Taipei maple viewing spots | Travel in Asia

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Taipei maple viewing spots


Taipei's maple viewing spots.  It has always been a mystery to a lot of visitors in Taiwan.  Sometimes, people even expect to see dramatic foliage during  October or November. Unfortunately, the climate in Northern Taiwan during autumn, is not favorable for the maple leaves to change color from green to yellow or even red.  The weather is still sunny and sometimes cloudy.  The amount of sunlight is still enough to favor the green coloring pigment called chlorophyll to exist in the maple leaves.  Thus, seeing a maple tree in full red color is next to impossible during this months.  To help the growing number of Taiwanderers have a wonderful maple viewing experience in Taipei, the luomujie blog created this travel guide to inform tourists on when and where to see the maples leaves in Taipei.

1. When is the best time to see maple leaves in Taipei?

The best time to see autumn foliage in Taipei is every mid-December.   I had been following the color change of the leaves in Taipei since the debut of the luomujie blog's “Maple Series”, and I found out that December is the perfect time to find yellow, orange and red leaves.   

Autumn in winter.  Fall in Taiwan reaches its peak during winter.  Why?  Daytime is shorter than nighttime during this period and the temperature in the low-lying regions of Taiwan hovers between 10 to 15 degree Celsius, that is when the northeast monsoon is blowing strong.  For December 2018,  the cloudy and rainy weather for one week in Taipei enhanced the color changing of the leaves.  There was less sunlight which meant less use for chlorophyll. Hence, enhancing its faster disappearance.   When it's cold and raining, locals don't come out of their homes to see maples.   They wait for the right time being December 15 as the peak of the maple season.   If it's raining on that day, people wait when the weather turns sunny, to get the best pictures of the leaves under the shining rays of the sun. Now that you know the best time to see maples in Taipei, it's time to discuss the different places where you can find them. 

2. Taipei Flower Test Center

One of the easiest place to visit to see maples in Taipei.   Although its name suggests seeing a variety of flowers, the park also has maple trees where visitors can feel autumn in the city.   Located in Shilin District [Google Map] on Yangde Boulevard which leads to Yangmingshan National Park,  it's accessible by boarding Bus 260 from Taipei Main Station, Bus R5 from Jiantan Station or Bus 303 from the Shilin Farmer's Association Building.  Being also close to the Chinese Culture University, there are also convenience stores and fast foods making it convenient to check this place first for maple viewing before you go to Yangmingshan.

The Taipei Flower Test Center is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday to Friday (The schedule changes per season!).  It's not that big so you can easily find the red maple trees, but what fascinates me the most are the yellow maples.  I was really lucky to see them in their golden color.   Intact and still looking fresh under the rays of the sun, the leaves shine like gold.

I was not surprised to see professional photographers with their soon-to-wed clients at the Taipei Flower Test Center.    The park is a favorite spot to take pre-nuptial photos with the yellow maple forest a good place to capture memories before a couples' wedding day.

Aside from the red and yellow maples, there are also gingko trees here and they too are in their peak of color change.   It was a surprising find at the Taipei Flower Test Center.  I only know about the maple trees and the gingko was something new and unexpected.  

If you don't have the time and budget to see the ginkgos in Wuling  Farm, then the Taipei Flower Test Center is an alternative.   Admission is free and it's just one bus ride from Taipei Main Station.

3. Old US dorm

Not far away from the Flower Test Center is the complex of old US dormitories. Now, turned into restaurants it's an interesting place to dine and see some maples.  The trees here were a bit tall with some of the leaves in orange color on my first attempt to see them.

I had been to this place twice.  The first one happened on December 2017.  There were maple leaves scattered on the road and you can really fell the autumn scenery.  However, it's a bit cloudy with not enough sunlight, so I didn't have the backlighting effect of the sun against the maple leaves.

My second visit this December 2018 was a sunny day.  Somehow, I felt the scenery last year was better.  At least this time, I got more beautiful pictures of the maples because of the good weather   How to get here?  From the Taipei Flower Test Center, just walk 600 meters until you reach the Yannick restaurant [Google Map].

4. True love Taohuayuan wedding photo base

I described this as a mysterious restaurant if it is really a resto.   It has a mini-yellow maple forest on its garden and I enjoyed taking pictures with the golden leaves.  There was no entrance fee and the staff didn't stop me from having some photos.

The restaurant has a viewing deck on the second floor where you can enjoy the view of the Shamao Mountain.   Looking at the hill, I could see some shades of red, it could be red maples or the local maple in Taiwan called “fēngxiāng”.  How to get here? The True love Taohuayuan wedding photo base [Google Map] is a walking distance from the old US Dormitories or even from the Flower Test Center.

5. Qianshan Park

Perhaps this is the best place to see maples in Yangmingshan.  The towerig “fēngxiāng” trees aka Formosan sweetgum are looking orange to red on a sunny day.   The “fēngxiāng” are actually not maple trees.  By just looking at the shape of its leaves, you can definitely tell that they are not the typical maple leaf with five splits.

Fēngxiāng has tree leaflets and belongs to the Liquidambar genus as opposed to real maple trees which belong to the Acer genus.  If you want to see most of the sweet gum trees, you can walk to the area of men's public bathhouse.  The road there had been planted with lots of Liquidambar and its a beautiful sight to see especially when the leaves are in their reddish color.

To find most of the red maples, you can walk to the basketball court.  The maples there are of the green maple type and it's the typical five split maples.  It's really hard to find lots of them on a branch.  They look brittle and can be easily blown away by the wind.  Worst, the trees can lose of all of its leaves when it rains during December in Taipei. 

How to go to Qianshan Park?  Board Bus 260 [Taipei Main Station (Blue Line/Red Line)] or R5 [MRT Jiantan Station (Red Line) ] and get off at Zhongshan Hall stop and walk to reach the  park [Google Map]

6. Zhongshan Hall

My search for maples in Taipei led me to this historic building in Yangminshan.  Located beside the Qianshan Park, Zhongshan Hall has lots of stories to tell when you enter its premises.   I was actually more interested in the trees behind the building rather than learning about its historical significance.   The Zhongshan Hall complex was designed to follow the principle of Ying Yang with a mountain behind it and a stream in front.

Without even entering the gate of Zhongshan Hall, you can tell that there is an autumn foliage on the mountain behind the building.   So I bought a ticket to enter, thinking that I can get better view of the maples.  Sad to say, the intensity of the red color disapppears as I got closer to Zhongshan Hall.  

After having a tour inside,  I walked back to the entrance gate and noticed a tall fēngxiāng tree.  It was so tall and its leaves were orange in color.  Only that it is guarded by a fence with weeds and tall grass, like the entire place is an abandoned kingdom.  

If you are history buff, then Zhongshan Hall is for you.  You can buy your tickets at the gate to get inside the building.  But for maple chasers, there are fēngxiāng trees outside the gate where you can take some pictures.

7. Momo coffee

Maples not only turn red every December in Taipei because some red leaves appear during April.    Certain places in Shilin District have Japanese maples and every springtime, the trees sprout new leaves which are naturally red.  As the temperature warms, the fiery color of the leaves disappears and turns green.   

The most famous place for maple viewing in the city is Taipei Aowanda.  But there are private farms where you can find the Japanese maples.  One of them is Momo coffee.   It is not an official tourist spot where visitors can just enter to have pictures.  It so happens that I was looking for a maple forest on the same road where the restaurant was located, and I suddenly discovered this place. 

I saw two women entered the private farm of Momo Coffee and they took some pictures.  So I followed them.  After half an hour, the owner came out and the two Taiwanese left.  It was a good thing that I was not told to leave.  After I was done taking pictures and left the farm, the sprinklers were open so that no other people would follow. Haha!

How to get here?  You can board Bus 303 from MRT Jiantan Station or in front of Shilin Farmer's Association building.  Get off the vehicle at Lunziwei stop [Google Map] and walk towards the farm.  During my visit, there was a bamboo fence that is easy to cross.   Standing from the gate is already enough to get you good photos.  But if you really want to get close with some maple trees, there is a mini-maple forest at [Google Map] where you can pose for some pictures.

8. Taipei Aowanda

Taipei Aowanda.  This is the mecca of maple viewing in Taipei.  Named after the national forest recreation area in Nantou, Aowanda, and is considered to be the home of Taiwan's maple trees.   It's equivalent in Taiwan's capital is a private resort named Taipei Aowanda (aka Taipei Maple Resort) and the best time to go here is during April.  They have lots of Japanese maple trees and I really enjoyed my first visit here. It feels like going to Japan!.  You can learn about my trip to Taipei Aowanda here

How about December?  There are also maples that turn red around the vicinity of Taipei Aowanda and the trees there reach its peak during Christmas time.  Or think of the winter solstice which happens every December 22 or 23.  But do not expect beautiful foliage during December because the best time to visit this place is, I will said again, April.


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