Saturday, 9 February 2013

Lion Head Mountain

sunrise over the pagoda at Lion Head Mountain

 It's been a while since I've made it to Lion Head Mountain (also called Shitou Shan or Shishan), but as one of my favourite countryside retreats in Taiwan, and only a short scooter ride from where I used to live, it's a place I have fond memories of. So this post is a bit of a trip down memory lane.


Changhua Tang Temple (left) and visitors carpark (right)

 Lion Head Mountain has been a sacred spot for Buddhists since the Ching Dynasty, and the oldest temple dates back over a century. The mountain has since grown into a network of Buddhist and Taoist temples, ranging from large and elaborate to humble Budhhist nunneries.

Many temples like these are actually built into caves.



And of course there are moral lessons to be learned...

therefore....   be vegan!

But it's more than just temples: the breathtaking scenery alone makes LHM a great day's hike or better a charming weekend getaway from Hsinchu or as far as Taipei.



 Being a Buddhist spot, it's a safe haven for a range of fairly tame wildlife.

 


But it's perhaps not the place for one with a spider (or other insect) phobia.



Changhua Tang Hotel


To really experience the tranquility of this sacred spot, I recommend staying overnight at the Chanhuatang (also Cyanhua) Temple. Being a Buddhist institution, the rooms are clean and simple, and feel perfectly appropriate for the location.




Meals are simple Buddhist temple food, but fake meat may contain dairy products (this one shown here is pure wheat gluten). It should provide enough sustenance for a meal or two, but I recommend bringing plenty of snack food as well.



The early sunrise over the pagoda is indescribable, so be sure to go to bed early and get up to enjoy it.


Sunrise over the pagoda arrives early and doesn't last long.




Transport


It's not easy to get to Lion Head Mountain. By far the best way is with your own transport, however there is now a new tourist bus which leaves from outside Zhubei Station (竹北火車站). From the exit follow signs to the right to the tourist bus outside. For a faster and more convenient option if coming from Taipei, the bus also stops at Hsinchu High Speed Rail Station (高鐵新竹站), half an hour from Taipei Main Station by high speed train. Buses arrive at the Lion Head Mountain Visitor's Centre, from which it's a beautiful hike down to the Changhua Tang Temple (and hotel - see above) so be sure to find out what time the last back back to Zhubei leaves, and allow enough time to hike back up if you can't stay the night at the temple. As of November, 2016, the last bus back ranges between around 17:00 and 18:30, depending on the day.


Follow this sign from Zhubei Station (conventional train)

Lion Head Mountain Shuttle Bus


Timing


Beware that Lion Head Mountain is a very popular weekend attraction, so if you're after a more solitary retreat, visit during a weekday. I stayed overnight during the week and felt as if I had the whole mountain to myself; my scooter was literally the only vehicle in the visitor's carpark.



Buses generally go to the Lion Head Mountain Visitors Centre, which offers English maps and guidance, and nearby is a charming teahouse. From there it's a pleasant hike to the Changhua Tang temple (where it's possible to stay overnight, as described above), and the area around the visitor's carpark becomes alive with small markets during the weekend.

The pagoda looks and feels very different in daylight.



Map


View Lion Head Mountain in a larger map



5 comments:

  1. Hi there!

    I was so thrilled to find your blog! I am an American graduate student spending the semester in Taipei. I have been vegan for over ten years now, and am trying to find my way around what I can/can't eat here, as I am still, very slowly learning the language - again, your blog has been so helpful! One thing I am trying to find is a non-dairy milk that is palatable to my American taste buds. The one brand of soymilk that I have tried so far reminds me very strongly of raw tofu, which I love, just not in my morning cup of tea. Do you have any suggestions for rice or almond milks, and where I could find them? Thank you so very much!

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  2. Hi Emily
    Always nice to hear from a reader of my blog :) What are you studying?
    Yes indeed soymilk in Taiwan certainly takes a bit of getting used to... I did, but it took a while. I would first suggest Jasons grocery store (in the basement of Taipei 101, by the foodcourt). I think they would at least have imported soymilk, but I'm not sure about rice or almond milks. Otherwise possibly any of the many organic shops around Taipei?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I think I just need a little taste of home on the side, while my taste buds adjust, as I'm sure they will :) I will check out Jasons this weekend. I am currently studying costume technology for theatre, and my cohorts and I are spending the spring at TNUA. I and will no doubt be referring to your blog on a very regular basis :) Thank you again!

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  3. one question sorry. What do you think of the Vitamin B12 issue? Do you take supplements. I refuse to take any supplement, as it would defeat a major part of my argument for being vegan. Do you have any suggestions?

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  4. Hi Dean
    That's a tricky issue. I'm not a big believer in supplements, but I do take B12, though not very consistently. The way I see it is our diet now (well, most people in urban areas at least) have a very unnatural diet, in processing and hygiene if not in food itself, and a lack of vitamin B12 results from that. It just happens to be that meat contains it because it rots so much faster than vegan food that the bacteria on it build up fast enough to produce B12. So I don't even see it as a vegan issue.
    Many people are B12 deficient (mostly non-vegan elderly) and the consequences can be severe, including permanent nerve damage, so to me it seems sensible to take a supplement. I see it as a big risk not to. Apparently we only need about a microgram a day, and the body can store it for years, so I just take one on and off when I can remember (to order it, and to actually take it).
    Other than that I occasionally take vitamin D if I think I'm not getting enough sunlight, and the odd other vitamin, but not many. I try to eat a healthy diet.
    What's your argument for being vegan that goes against supplementation?
    Cheers
    Jesse

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