adventures, With A Lower Case “A”
I’m on a bike riding around a beautiful lake in the mountains on a warm sunny day with someone whose company I enjoy very much.
Life is terrible.
Sometimes I end up on Adventures, with a capital ‘A’ whether that’s on purpose, due to poor planning or bad luck, or simply a result of my stupidity. So other times it’s nice to just have an adventure, with a lower case ‘a.’
Thus, this phase of my Taiwan trip. I had asked Yu-Ting (Angela, one of our 2014 employees) if she would travel with me for several days. While I enjoy the challenges of figuring out transportation, language barriers, and unknown foods, sometimes it’s nice to be able to have someone else take care of the details. I knew my other Taiwan friends would do the same when I visited with them, but I’m a solitary creature by nature, and group travel is exhausting for me after a while. During my last visit to Taiwan I quickly discovered that Angela is a natural guide so she was a natural choice.
So here we are at Sun Moon Lake, in central Taiwan. So named because of the shape. Whatever. I just know that it’s lovely here. Fifteen minutes after arriving we are on rental bikes (for only $15 for the day!), casually riding around the lake.
I’m instantly smiling, thinking, this is EXACTLY what I wanted and needed. A quiet couple of days with a good friend. Outstanding scenery in a tourist-friendly area. As much or as little activity as we choose. Yes. Yes. YES!
(as always, click any picture to see them larger. There, isn’t that better?)
Later, a short run. Dinner is fabulous. A good day.
Sunrise. It’s just me, a few early walkers, and a couple of photographers. Perfect.
Angela and I take a boat ride across the lake to explore the town there and ride the gondola up a mountain.
Nearby is a huge temple with a great view of the surrounding mountains. We plan to walk the remaining way back to our hotel, but discover that portion of the bike trail is closed for maintenance. Returning to town by bus, I rent a bike again while Angela relaxes, and stay out until after sunset. The sunset view from the temple is astounding.
A perfect two days.
Morning. On the bus. Didn’t I say once in Denali “Always on the bus?” Our ride takes a couple of hours, but is comfortable and the views are spectacular. We arrive at Alishan. We are dumped out at a parking lot in front of a 7-11 and what constitutes the “town” here. Passengers are given a quick orientation in Mandarin; no attempt to speak English here. Once again I’m grateful for Angela. I could have figured some of this out, but would have missed much and been in a state of confusion for most of the time.
Alishan National Scenic Area was tops on my list of things to see in this Taiwan trip. One look at a spectacular photo in my guidebook piqued my interest. A quick search online confirmed it.
For the first time in Taiwan, I experience being cold. Not Alaska cold, but definitely chilly. Angela chills out under a blanket in her room while I go for a 5 mile run through the forest. Although certainly not natural at this point, it’s still beautiful, especially with the fog and mist. I’m glad I brought a small camera.
Morning. We are up well before dawn to walk to the train station for a ride to the sunrise viewpoint. The famous ‘sea of clouds’ awaits. It’s cold, not much above freezing, and it will be colder at our destination.
The amount of people is staggering. The first train leaves, completely packed. We leave a 15 minutes later on a far emptier one. I’m glad for the better seating, but I am a bit stressed about getting to our site on time as the sky is starting to fill with light.
We arrive, and decide to skip the viewpoint at the train station which is a crush of hundreds of people and instead sprint 1/2 mile further up a steep hill to a different viewpoint. Maybe 60 people instead of hundreds. Much better.
The scene is as promised. Stunning. I’m speechless. I shoot well over a hundred images as the sun comes up over the mountains. We return back to the train station which is now nearly empty – once the sun peaked over the mountain, most people instantly lost interest, though the scene continues to evolve in ever more beautiful ways.
I shoot more, happy and content with our morning.
Breakfast. I love Taiwanese food. I really do enjoy most of it – for lunch and dinner. Breakfast? Not so much. Our provided breakfast is rice porridge, steamed buns, some vegetables, and mystery meat. Sigh. Still, it’s food.
We take the train again, a different line to a nearby stop, planning to hike back. People. Everywhere. The mainland Chinese tour groups are out in force, and a bit overwhelming. They are loud and generally rude. In most places, a beautiful forest encourages people to be respectfully quiet. Not here. Angela responds angrily when one tour guide tells his group to sing loudly because “it won’t bother anyone.” Sigh. Still, we enjoy our afternoon.
Huge trees. There are only a few left after the Japanese logged the heck out of the area; the few remaining giant cypresses are indeed impressive. A small but interesting temple. The light is often wonderful, with lots of god beams playing through the trees.
Morning. Even earlier this time. We bought tickets to take a bus to a distant viewpoint inside Yushan National Park. Expecting a 90 minute bus ride, we are surprised when 15 minutes later the driver dumps us on the side of the road in complete darkness. As the sky lightens we can see that we are at a nice viewpoint. A small group of us enjoy watching the scene unfold.
Still, I am disappointed later when I see several vans descending the park road and discover from a passenger that their driver did indeed take them to a viewpoint much further into the national park. Sigh.
After two mornings of viewing the ‘sea of clouds’ at sunrise, I am content. Beyond content actually. This 5 day portion of my Taiwan trip was exactly what I hoped for.
Bus. Always the damn bus rides. We sleep some of the way to Chiayi, before taking the high speed rail back to Taipei.