Hakka Tung Blossom Festival (客家桐花祭) - Taoyuan (桃園) Daxi District (大溪區) - Chrysanthemum and Rhizome Road (大艽芎古道) [Travel in Taiwan 170514: The Snow of May] | Travel in Asia

Hakka Tung Blossom Festival (客家桐花祭) - Taoyuan (桃園) Daxi District (大溪區) - Chrysanthemum and Rhizome Road (大艽芎古道) [Travel in Taiwan 170514: The Snow of May]


Where can you find snow in Taiwan? During winter people go to Hehuanshan and other mountainous places to experience the white glow of snowflakes that had fallen from the sky. But when all the ice had melted and the temperatures across the island had started to rise, where do the Taiwanese go to see snow? The answer lies in the hearts of those who believed that they can find it in the white petals of a flower that blossoms only every spring.

Vernicia fordii. That's the scientific name of the white flower that creates the big patches of white in the mountains of Taiwan every April and May. It is locally known as tónghuā (桐花) or the tung blossom flowers in English. Its flowering is celebrated on the island as the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival and it is biggest flower show in the country after all the sakura trees had lost all of its pink petals. During the festivity, tourists visit places where this flowers can be seen and to also have a glimpse into the life of the Hakka ethnic people. 

There is no definite time when will these flowers start to appear. It all depends on the weather conditions just like the beautiful cherry blossoms of spring. Last year, the month of December which was supposed to be a cold month in Taipei turned out to be a hot one causing the cherry blossoms to delay the opening of its buds to March from the usual February. Unknown to many, its late flowering also meant that the tung blossoms would also open at a later period.

When and where to see these flowers? Just check the website of the Hakka Tung Blossom Festival (http://tung.hakka.gov.tw/Default.aspx?lang=1) and you will know the answer. You will see a map of Taiwan with figures of flowers representing the status of blossoming in each province of the country. The website is in Chinese but it was very helpful. Just familiarize yourself with the different counties of Taiwan and it will help you a lot in planning your itinerary.

Central Taiwan saw first the reappearance of the tung blossoms this year. I checked the website before April 29 and Northern Taiwan was not yet in full bloom. If you want to know the most popular place to see the flowers in the capital then the answer is the Tung Blossom Park located in Tucheng District of New Taipei City. It was the same place that I went to back in Travel in Taiwan 170429 (Stardust). During that time, Travel Buddy Swamy and I went there at night to look for fireflies. We saw the insects but the sight of fallen tung blossom flowers on the ground was nowhere to be found.

I checked again the website in the second week of May and the flowers in Taoyuan and New Taipei were reported to be in full bloom. Searching the website for the best places to see the tung blossoms, I noticed a photo of a mountain with a serene lake. I got intrigued by it and later found out that I was the Chrysanthemum and Rhizome Road (大艽芎古道) in Daxi District of Taoyuan City. There were many places to see the white blossoms but I was looking for a mountain that looks so magical in the eyes of the die-hard fans of Taiwan. Eureka! The Chrysanthemum and Rhizome Road was just perfect to be featured on my blog.

How to get to the trail? You need to get first to the bus terminal in Daxi District from Taoyuan Station. Bus 5096 from Taoyuan Bus Station will take you there in 30 to 45 minutes. Get off the bus at the terminal stop which is Daxi Station and then transfer to Bus 5097. The first bus that leaves Daxi is at 6:15 and the last bus returning from your destination which is Jhu gao cuo (竹篙厝) will leave at 17:23. 

The trail is a one-kilometer walk from the bus stop and with the lake reflecting the view of the mountains seemingly covered with 'snow' you will definitely enjoy your time taking selfies. I was not alone in the search for the tung blossoms. Families and groups of young people had fun collecting the flowers in the trail and leaving them in a heart-shaped formation. The ground had become white in color due to the petals that had fallen from the top of the tree. Its five petal arrangement is its own unique snowflake pattern. Look above and see how the flowers fall. They drop on the floor one by one as trees sway against a strong wind. In a very short time, new areas in the trail would soon be covered with 'snow' hiding any traces of footstep of someone who had been to the mountain before.

But beyond the white color of tung blossoms was its smell. There was just something about its characteristic odor! Walking on trails decorated with the white splendor of the flowers, its aroma will create a special memory in the hearts and minds of those who had seen its beauty. That when you return home after your trip in Taiwan, you will always remember the reason why the hills in Taiwan look white during spring. The tung blossoms! They fall from the sky and cover the mountains as the snow of May.

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