Trip Start Sep 10, 2007
Trip End Sep 09, 2008

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Hi everyone! It's been a while since I last sent an update to everyone. I hope you're all doing well.

Today is the last day of the lunar new year's festival. Most businesses, schools, and government agencies have been shut down for six days. Initially, my plan had been to travel up the island's east coast with some friends, but to our dismay we discovered that trains and buses were all filled to capacity. On Thursday, Ling volunteered to take us up into the mountains east of Taichung for the day. She wanted to show us some of the smaller towns, coffee and pineapple plantations, etc. It was a nice drive, but it seemed like everyone that could be on the roads was on the roads. To top it off, we had a fender bender. Ling was shaken and embarrassed, so we decided to head back into town early.

On Saturday, Jennifer, Sarah and I decided to try for another day trip. We met each other at the train depot early in the morning and managed to secure three standing-room tickets. The seats and aisles were completely filled, so we crammed ourselves in the area between two rail cars for two and a half hours.

We hit the big city around 11:00 and decided to wander over to the Taipei 101 building for lunch, with a short detour through the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. As the founder of the Chinese Republic, he essentially holds a place as Taiwan's founding father...the closest American equivalent would probably be Thomas Jefferson. I would like to have spent more time there, but we really wanted to head out of town as soon as possible.

Around mid-afternoon we hopped on the MRT, Taipei's sprawling subway system, toward the southern outskirts of the city. From there, we had a 45-minute bus ride southeast to Wulai. The town is considered one of Taiwan's top hot spring resort destinations. Of all of the places I have visited on the island, Wulai definitely is the most beautiful. Tall mountains with lush tropical vegetation overlook the blue-green Wulai River, flowing several hundred feet below the town through a steep and rocky gorge. Even though the skies were dark and cloudy, the first thing that struck me upon arriving was the range of colors! The varying degrees of jade water running below us was really breathtaking.

We wandered through the center of town, which only took about thirty minutes. The streets were lined with food vendors, crafts shops, restaurants, and most of all hot spring hotels. My tour book was a little disdainful of Wulai, claiming that it was kitschy and aimed at tourists, but I thought that it was a lot of fun. After all...I am a tourist! A little path led further up into the hills overlooking the town. We hiked up, which took about forty minutes. At the end of the path was a cable car (or gondola) station. For about US$7.00 we rode the gondola over the river and toward a beautiful waterfall right at the base of the Yun Hsien Resort. From there we climbed what must have been two hundred stone steps to the source of the waterfall. There we found a beautiful koi pond, gardens, and Buddhist shrines. With the rushing water in the distance and mist floating in the air, it really was magnificent.

By this point it was getting dark, and we still wanted to take advantage of the town's hot springs and grab something to eat before heading back to Taichung. The three of us found a conveniently priced hot springs hotel and spent the next 90 minutes soaking. Very relaxing! Afterwards, we bought a few things to snack on along the street and proceeded home through Taipei. We managed to find three comfortable bus seats back to Taichung. I collapsed onto my bed around 1:30 a.m.

Not a bad trip.

I want to apologize for: (1) the poor quality of the pictures and (2) the limited number of shots. It was dark and misty for most of the trip, and I still haven't figured out how to adjust the light levels on my digital camera. I hope that you enjoy the ones that are attached, though.

Happy New Year!!
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