For the first time in six years, I went back home in Taipei for the Lunar New Year! Typically the northeast monsoon brings gloomy rainy days to the northern Taiwan in winter. The weather is usually bad during the Lunar New Year which falls in late January or February. Luckily it was mostly sunny and 80F/27C during the Lunar New Year vacation this time! Many people seized this opportunity to go out and see cherry blossoms.
Depend on the weather and elevation, the cherry blossom season in Taiwan is from January to March. The scenery is not as astonishing as many places known for “hanami” (flower viewing) in Japan, and it does not have iconic landmark to go with the blossom like Washington, D.C. But the mountains in Taiwan are absolutely beautiful and you can’t beat that accessibility.
About five different varieties of cherry blossoms are very commonly seen. During this season, peach blossoms and plum blossoms are also blooming. I often have trouble naming them.
This picture above was taken with my phone at a peach orchard in Hsinchu between two tribal villages, San-Guang (三光) and Ma-Mei (麻美). Locals told us the peak this year was going to be February 5.
We stopped by this peach orchard after a hike along the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道). This trail is by no means a must-see if you are visiting Taiwan for five days. If you are here for an extended period of time, the Syakaro trail is very much worth visiting.
The trail was built back in the days by aboriginal Atayal people. During the Japanese colonization, the Japanese fixed the original trail to build a road for police and military use, intending to conquer the Atayal tribes. They called it a road for suppressing barbarians with armed forces (蕃地膺懲道路). This trail was not well known until 1994 after a girl nicknamed kikika from the National Tsing Hua University published an article online about her three-day hike of the Syakaro trail with a backpack, ropes and a knife. The trail is now known for the fall colors of maple leafs. Syakaro in Atayal means a specific type of tree, Formosan Michelia (烏心石).
The entire trail is 21-23 km. We took an easy hike of 10 km round-trip from Yoro (養老) to Mawan (馬鞍) and back. If you have time, and typhoon and landslides did not destroy the trail, it would be nice to double the hike and walk to the Baishi suspension bridge (白石吊橋) ahead. Prepping food and water is important. There are no shops or vendors along the drive once you enter the mountains. What I love the most about this trail is the drastic change of vegetation within a short walk. There was at first a typical mid-elevation forest with a cherry blossom farm in the middle and then a tall bamboo forest along the trail.