We took off from Atlanta to Seattle. Along the way, we saw the glorious Rocky Mountains.
We arrived Taoyuan at 6:00 AM local time. So, for breakfast, we had shuijian bao (水煎包). It’s basically a dumpling with thick skin and a delicious filling. Because we still need to take classes and learn Chinese, we spent most of our time preparing our school supplies and catching up on our Chinese. For dinner, we went to a famous restaurant, Ding Tai Fong （鼎泰豐）. Their specialty is soup dumplings (left: 湯包, right: 紅油抄手) and is so famous that almost all tourist books mention about it.
The picture below is what we usually eat at my grandmother’s house.
Anyway, as the same every year, we went to local school for a month ╮(－_－)╭. Let me skip all details here XD. Finally, after a month, we started our trip and headed toward Hualien（花蓮）on a Pu-Yo-Ma （普悠瑪） train.
Immediately after we arrived, we went for one of the Hualien specialties: fried egg and onion pancake [炸彈蔥油餅]. My dad kept saying that he grew up with this stuff. My question is that would you get tired of it!?? Anyway, for tourists, you must get with egg. It’s amazing! However, for locals (like my dad), they never have it with egg.
Next morning, our grandmother surprised us that she hired a taxi to take us into the deep mountains. we entered through Taroko National Park [太魯閣國家公園] and drove to Tianxiang（天祥）, a famous tourist stop. Along the way, we saw gorgeous gauges. But we also noticed some aftermaths of recent land and mudslides.
In the photo below, there is a cement tunnel. It’s there so it can protect the road from mud or landslides.
After Tianxiang, our van started to climb steeply. Soon we arrived at Bilu Divine Tree（碧綠神木）which is 2150 meters (7084 feet) above sea level. Since it is 2000 meter above the sea level, we started feeling the effect of altitude sickness. The main symptoms of healthy people are headaches, dizziness, and short breath. We had a quick lunch there. Since the mountain peach is a specialty here, we tried their peach tea and peach honey.
We then resumed and drove a long way to the Hehuan Mountain (合歡山), one of the most famous mountain ranges in Taiwan. To reach the main peak (合歡主峰), we got off the van and walked the mountain’s ridge for about a hour. The trail is was not difficult at all. But the altitude sickness kicked in so it took longer than we expected. However, the weather was perfect. On the mountain ridge, one side was cloudy and the other side was clear.
I sat and looked down the cloudy side and wondered, is it bottomless?
The peak is 3417 meters, which is roughly 10,000 ft high. Hard to imagine the highest peak east of the Mississippi (Mt. Mitchell) is only 6684 feet.
After the hiking, we headed to dinner. At this local restaurant, they cooked you a whole chicken and you ripped it apart (窯烤雞). It was very tasty. This concluded the first day of our trip.
Next morning, the special thing was the clouds. When the clouds descend to the base of the mountains, it looked like an cloud ocean.
Cabbage is a well-known product here in the mountains because at night the temperature can drop below . The cabbage is frozen and then thaws so it is considered tasty.
After breakfast, we went to Qingjing Farm [青境農場] to see lambs. The lamb show was pathetic but there was a bunch of umbrellas. Like, umbrella show?
Anyway, we managed to escape from people. The green rolling hills were so green and refreshing.
After brushing of the grass, we headed to our next stop. On the way, we stopped at Li Mountain [梨山]. This place was used to be a major tourist stopping point (back to my dad’s childhood). However, because of the re-routing of roads, it became a very calm place.
We arrived at Wuling Farm (武陵農場) and stayed a night in a cool wooded floor cottage. The dinner was in buffet style, but with a lot of cabbage…
The weather was a little bit chilly, which was very nice for summer. We went hiking around at night and the next day early morning. There was a stone that with the characters “Unmovable” etched on it and my dad did a funny post with it. I wondered if it’s unmovable because it is actually attached to the ground by concrete.
Later the day, we hiked a 4 km trail to Mt. Tao Waterfall [桃山浦布] at Shei-Pa National Park [雪霸國家公園]. It was all under shades so shielded us from the heat. However, after the walk, I thought, was it worth it?
We then headed toward Yi-lan province. On the way, we went into a range of fog that rushed onto us. It was quite a interesting experience.
This evening, before we settled down at a hotel, we also went to visit watermelon fields. After ate so many watermelons, my mom insisted that she wanted to see how they are gown.
Next morning, we went back in mountains to visit the Ci-Lan Divine Trees Garden (棲蘭神木園) in Magao National Park (馬告國家公園) . It was a two hours of a curvy bus ride both ways, phew…
But this place is amazing. There were so many divine trees and they are named after famous people that were in similar eras, such as Confucius (500 B.C. ) and Genghis Khan (1200 A.D.).
The fog also swarmed the area so it created a mysterious forest feeling.
Enough of the mountains. We finally came back to the plains and headed straight to Su-ao’s cold springs (蘇澳泠泉).
Different than normal “hot spring”, the cold springs is “cold” and a little bit “bubbling”. We soaked in the freezing water for a long time. It was a little bit crowded because there is a bigger pool but it was under construction.
Because of the super typhoon Nepartak (尼伯特), my parents decided to cut our adventure short and headed back to Hualien immediately. We took the notorious but very scenic Su-hua Highway (蘇花公路).
Well, we came back to Hualien safely that late evening. Next morning, we packed and headed back to Taoyuan on a Tze-Chiang Type (自強號) immediately, just before the typhoon came in and all transportations were halted.
Taoyuan was just right outside of the reach of Nepartak. So that was a close escape. Anyway, Nepartak remained its strength at Class 5 but slowed down, changed its path southward, and eventually landfall at Taitung, which is just south of Hualien and suffered great damage.
After Nepartak went, we spent a day visiting Xin Beitou’s (新北投) Hot Springs. Below is the Thermal Valley (地熱谷).
The water in the picture was hot, almost at 100°C. That evening, we also visited the most famous night market, the Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) ! It was just as described as the phrase of “people mountain people sea”! It was totally crazy!
The other day, we also visited the National Palace Museum (故宮博物院). We’re not first time visitors. However, we always feel that we don’t get enough time to go through this museum. There are just too many precious and historical artifacts to see.
Finally, we jumped on a plane, ready to go home. This time we got on a “Hello Kitty” plane. Even the cabin color is pink.
BTW, it is quite interesting to see the issue of National Geography’s Traveller of this month has a article about spending 72 hours in Taipei. We actually went visited most of them!
If you are interested, go get one! It is really a nice reference and I can evidently support it!!! XD