Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Photo Diary | Alishan, Taiwan

We took a break from the city to explore the mountains. After a train ride down the west coast, we rented a scooter in Chiayi. Preston made sure to get his International Driver's Permit before we left the U.S., and it was the best decision. It was an amazing way to travel through Alishan. We were able to see and feel the distance, much more so than if we took a bus or car. It is very dangerous, the mountain roads were tiny, no lanes, and evidence of landslides surrounded us. Little blue trucks and cement mixers would zip around the winding turns.

The distance you could see was unbelievable. The mountains were surrounding you. The air kept getting cooler and thinner. The hillsides scattered with tea farms and bamboo forests. We stayed in a tiny town called Rueili. We made it to Plum Blossom Villa in time for a golden hour hike.

The trail led us to a bat cave, swallow cliffs, and a suspension bridge named for lovers. And of course, it was comprised of what felt like a million stairs.

We loved having this view every night and morning. We would see swallows flying past and sitting on the telephone wire.

That night our host, Scott, took us to see the fireflies. It was the most amazing thing I have seen in my entire life. I wasn't able to capture it in pictures (These are a couple from Scott. He had the camera set-up for these types of shots down). Though it still doesn't compare to standing in the middle of it all.  It was like being surrounded by thousands of Christmas lights. Even more spectacular that it was created by nature. We even came across tiny little phosphorescent mushrooms. They could have easily been overlooked as a firefly unless you noticed the glow wasn't flashing on and off.

The next morning we took the scooter to the Alishan park, passing through farms, small towns, and a stretch of congested tour bus filled highway.

We were just past cherry blossom seasons, but a few trees remained.

The red cypress trees were magnificent. It was interesting to learn the history of the cypresses and how many were chopped down when Japan colonized to make tea tables. To be planted in their place-cherry blossoms.

We walked the trail between the two railway lines. The train was adorable. This is the caboose.

Before we left, we mailed post cards from the Alishan post office.

We ended the day with a Taiwanese beer and a trip to the next door neighbor's tea farm. We were able to smell the fresh tea leaves and see the machines that dry and roll the infamous Alishan oolong.

We didn't want to leave! Scott and his family were so nice, including shaved sheepdog, Xiong Xiong. We were eating delicious food every night, including vegetables we had never even heard of before. It was an unforgettable experience.

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