly plants and tress at the school, so hundreds of butterflies flock there in the summer. It was a kaleidoscope of fluttering wings and glimmering colors. I’m not the best photographer, but believe me when I say there were swarms of them flitting around!
Afterwards, we walked down this huge street market in Nantou County ‘南投縣 ‘. I wish I remembered the name so I could recommend it, because there was so much to see! Street food everywhere, bands and dance groups performing, games and caricatures. The grilled corn came in about 8 different flavors, and the stinky tofu was delicious. Mmm.
I got to see the 愛玉 [ai yu] fruit from the first time, which is what the super popular Aiyu jelly is made from. Aiyu dessert is made from the seeds of a type of fig found mostly in just Taiwan and Singapore. (It’s the strange-looking prickly ball in the bottom left picture). Aiyu seeds are steeped in cold water and rubbed until a slimy gel can be extracted from it. The dessert is usually eaten cold with a squeeze of lime on hot summer days. Perfectly refreshing!
We happened to run into a couple of my mom’s old friends as well–what a coinkidink! They took us all out to a vegetarian restaurant nearby that was simply delicious. Light but wonderfully filling food, all local and fresh. There was a beautiful lily pond nearby, and some camellia bushes. There could not have been a more relaxing place to dine and chat with your friends on a breezy, summer’s day. You could even walk outside to the garden from which they harvest all their ingredients. 聖荷 [sheng he] is what I think is the name of the restaurant, but don’t take my word for it.
We ordered some pretty simple dishes, nothing complicated or fancy. It was just like mom’s cooking. A couple stir-fried vegetables, multigrain rice, some light tempura and bean curd skin rolls. Fresh fruit for dessert. Hot soup in a porcelain bowl with a melange of fungi and daikon. If you can find any place called 聖荷 in the area, you should definitely go!