Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Taiwan, Day Four

If you go to Alishan, one of the things you HAVE to do (apparently) is see the sunrise. I don't think I've ever gotten up specifically to watch the sunrise. It was cold and we were already tired from 5 hours of being on the bus in strong air conditioning followed by a 20 degree temperature drop and an hour of hiking through the damp forest. But we decided that since we were there, we may as well haul our butts out of bed at the ungodly hour of 3am (my 2nd time waking in that hour in one week, how warrior-tastic of me!) and catching the narrow-gauge railroad up to the summit. There were only two trains that would get us there before the sunrise (otherwise it was an hour and a half hike UP), so we got there early to get our tickets.
This picture shows how lovely we are at 3am, and how very joyous we are to be awake and on a stuffy train full of people eating smelly food.
Chushan station, from which we walked another 10 minutes straight up to get to a good viewing location.
Everyone else stayed on the first level, mostly, but we headed to the second, and then a lady running the lone food shop there told us we could climb over this wooden barricade to a "do not enter" area further up (apparently the rocks were eroding away there, uhhh...). I was skeptical, but Joe was fearless and we ended up waaaaay higher up than anyone else, with a fantastic and unobstructed view, which we shared with only two other foreigners.
Being super huge nerds who went through the Columbia Core Curriculum, Joe and I marveled at the "rosy-fingered dawn."
As it got lighter, we could see a bit of Alishan's famous "Sea of Clouds" in the distance- mountains rising out of a layer of clouds. Really lovely!
Day break approaches.
More of the "Sea of Clouds" on the other side of the mountain.
Oooooooooh. I may have to make this my computer desktop wallpaper.
Another view of the Sea.
The sun finally rose above the mountains, which wasn't as breathtaking as watching the dawn emerge (mostly because we couldn't get good photos or look directly at the sun, of course, duh). In fact it was a bit anticlimactic, haha.
The other side was mighty pretty too though.
We decided to hike down the mountain (about 30 min.) instead of packing onto the train with everyone else. The train passed us about halfway down, but it was indeed stuffed to the gills. so we made the right decision.
Since the bus had taken so long (though it was really cheap), we decided to ride in style back to Taipei via the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR), which is just like the bullet train in Japan. The super smooth ride cut our travel time in half, and we were able to get a glimpse of some of the mid-sized cities along the way.
When we got back to Taipai I returned my stuff to the hostel and we went to relax in the teahouse of the National Museum of History.
It overlooked the Botanical Gardens, though it was too HOT to explore them. We stayed safely in the AC.
Mmm. Cashews and pineapple cakes and my own little bowl of jasmine tea.
We were there for at least two hours. Joe studied, I read, we chatted, and I think I drank about 20 cups of tea.
It was a somewhat odd but interesting museum.
Then we went to Sogo (I think?), a Japanese-style department store complete with a Japanese garden and teahouse indoors on the restaurant floor.
And garden. Inside a department store. Oh, Asia.


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