Visiting He Huan Shan (合歡山) during Taiwan’s winter offered us the rare chance to step foot on a snow-capped mountain in Asia! This 3,416 metres high peak in Central Taiwan can be accessed from either Taroko Gorge National Park or CingJing Nantou. I have took the Taroko route previously, it involves around 6 to 8 hours of travelling through the narrow winding roads of Taiwan’s central mountain range from Hualien. The scenery along the journey is gorgeous but it was costly on both time and budget and can be dangerous. The CingJing route is a much preferred option. Plus we got to enjoy the famous Urn Chicken (甕仔雞) on the way down. After a hearty breakfast at Vienna Pleasance Cottage, we hopped onto our mini tour bus for He Huan Shan!
As our bus gained altitude, the mist start to thicken and shrouded the entire area with a veil of mystery. Along the way, we stopped at scenic spots for photo opportunity but due to the mist they did not turn out that great on photos.
We reached our midpoint pitstop which was 2,750 metres above sea level after a short 20 minutes of bus ride. It’s already 1 degree celsius from here. Chilly!
Amazingly, there was a vegetable and fruits store operating there. Are they just targeting tourists or do the local really travel so far up for fresh vegetables?
The local pears from the fruit store were a hit with the passengers. Huge and extremely juicy, the fruit store assistant offer to help customers to peel and cut up the pears to avoid the potential of messy spurts.
Another half an hour later, we reached Wu Ling (武嶺), a saddle between the Main Peak and the East Peak of He Huan Shan. AT 3,275 metres above sea level, Wu Ling is the highest point on the on the island of Taiwan accessible by public roads.
The final leg to He Huan Shan summit took us around 20 minutes. The snow there was so heavy that we could hardly see what lies in front of us.
Doing a little camwhoring before I start my little ascent.
The height may look manageable but in reality it can be quite a struggle. The layer of ice made the rock surface extremely slippery.
We finally made it to higher grounds!
Going down was a lot tougher than heaving myself up. To avoid a hard fall, I had to slide down slowly on my butt.
While we were busy with our height scaling adventure, our mini bus was having its wheels adored with snow chains or tire chains. They are fitted to provide maximum traction when driving through snow and ice on the road. These chains made quite a racket when the vehicle moves.
A trip up He Huan Shan got us really famished, we were all ready to wolf down Urn Chicken (甕仔雞), a must-try dish in CingJing Nantou. The bus brought us to a restaurant with 4 huge urns at its entrance. The guide explained that to prepare Urn Chicken, the entire mountain chicken is placed inside the urn and roasted slowly with firewood from below.
We got a table with a stunning view of a cabbage farm in a small valley.
The legendary Urn Chicken (甕仔雞) was served with a pair of cotton gloves, accompanying salt and dip sauce. We were supposed to tear the chicken apart with our hands after wearing the cotton gloves!
My friend Winston decided to take up the challenge and it turned out to be a really interesting experience. Hot piping steam emerges out from the chicken as he aggressively dissected the roasted fowl. Too hungry already!
While we love the crispy skin of the urn chicken, we treasure the soft, juicy and succulent white meat even more. The soup and vegetables that came as a set with the urn chicken was simple fare but adequately compensated by the fresh crunchiness of the vegetables.
You may also like to check out my posts on other exciting travel destinations here.