1st stop: Strawberry-picking in Baishihu
When I invited a fellow mom, whose overwhelming parental responsibilities have consistently keep her from enjoying outdoor activities, to a strawberry-picking excursion in Baishihu area, she accepted with unusual enthusiasm, as she explained that the inviting pink fruit is her sweet-toothed boy’s favorite.
The Baishihu strawberries are greenhouse-grown, which means that you don’t have to cancel your trip to this lovely neighborhood because of bad weather. What’s even better is that after you pick your own strawberries, which are mostly organic and sold by weight, you can just rinse them with water and voilà! You’ve got a natural, heavenly treat!
We visited a strawberry farm with a DIY jam-making program that gave the kids a first-hand cooking experience, albeit with some help from their moms, who spent nearly an hour stirring the mixture, following their epic achievement of harvesting. Boy, they sure had a great time!
Instead of hurrying down the hill after picking fruits, we recommend that you check out the terrific attractions nearby (notably the heart-shaped Tong-Xin Pond, Baishihu Suspension Bridge, Bishan Temple, etc.) and quench your hunger after a morning’s manual labor at restaurants along the way. Whenever seasonally appropriate, quite a number of eateries in Baishihu present strawberry-infused recipes from jellies, ice creams and milk tea to such rarities as sausages and rice cakes. Follow the directional signs and walk toward Baishihu Suspension Bridge, and you will find a family restaurant past the Tong-Xin Pond, complete with a swing-and-slide set that’s thrilling for the kids and relaxing for parents.
The Tong-Xin Pond, the name of which suggests "being of one heart", is an eco-wetland surrounded by an extra ring of immaculate lilies in mid-May, providing a fantastic photo backdrop.
The peculiar-looking, “invisible” suspension bridge, with a reinforced foundation in Baishihu, is configured without any stay cables, and consequently feels much more stable than most of its kind. As a matter of fact, even my acrophobic boy managed to cross it.
Beyond the bridge, the Bishan Temple beckoned me to conquer all those stone steps (while keeping count!) to reach its magnificent close-up. It’s apparently a perfect place to recount the exploits of Fujian pioneer and hero Chen Yuan-guang (a.k.a., Kai-Zhang-Sheng-Wang) and his loyal assistants, Generals Li Bo-yao and Ma Ren, among other folk stories. The Temple is Taiwan’s largest ever dedicated to Chen, hence a pilgrimage hotspot. Legend has it that an official from the Zhangzhou Prefecture, surnamed Huang, brought his family across the Taiwan Strait to settle in the mountaintop where Bishan Temple now stands. He marked this incredibly fertile land by hanging an ancestral relic on a “sacred stone” in a cave and prayed to it routinely. In 1751, a group of bandits plotted to overtake the mountaintop after they destroyed the villages down the hill, only to be confounded by the fearsomely thundering of war drums, Huang’s sacred stone emitted rays of light as it broke into three parts, the center one embodying Chen and the other two Generals Li and Ma. In a phenomenal twist of event, the bandits fled down the hill as rocks tumbled around to bury them!
By the time we ascended to the Temple’s mountaintop platform for a bird’s-eye view of Taipei Basin besides a dazzling panorama of Tamsui River, Liyu (Carp) Mountain and terraced rice paddies meandering into the distance, the adults in my party were practically exhausted and decided to wrap up our fruitful, strawberry-themed daytrip. 2nd Stop: The Viewing Platform of Taipei Songshan Airport
For those pesky enough to handle another excursion before heading home, it’s advisable to drop by the observation deck right off Taipei Songshan Airport for some plane-spotting. Aircraft are unknown behemoths for kids even if they represent a fairly common mode of transport for people long past their childhood. That explains why every time a plane is up in the sky, it elicits an exclamatory “It’s flying!” from the young audience.
The viewing platform is perfect for an aviation aficionado dad to recount boyhood fantasies to his children, whose heads nod in awe of the extensive knowledge about the aircraft models taking off or touching down. Walk around the platform and you’re likely to see women looking confused as their husbands, with an evident sense of satisfaction and pride, talk effusively about those mesmerizing big birds.
To strawberry farms in Baishihu or Bishan Temple: Take MRT Line 1 (Wenhu Line), get off at Neihu Station, walk to Section 2, Neihu Rd. and take Minibus No. 2 (or hail it anywhere in the mountain area).
To the viewing platform of Taipei Songshan Airport: Take MRT Line 1 (Wenhu Line), get off at MRT Songshan Airport Station, follow directional signs and walk for about 3 minutes to reach the platform.
Strawberry farms in Baishihu：http://www.travel.taipei/sAction.do?id=1105554
The Viewing Platform of Taipei Songshan Airport：http://www.tsa.gov.tw/tsa/page.aspx?id=1235