An excellent, but lesser-known hike in central Taiwan is located just outside of Ershui. The hike has mountain-views, tea houses, temples, and monkeys, so read on to learn how to hike in lovely Ershui.
Get to Ershui: Ershui has a train station, so its really easy to reach the small mountain-side town. I took the train from Chiayi to Ershui and it only took about 40 minutes, maybe less.
Get from Ershui to the trails: It’s incredibly easy to reach the trails from Ershui Station. Once you leave the station, turn right and head towards the information center. You can pick up a map to the trails from here, but if the center’s not open, it’s easy to reach without a map too. Just turn right when you leave the station, walk until you can turn right again and go over the railroad tracks. Then follow the brick walls with murals on them until you reach the trails. The walls should lead you straight for a while, then you’ll have to turn left on a road. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to get to the entrance of the park which is marked by two parking lots.
The trails’ names: As far as I can tell, the trails have more than one name. The most common names I saw on signs for the trails were Fongbo and Songboling. I think these are possibly Pinyin spellings for the Chinese name.
When to see monkeys: You’re best bet apparently is in the morning or later in the evening for monkey sightings. Also, if it’s raining you might not see any. However, it had rained all morning when we arrived at noon and we still saw tons of monkeys! There was an entire troop coming down the mountain as we were going up.
Safety: These monkeys aren’t afraid of people, which is great for photos, but don’t do anything stupid. One monkey grabbed Oscar’s pant leg and bared his teeth at him. Oscar backed off, but be aware that these monkeys are definitely not scared of you. I’d also really not recommend bringing food up the mountain, because I can imagine the monkeys would be quite persistent in trying to get it from you. It’s best to eat your picnic before you leave.
The Temple: The temple at the top is Shou-Tain temple. When we arrived it was the Tomb-Sweeping holiday weekend and there was a lot of activity at the top of the mountain: music, worshippers, money-burning. It was an exciting atmosphere and the temple itself is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen in Taiwan, so even if you don’t see any monkeys on your hike, the Ershui trails are still worth it for the gorgeous temple at the top.
The Views: And of course, there are lovely views as well.
The Town and Tea: At the top of the mountain behind the temple, there is a small town with a market area. I’m not certain what the name of the town is. If anyone knows, please leave me a comment. But the town has lots of little shops selling teas, and there were women handing out free samples. It was delicious and I couldn’t resist picking some up. It was only 200 NTD for a sizeable package, which is much cheaper than it would be at Carrefour, so I’m really pleased I was able to pick some up and I’m excited to drink it at home.
Timing: The hike up from the station to the top of the mountain probably took about an hour and a half, maybe two hours, but keep in mind that we stopped very often for photos and to watch monkeys. The walk back down from the very top to the front of the train station took about 45 minutes at the most. Walking downhill of course is easier than walking up.
Difficulty: The paths are paved and although there are steps and steep inclines at times, I didn’t find the walk too strenuous. I think almost anyone could do the Ershui hikes.
All in all, Ershui is a lovely afternoon getaway that’s easy to reach from anywhere in Central Taiwan due to the train station, so I’d highly recommend taking the train over to Fongbo Trails for some monkey-sightings and tea-drinking. What are your favorite hikes in Taiwan? Let me know how to get there, so I can check out some more lovely Taiwanese city-getaways.