Monday, June 30, 2008

Yangmingshan National Park

I was able to purchase a lovely little book with a bunch of day hikes within the Taipei area. On Sunday, my housemates and I set out to actually accomplish one of the day hikes. Being the adventurous, spontaneous group we are, we started with day trip #1 to Seven Star Peak in Yangmingshan National Park.

Yangmingshan is a quickish MRT and bus ride away. One gets spoiled really quickly with useful, timely public transportation. The MRT is Taipei's version of BART. It's exactly like BART except it is cleaner, faster, cheaper, timelier, traveler friendly, and takes you into dense tropical jungle. Riding the MRT, you get to see how quickly Taipei melts into wilderness, but there is still a scattering of houses no matter where you go. Once we exited the MRT, we jumped on to a bus (extended mini van) and proceeded up the mountain (attempting to kill as many scooter riders, cyclists, and motorists as we could) into the park. The park is amazingly beautiful and teeming with life.

I cannot begin to describe to you how incredibly noisy the jungle is. The noise is high pitched and constant. There is the never ending screech from the cicadas. Along with that, there is a chorus of birds that sounds exactly like car brakes that are past their prime. One bird starts braking and then the other birds start braking. It is a rhythmic wave of noise that continued the entire hike. At times the noise is almost deafening. It is really quite astonishing.

There is also a sulfurous smell hanging in the air. This is due to the volcanic activity in the area. Next trip into the park, I am going to find the hot springs and enjoy the upside to sulfurous gas.

The hike up to the top was difficult. The humidity was kicking my ass. I was sweating profusely and breathing hard the entire length up. My little legs were shaking. My housemates handled the hike much better than I.

There were little breaks in the canvas the higher we got up. As we ascended we walked into some dense fog. But there were little patches where you could view Taipei. The view was stunning and my little point and shoot doesn't do it justice.

Yangmingshan National Park is firmly against Burning Man. Either that or the devil. I couldn't decide.

The housemates and I at the top of Seven Star Peak.

The hike up consisted of mass amounts of beautiful butterflies. The butterflies would change according to the elevation. At the lower levels, there were huge black butterflies. At the mid-elevation there were black and blue butterflies. At the top of Seven Start, there were hundreds of these dark brown and light blue butterflies. Flocks of butterflies in the mist are a truly beautiful site to behold.

The view from the top.

On the way back down the mountain, it started dumping rain. I can't remember the last time I was out playing in the rain like that. It was incredible. We were soaking wet and received a shit ton of dirty looks from the other people riding the bus, but all in all an incredible day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I've been slacking on the whole taking of pictures end of things. This is the street I live on. Not many people in Taipei (pronounced Taibei*) have yards, so the rooftop is where they usually barbeque and other backyard type activities. Some of the rooftop spaces are covered in foliage and look like little, private jungles. It's really beautiful.

As always, there is much more Taiwanese goodness (and culture differences that I could live without ie//They don't flush their toilet paper, which while gross, sounds much worse than it is) that needs to be conveyed.

In good time. In good time.

*I found out it was pronounced Taibei yesterday. Turns out 7 yr-olds are geniuses and their foreigner teacher is silly and doesn't know the name of the place she lives (America according to them, but they were willing to let me say I lived in Taibei. Not Taipei) Who knew?

Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. Rainbow Balls Cerear.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Please exit in a calm and orderly fashion

Friday, June 20, 2008

Taipei, Taipei, Taipei

It is definitely an urban area. The city pulses with well-dressed young professionals buzzing around on scooters. If the traffic pace doesn't agree with them, they don't seem to hesitate to take the sidewalk. I had the pleasure of almost getting my toes taken off by two just walking the 4 blocks to work this morning. The American movie watcher in me expects them to run into a vegetable stand or into two men who just happen to be carrying a window pane across the sidewalk at that exact moment. I cannot help but be disappointed when this doesn't happen.

Everything is slightly gray here due the lovely combination of humidity and pollution. Despite lacking very much visual aesthetic, it feels good here. Upon first impression, the stress and tension that I find in most major American cities doesn't seem to be intertwined with the chaos of Taipei. I will keep in mind that I have walked around about 4 square blocks total so far, so at the moment, this is an absurd generalization.

The western influence has definitely taken hold in Taipei as well. There is a 7-11 on every corner. I have also seen a Starbucks and 2 McDonalds. I am sitting in a cafe called Corner. From the looks of it, it was inspired by Starbucks. It has air conditioning, and the coffee was more expensive than my breakfast. Breakfast was 25 NTD, roughly 80 cents, while the cup o' joe was 45 NTD, roughly $1.50. I'm not sure if that is overpriced, but if they were really following Starbucks' lead, I'm sure it is.