Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hehuan East Peak 合欢东峰

Further down the highway from Wuling (武领), there was a tourist information centre with public parking. There was also a hotel called Songxue Lodge (松雪楼), which to me was seemingly isolated from much of civilization. 

Allie led us through the hotel's carpark area and onto a pathway behind the hotel. Here, there was a wooden signpost pointing out the starting point of Hehuan Mountain's East Peak (合欢东峰)  trail.

I saw the ascend and imagined what it would have looked like on a clear day - it would have been amazing.

It was cold not only due to how high up it was but also to the weather. 

Gazing at the scenery, I felt humbled at the power of the universe. We humans, are but tiny specks in the wide world.

The different shades of green and the layers of clouds made a picturesque postcard photo.

And I managed to catch a small glimpse of Hehuan Mountain's signature sea cloud.

The Visitors' Information Centre provided washroom facilities and hiking information, including weather and hike trail condition.

Although clearly pointed out, not many people notice the wooden signboard of 3158 Cafe right behind the Visitors' Information Centre. Can you see it? At that height, I am guessing that they are Taiwan's highest cafe!

They are a good place to stop for a warm drink, and you can even select to purchase the mug that your drink is served in. Dad bought his mug and now we have a 3158 mug in our kitchen.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hehuan Wuling 合欢武领

We were not in luck as we began our journey on our 4th day. Allie had to drive really carefully through the thick mist that shrouded the mountain roads.

It was still quite pretty though, the sight, as I felt it dream-like. Too bad we did not manage to visit on a day with blue skies, bright sunshine and rolling white clouds that look like rows of cotton candy.

Halfway to our first destination of the day, we made a pit stop for the washroom and for some things to munch on.

Some kind of funghi?

Allie insisted that we try this:

These deep-fried salted mushrooms were so addictive, I nearly finished the whole tub when they left it with me while they went shopping for fruits at another stall. Aiya....

The first stop on our itinerary for the day was Hehuan Wuling Hehuan Wuling (合欢武领), at 31.5km of Highway 14. At 3,275 metres above sea level, it is the highest transport-accessible point in Taiwan.

I felt that our arrival at Wuling was slightly lacklustre because of the thick mist - a tad disappointed that we did not get to see the famous scenery. That and also the large amount of tourists.

I suppose, that means that I need to make a third trip to Taiwan, eh? ;)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cing Jing Xiao Zhu 清境小筑

My worries regarding accommodation in the mountains came to naught because I found out that there were hundreds of places to stay at from the cheap budget motels to big hotels and one-of-a-kind boutique homestays.

For our night up in the mountains, I chose to stay at a place called Cing Jing Xiao Zhu 清境小筑. Browsing their website somehow gave me the impression that they are similar to a place I would find in Cameron Highlands. And I was not wrong in my assumption.

Not only was the exterior of this B&B similar but also the weather and surroundings. The dirt road leading to this B&B was a meandering narrow one that skirted vegetable patches and allowed only one vehicle at any time.

The reception was unmanned when we arrived but there were instructions on calling the owner on the counter. Apparently, they live nearby and had just ducked home for a bit.

There was a cosy hangout platform with a pot of Chinese tea and snacks.

We walked through an outdoor area complete with comfy chairs, beanbags and coffee tables to get to our rooms.

My original booking was for a room on the top floor because I wanted the view but was informed by the owner that the view would be the same as there were no obstructions. As Mum and Dad did want top climb up too many flights of stairs with heavy luggage bags, we took up the suggestion to take the room directly beneath the original room.

The room was comfortable and had a sufficient bathroom.

The morning scenery from our room was breathtaking. No regrets switching rooms.

The dining area where breakfast was served resembled a canteen but with more fancy furniture. Those wooden chairs with floral cushioning were really heavy and difficult to move.

Breakfast was home-cooking served buffet-style. It was a meal of very typical Taiwanese brekkie.

And right beside the dining area, there were big juicy lettuces growing in rows!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lumama 鲁妈妈

Allie introduced us to this place called Lumama 鲁妈妈 for dinner. Situated at 2,044 metres above sea level, we were dying to get indoors for some warmth.

It felt a little like an over-sized home renovated to include a restaurant. Yes, it felt homely. The owners are a couple - the wife is a Bai Yi woman and the husband a nationalist veteran, which explained why most of the dishes on the menu were Yunnan dishes.

We ordered quite a few dishes and ensured that there was a soup dish in our order - anything soupy is a must in cold weather.

And so our soupy dishes were this bowl of 傣味米线 and tangkwei chicken soup (当归鸡汤):

This Yunnan-style tangkwei chicken soup was very unlike the Korean-style tangkwei chicken soup. This had a stronger tangkwei taste and the chicken were in pieces, not in whole.

I quite enjoyed this stir-fried bacon with fermented vegetables (酸菜炒腊肉), as if it was a East meets West taste.

A popular Yunnan dish is the gin sa (锦洒), a mix of minced pork and herbs wrapped in raw locally-grown cabbage leaves.

This was one dish that will got our hands dirty because we had to wrap the mince with the leaves and because of its juiciness, we were busy licking our fingers so as to not waste the juice - haha!

We ordered a tangkwei omelette (当归叶煎蛋), as well, we have never tasted omelette with tangkwei in it. Surprise surprise, in actual fact, the omelette was only garnished with tangkwei leaves. What was inside it was spring onion. Or perhaps there were some tangkwei leaves in it but we could not taste them.

Nevertheless, it was a hearty meal for all of us.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Carton King 纸箱王

Before I made this trip, bff Evon was raving about a place called Carton King (纸箱王), insisting that it is a place that my parents and I will find fascinating. Therefore, I included it in my itinerary when liaising with Judy. 

Fascinated we were! Just look at all their things!

All their displays were made of carton! And I mean everything!

Even their wall tiles were made of carton slices. Their curtains were made of patterned crepe paper.

They had furnitures made out of carton, too. Although not too comfortable, they were pretty sturdy. They even had wearable apparel like caps and shoes, even accessories like handbags and backpacks.

There were food stuff for sale that were in attractive paper packaging.

There were chandeliers and light fixtures made of carton, too.

There were toys in various sizes made from carton.

There was a working old school game machine (can anyone please enlighten me as to what this is called, please?) made of carton.

Too fascinated! Outside of the shop, there was a post shop selling notepads, diaries, journals, postcards and other stationeries of sorts.

I bought a few for my own keeping and a few I posted to close friends in KL and in Sydney.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Small Swiss Garden 小瑞士 & Green Green Grasslands 青青草原

Luck was not on our side as we approached the mountains. Rain clouds gathered and gradually, the pitter patter of raindrops became louder and more constant. The grey skies was not good for optimum photography, unfortunately, but I tried my best.

Small Swiss Garden (小瑞士) is part of Cingjing Farm (清境农场) was so named due to its resemblance to misty, Northern European surroundings.

It was a colourful little garden but the colours were less from the flowers and more from the artificial decorations put in place.

I believe that if not for the weather, the place would have felt more pleasant but we think that it is a place that you would visit once only.

Also due to the weather, our stop at Green Green Grasslands (青青草原) was less enjoyable. We just missed the sheep shearing show (but we have seen that in Australia and New Zealand anyway) and so we headed directly to where the equestrian show was performed. We waited for a bit, trying to find the least wet spot in the audience seating. I know Mum and Dad were a little annoyed with the rain but I insisted on waiting because we can't go away without watching anything, can we? And I am glad that we stayed because the equestrians were quite skilful. I was quite impressed.

Not only was it wet, it was really cold up in the mountains. Well, we were 1,750 metres above sea level so naturally it would be cold!

Even the webs in the leaves that sparkle with water drops look like snowflakes!

As we descended the stairway towards the carpark, we bade farewell to the adorable sheep grazing in the cold... er, maybe not so cold for them, they may love this weather.