Dakeng is an area of emerald green steep hills at the eastern border of Taichung.
Much as Taiwan cities are chaotic, they are never too far from lush hills and mountains, which can be easily reached by public transport and are marked by a network of hiking trails.
Taichung is no exception so there are several places around the city where you can make even long and challenging hikes in areas covered by forest and tropical orchards.
Hiking in Taiwan - Hsin Tien.
The most important and beautiful hiking area in Taichung is Dakeng.
A good part of Dakeng area belongs to the Scenic Area. Here are most of the hiking trails.
Below you can find a short documentary about Dakeng I found on Youtube (in Chinese, but a picture is worth 10,000 words, isn't it?)
Dakeng hiking trails could be grouped in three different subareas, depending on their location.
The trails from #1 to #5 are located in the eastern - and higher - part of the Scenic Area.
These are the steepest and most challenging trails.
Trails #1, 2, 3 and 4 are on different ridges - roughly parallel - each of them climbing for less or more 400 meters of altitude (from 400 to 800 meters above the seal level approximately).
Trail #5 is on the main ridge of Touke Mountain and connects the tops of each of previous trails ...
Hiking in Taiwan - East Dakeng Trails Map, Taichung.
These trails, as I mentioned before, are quite steep and sometimes a little bit aerial. The trails are well equipped with staircases and fixed ropes and they are suitable for averagely fit people. Just a warning ... unfortunately most of the steep parts of the trails are equipped with kind of staircases made of logs.
Often those logs are so widely apart that is not uncommon to accidentally put a leg in between and break a bone.
Excellent photos and a brief description of these footpaths can be found on The Daily Bubble Tea
These 5 trails are on the western part of Dakeng, closer to the city and better served by public buses.
The trails here are much easier, some are narrow farming roads winding uphill between woods and orchards (from oranges to pomelo, from betel nuts to bananas, we are in the tropics!)
Hiking in Taiwan - West Da keng Trails Map.
There is also a temple where, on Sundays, a lot of people gather to worship and to enjoy a vegetarian meal ...
Here the trails are easy, short and suitable for everyone.
North of the Scenic Area, in the hilly area between Tanzih and Fengyuan, you can find more trails. Some of them are very beautiful and interesting and they are well maintained by the local people.
Here you will find definitively less people than in the Scenic Area - that on Sundays can be really crowded.
In this area we know two trails. We often return here to walk, actually more often that in the Scenic Area.
Hiking in Taiwan - Hsin Tien, Taichung.
I believe Xin Tian (Hsin Tien) is one of the best trails in all Dakeng.
It is an interesting and varied trail yet not too difficult, mostly shaded, so not too hot even in summer.
A true hidden gem ... try it!
Xin Tian means "New Rice Field" but my wife and I call it "The Spiders Trail" given the number of huge spiders that you can see here at the end of the summer, between September and October.
Michael Turton has interesting pictures about Hsin Tien.
Hiking in Taiwan - the steep farm road to Ridge Mountain Villa.
This easy trail climbs along farm roads in the midst of orange and pomelo orchards. In summer the fragrance of betel nut flowers is intoxicating.
On weekends is easy to hear, in the distance, groups of people having good time singing at "open air" karaokes.
Once you are on the ridge you can turn on the left (follow the signs) to the restaurant "Ridge Mountain Villa". The restaurant is in a park in a superb position, overlooking Taichung on the west and Dakeng on the east.
Hiking in Taiwan - beyond the small bridge the start of the track to Ridge Mountain Villa.
On the weekend the restaurant also offers a good Chinese breakfast for 150 NTD. Hikers come here to eat.
You might go down to the parking lot following the steep restaurant access road.
Much as these hills are so close to the city, the forest that covers most of the area looks like a real jungle.
Hiking in Taiwan - Greater Taichung from HsinTien.
I often wondered which kind of trees where those elegant and slender ones, with long leaves, so common on these hills, especially on the ridges.
Well, thanks to Wikipedia now i know .... those trees are called Taiwan Acacia (Acacia Confusa), they are very common in Taiwan lowland forest.
Impressive tree ferns - with a very weak trunk - can be seen in several areas in Dakeng. They really give a Jurassic Park feeling ...
The spiders I mentioned above are called Nephila philipes - I am taking the following info from my now deceased old blog ...
Some scholars from Tunghai University described this spider as "Giant Wood Spider".
This spider is common in Taiwan, in all South East Asia. Different variaties are found from America to Australia to Southern Africa. The body reaches 5 cm, but with the legs is larger than your hand.
The Giant Wood Spider is able to weave an extremely strong web, with exceptional mechanical properties (currently some researchers are trying in different ways, such as spiders farming or using genetic engineering techniques, to produce viable quantities of this "silk" with astounding properties).
The Giant Wood Spider is almost harmless, even if an australian commented that the Giant Wood Spider is "Mostly harmless, but they have inadvertently killed some 20 people over the years. The people died either from fright or tripping over as they tried to avoid or escape from their rather strong webs."
These spiders in Taiwanese are called Human Face Spiders - the white spot on the back resembles a human face with two eyes.
Here is the popular tabloid "Apple Daily", apparently short of gossips that day, with striking pictures of a Giant Wood Spider eating a bat ... actually the Chinese Wikipedia mentions that they have been observed eating sparrows too!
Hiking in Taiwan - Lifesize Giant Wood Spider.
Anyway the most notorious Dakeng resident is called King Kong.
No, it is not the giant ape but an insect called "small King Kong" or "little black mosquito" by Taiwanese people.
Actually King Kong is not a mosquito but a tiny biting midge (Forcipomyia taiwana) that is only 1 mm long. It sucks the blood and, in doing this, causes intense itching that is much worse than any mosquito.
A few times I had to bear itching and swollen legs after a trip to Dakeng. These symptoms normally begin the day after the hiking and last one entire week.
A pharmacy in Dakeng recommended this ointment ... I strongly advise to have something like this with you if you are planning to have a walk on the hills.
Hiking in Taiwan - King Kong Mosquito Ointment.
King Kong midges have been studied already by Japanese scholars in 1913 but, until recent times, this pest was not so widespread.
In the 80's this terrible bug invaded Dakeng, probably because of the fast developing betel nuts orchard in the area, and started to make headlines in Taiwan. King Kong recently have been recorded in many others lowland areas in Taiwan, but I actually have been molested by this midge only in Dakeng.
The King Kong, unlike real mosquitoes, is not active at night, but only in the day, especially in the late morning and noon. The most infested areas are the more humid, such as close to ditches and bamboo stands.
After the pests lets see the delights of Dakeng ... as Dong Dong Yu Yuan.
Dong Dong Bao Bing with Taro Balls.
Dong Dong Yu Yuan (that means Dong Dong Taro Balls) is definitively one of Dakeng landmarks.
This shop has been selling Bao Bing for years. Bao Bing is shaved ice topped with grass jelly, taro balls and many others taiwanese delicacies, as per your choice!
Dong Dong Yu Yuan has been recently renovated. The shop is new and tidy, altough simple and the settings are not the best ... all truely Taiwanese :))). I really suggest you to have a try with their Bao Bing, that will taste even better after a hiking on the hills ...
Below you can find a view of the shop by Google Street View, so you cannot miss it.
Dakeng is also home to the best hot springs in Taichung: the Sun Hot Springs & Resort.
A few times we enjoyed the large suites that include, of course, a large private hot spring tub.
A couple of years ago we spent about 2,000 NTD for a couple of hours in the suite. The fee included a (not exceptional) dinner in the restaurant.
The current fees (2010) are the following:
In Dakeng some time ago there was one more hot springs resort. It was a little bit smaller still really pleasant, providing outdoor communal pools on a hillside.
I have fond memories of that resort. In winter it was a real delight to soak in the pools with different water temperatures and watch the sunset on the hills.
Unfortunately this resort, called Xia Ke, has been closed for some time, because of ownership issues I have been told. I really hope it will open again some day ...
Sun Hot Springs & Resort Web Site
My two cents: much better if you have a car or a scooter!
Regarding the trails from #6 to #10, you should not have problems to reach them with public trasports. At least bus #1, #21 and #31 have stops on Dongshan Rd. just in front of the start of the trails. I have been told that the stop is called 正覺寺, I could not verify these information yet.
It could be, also, that bus #31 gets close to the starts of trails from #1 to #4. But I have not checked yet.
View Takeng e Taichung - (taiwan-travel-experience.com) in a larger map.