One very effective way to get attention is to distribute brochures. On this trip, it was a bimonthly pamphlet I found in my hotel room called "Spectacular Taipei". It was filled with sections dealing with flowers, and floral expositions (Spring is about to arrive) and one thing caught my eye, and it was a map of a Nature Reserve just outside of Taipei and a few stations before Danshui, what I call "Deauville of Taiwan", and which I have been to many times. Best of all, it was reachable by the excellent Taipei MRT. On the map, Guandu looked like a small town, with a temple being the centre of attention, and a wetland park on its borders. Guandu straddles the Danshui and Keelung river.
Now I'll confess I'm bored with Taipei city centre, so anything nature is interesting to me at this stage.
Getting there is straight forward. Get yourself onto the Danshui Metro line, and while my brain is still fresh from the trip, that's the blue line that goes up north. Somewhere along the way, some of the trains will terminate at Beitou and you will have to get off and switch to one that goes all the way to Danshui. Should be rather obvious when you're in the metro. The tip here is that the MRTs to Beitou is almost always empty, as the whole of Taipei goes to Danshui on the weekend.
Guandu Nature Park:
When you get to Guandu station, there are buses going to the Nature Park or the temple, but it's not fun if you don't push it a little, so I walk instead. It takes a good half an hour to get to the Nature Park entrance. But that's mostly because I set off on a different direction and went through some nice tour of almost the whole of Guandu town.
At the metro station, if you do follow the signs, I believe it shoudn't take more than 15 mins to get to the entrance. Being an educational place, the park charges 50NTD for an adult to get in. I did not remember the price for kids, although the educated guess of 25NTD should be just about right. I mention children because this nature park is not a little less than I expected. It covers and area that is not too big, probably just nice for a family or a dating couple to cover before someone in the group starts complaining about wanting to play some video games, or wanting to do some shopping. In short, it is a family place.
There are ponds and plants aplenty, and as expected, plaques in simple terms on how an ecosystem works, and the intention seem to be to get kids coming out of the park to be more eco-friendly. I could definitely see the trend in the messages. For example, there's a small polluted stream that runs through the park, and the notes there are about how humans pollute water sources, etc.
However, there are still photo opportunities, and it was just nice that I have my camera with me.
Right after the nature park, with a little bit of light left, I checked out the temple that dominated the map. And it is a large complex. The main temple itself is a few stories high. The site was supposed to be a few hundred years old, back to the Qing dynasty apparently, but I don't believe the main building towering behind the main prayer hall is that old. Perhaps it was renovated, I don't know, but this is one impressive temple. There were plenty of people here today, perhaps something to do with the second week after Chinese New Year, with offerings on tables in front of the dieties and full of people with joss sticks and those wooden cookie looking thing that devotees drop on the floor probably after a prayer to see if it will be granted.
Along the road between the temple and the Danshui River there are many shops selling food. I was looking for the smelly tofu soup that I got to like after many trips to Taiwan, but I didn't find it.
The way back to the MRT can be quite pleasant, taking the walk along the Danshui river smelling the mud and the fresh breeze. It is particularly hazy today, but the breeze made up for it. The MRT station is not too difficult to find (especially with Google maps on the phone).
Guandu is a nice place to go outside of Taipei. Not too difficult trip to do, neither too strenous. There's some outdoor involved, but not drastically difficult that anyone could attempt it. I would rate this as an easy day out compared to the other trips I have made so far. Easy does it...