A cool fact about Taipei, Taiwan's capital, is that part of the Yangmingshan National Park, one of the nine national parks on the island nation, is in the city and even extends into New Taipei City.
For a Bangkokian who lives in a concert jungle, you wouldn't expect a national park within the capital or even a city, would you?
Within the national park, there are various landscapes worthy of visiting from waterfalls to mountain peaks, including Min Yang Pu Leisure Farm where hydrangea and calla lilies are in full bloom from May to July.
Hydrangea and hot coffees at Min Yang Pu Leisure Farm
For TW$150 per person or about B160, you can enjoy all the flowers that the cosy farm has to offer, take plenty of photos and later redeem the entry fee for a cup of coffee or a bouquet of hydrangeas or lilies. A reasonable deal.
Next to the farm are vast green fields, which precede a lush mountain range partially hidden behind fog on the horizon. Quite an unreal scene and you don't have to go that high up from the sea level to behold it. There are several obvious photo-taking spots within the farm such as a cute pink car with balloons (as you do when you're surrounded by mountains), a big swing and a shallow pond with stepping stones in the shape of leaves.
After appreciating the different shades of hydrangeas, which range from white, blue, purple and pink and take plenty of photos, sip a hot coffee as you enjoy the chilly weather.
Lion's Head Mountain Park Trail
If you want to ramp up the pedometer on your smartwatch while enjoying Mother Earth, head to Lion's Head Mountain Park Trail, which is near the northernmost tip of Taiwan and a 13-minute drive from Yangmingshan National Park's boundary on the New Taipei City side.
The trail features several scenic spots but concludes at a pavilion that overlooks the Twin Candlesticks rock formation, which stands in the ocean below. If you stick to the shortest route, it'll be a little more than 1.3km, which is very doable for a sedentary person like me.
The main path I took doesn't contain any sharp elevations, only gradual slopes along the way, as the park is about 70m above sea level. Verdant green and towering trees are aplenty along the path with a few stop spots to take in the view. The last scenic spot before you reach the pavilion at the end of the trail offers a very expansive and diverse view of the natural-and-manmade landscape below, which covers the sea, Huanggang Fishing Harbour, Jishan Beach, Huang River and Mount Qixing on the horizon.
There's an obvious photo-taking spot at the end of the trail. It's circular steel on a viewing rock platform, which frames the Twin Candlesticks in the centre so you can pose and take a photo with them. While I can't behold the beauty of the candlesticks up close, there was something quite mesmerising to see the lonely rock formation sticking out in the middle of the sea while the sky was foggy.
Dip your legs into a golden pond at Huanggang Community Public Hot Springs Center
After an active day, you may want to relax your legs and feet in the warmth of natural spring water. The Huanggang Community Public Hot Springs Center in New Taipei City's Jishan isn't far from the trail, about a five-minute ride away.
Taiwan is known for its many natural springs despite its compact size, warranting a Wikipedia entry of its own on this hot topic (see what I did). Soaking in hot springs à la Japanese onsen became popular during Japan's 50-year colonial rule. The more you know.
What makes this hot spring stand out is its high iron content, which turns the water brownish or gold (more like the colour of Thai tea) due to the oxidation of iron and salt in the water. You can soak your legs and feet for free in the three outdoor ponds with varying hotness. A few locals laid on towels next to these ponds, to absorb the supposed health benefits, which include joint improvement and rash relief. It's quite refreshing to wash your legs with tap water after soaking them in warm water.
Visit taiwantourism.org or fb.com/itstimefortaiwanth.