02 April 2009

A trip to the mountains

For Lauren's last (and only) full weekend in Taiwan, we took a trip with several other Fulbrighters to the mountains. 阿里山 is one of Taiwan's most popular tourist spots, particularly during this time of year when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. We got there right at the tail end of the cherry blossom season, which means slightly fewer cherry blossoms (but still as many tourists).

Anyway, because it was peak tourism season, we (read: Rebekah and Gered, our awesomely 辛苦 trip organizers) had to creatively put together the trip without actually staying in 阿里山. So we left early Friday and took the train to 嘉義, hired a driver to take us to 瑞里, and promptly napped on the "traditional Asian floor, as we said in HCAP-Seoul. (You get a couple blankets and lay them on a wooden floor and that's your bed.)

After a lunchbox lunch at our 山莊, we decided to go see the sites in the mountains and were off.

Lunchbox satisfaction level:

View from the balcony:

The forest/mountains were really pretty, and there was a lot of bamboo:

We hiked several kilometers to find a batcave (or "bat grotto," as some signs called it). Apparently all the bats have left the area because of tourism. Oops:

We then spent a lot of time looking for a waterfall. First we thought it dried up:

But eventually, we found it:

There were a lot of steps. We definitely ended up walking (hiking?) further than we had intended, which resulted in a long upward climb to the top:

But at least it was pretty along the way:

That night, we had a big family-style vegetarian dinner at the 山莊, saw some fireflies with some very enthusiastic young hotel guests, ate some roasted sweet potatoes, drank some floral tea, and went to bed by nine.

The next day we were up at seven (I opted out of the 4am sunrise trip). We had another family-style breakfast at the hotel, and when we weren't psyched about eating pickled radishes for breakfast, the 老闆 reassured us that we should try it even though it's not like "美國的漢堡." Then we were in a car to 阿里山 by 8.

Unlike 瑞里, 阿里山 was full of tourists and we were not full of energy. So we took a few trails, took some pictures of the cherry blossoms, saw some giant trees, and called it a day.

At 3pm we took the famous Alishan Forest Railway to our hotel in 奮起湖, yet another mountain town. The Alishan Forest Railway is the third most famous mountain railway... or something. I'm not sure. It was a very pretty ride though, and every once in a while we'd pass a crazed tourist snapping pictures of the train from the forest.

The train approaching the station at Alishan with cherry blossoms and mist... too much 特色!

Lauren and Katie aboard the Alishan Forest Railway:

Our stay in 奮起湖 wasn't entirely eventful; we found a good restaurant for dinner, hung out by the 7-11, and saw the staff of the hotel we stayed in exactly once from check-in to check-out. Then we were up and off at 8am for a long and nauseating busride back to 嘉義 where Lauren and I parted ways at the 高鐵 station. She headed off to the airport and I headed back to Kaohsiung.

And there ended Lauren's visit to Taiwan... Now that I've caught up with blogging, I'm headed out to 墾丁 for three nights and three days of Spring Scream. I never did the multi-day, camping-out concert thing back in the United States, so I'm sure I'm in for an experience.

Back on Monday!


Jonathan said...

Wow, the picture of the bamboo forest looks right out of those old, famous Chinese landscape paintings.

glennie said...

Lovely! I totally would've taken a dip in that waterfall pool, though - i bet it would've been nice after so much hiking.

Beautiful landscape, esp the mist and the cherry blossoms. Yay spring!

Emily said...

What wonderful pictures! It looks like a great trip, and I just had to comment on the allusion to our wonderful floor-sleeping in HCAP Seoul.

Aubrey said...

Advice for next time:

Don't go chasin' waterfalls.
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to.

...I am so sorry that just happened.

The Chao said...

The lunchbox satisfaction photo is dead-on, especially Dan's thumbs-down.


LAuren said...

i look like a creeper in the last photo! lol. SO SAD IM GONE!!