15km in just two hours


DAY 16

(Reading time: 6 minutes)

We’ll remember Taiwanese buses for a long time. They’re the type of memories that eventually become funny stories, but when you’re experiencing them firsthand, they don’t seem that amusing.

On the last day before departure, we took a trip to Yangmingshan National Park. It’s just a stone’s throw from Taipei. A stone’s throw by bus. So, we took the bus. Line R5 towards the village of Yangmingshan departs frequently from Jiantan Station on the red metro line. Waiting passengers are directed by transport assistants because this popular tourist spot means an increased number of visitors.

The bus ride with a crowd of people inside took about half an hour. Behind us, more R5 buses arrived, also packed with crowds. We got off at the terminal station, where everyone queued for some next bus without it being clear to us when and where it would go and how many people it would take. The area around the highest point, Mt. Qixing, is circular, and a regular local bus runs along the outer perimeter to facilitate crossings for people. But why was nobody continuing on foot? Why was everyone waiting for a ride instead of simply starting the hike they came for? There was no one around to explain this herding behavior to us in English. So, the decision was made not to belong to the “everyone” category; we broke away from the herd and set out on our own path.

START – Yangmingshan / bus terminal

POINT 2 – junction below Mt. Qixing

POINT 3 – Qingtiangang Grassland (or Taiwanese Green Hills)

DESTINATION – Xiaoyoukeng Recreation Area (volcanic vents)

The map shows a loop partially formed by the yellow (left) and white (right) trails, with many bus stops along the way. So, we saw no problem with getting on or off anytime and anywhere if needed.

The first leg towards the junction below Mt. Qixing progressed slowly. In Taiwan, stairs are frequently built everywhere up the hills, and it’s a bit annoying to walk in an “endless” stair-step-stair style. However, the first beautiful views from the suspension bridge near Lengshuikeng visitor center were our reward.

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From there, we headed to Qingtiangang Grassland, a grassy plateau with freely roaming cattle.

Anyone wanting to take a picture with them had to step further away from the path; the cattle weren’t too keen on mingling with people. And I don’t blame them. People were running around here and there, often dressed completely unsuitably for the mountains, seeking the perfect shots.

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These green hills are very photogenic, and most people come here solely for social media shots. Crowds down in Yangmingshan village were mainly waiting for local buses heading here. Snap some photos and back again, or opt for an intercity bus directly to Taipei, which also departed from here. However, queues for both were unbearable, so we returned to Lengshuikeng on foot (a matter of max. 30 minutes).

Our original plan was to use the bus service because our next destination was about 3km north along the road for cars. We checked the schedule with help of a man at the tourist information kiosk by moving our finger in a circular motion on the map. Bewildered look on the man’s face, accompanied by the same circular motion on the map, but in the opposite direction, coupled with a head shake, made it clear to us that we wouldn’t be heading north for a rather prosaic reason. Buses run from the north, not “to the north”. The local bus number 108 has only one route. It departs from Yangmingshan village in a clockwise direction, makes a few stops, then ends back in the village, and everyone must get off. Our destination was, of course, in the opposite direction, so there was no choice but to walk. Nevertheless, on concrete between cars it was accompanied by beautiful views.

Xiaoyoukeng Recreation Area is the area below Mt. Qixing, where steam emanates from volcanic vents at several points.

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Sulfuric fumes are very intense here, and yellow sulfur crystals form around the vents.

You can see volcanic exhalation up close thanks to several bubbling “pools” near the hiking trail.

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The Yangmingshan area was formed by volcanic activity about 700,000 years ago, and now there are numerous “dormant” volcanoes, vents and hot springs. Xiaoyoukeng is one of the largest and most easily accessible active volcanic vents.

We had two options to get to Yangmingshan and transfer to bus R5 back to Taipei: continue walking along the path opposite the 108 local bus or wait for it and go clockwise. It was already a few hours past noon, so we opted to wait. There weren’t as many people at Xiaoyoukeng, but we knew the main rush would come at Qingtiangang Grassland. Frequency of departures and the size of buses are utterly nonsensical given the number of tourists. Departures every 40 minutes, a minibus with a capacity of about 20 people, at least three places on the route where a surge of passengers can be expected, and the ride only goes in one direction… We were grateful to be inside and on the way, with only a few lucky people seated; the rest were crammed, breathing stale air… In Yangmingshan, we transferred to R5, and in a similar manner, we set off for Taipei, becoming a part of an evening rush hour.

Long waiting times, crowded buses, transfers, uncertainty about whether the driver would take you, queues and traffic jams in the city… We managed those 15km back to Taipei in JUST two hours.

Fortunately, the evening belonged to movies. It’s been our long-standing habit to visit foreign cinemas. Generally, we enjoy their atmosphere and like to compare how cinemas, screens, seats and prices differ in various countries. Of course, a movie needs to be screened in English; subtitles then can be in any language. In Taipei, we caught the premiere of Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which concluded our last full day in Taiwan on a satisfying note.



  • While waiting at Xiaoyoukeng Recreation Area (volcanic vent) for the bus, I had a working scenario that if only Andy boarded it, I would run down the hill; it would have been about 5km, and today I’m sure I would have been faster than the bus.
  • The journey back to Taipei on bus line R5 was so grueling that we couldn’t wait any longer and got off at one of the first urban stops, then walked to the metro, and again, it worked out better than waiting to make our way through the city on four wheels.
  • I highly recommend Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes; I had concerns about “milking the cow,” but apart from the rushed ending, there’s not much in the movie I’d criticize; the next Hunger Games series rewatch will feature all five films, with the Ballad not being the worst among them.



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