Visiting Taiwan . 29 Sep 2012. Day 2. Cing Jing (清境) to HeHuanShan (合歡山) + Puli (埔里)

Here’s the much-anticipated gallery of photos of the view we had from our room!

Seeing such a gorgeous view upon waking up really lifts one’s spirits and brightens one’s mood. The most appropriate chinese idiom to describe the feeling would have to be 心旷神怡. Even after 6 months since the holiday, I can still vividly remember how excited and awestruck I was at such a sight. After hearing the woos and wahs, Wei wei woke up too, to take a look, before she tried to sleep again Poh also went back to sleep as it was simply too early! (It’s barely past 7 am…zzZzzZ)

As I could not sleep after waking up, I went to get ready for breakfast and by the time I was about to leave the room, the sky was almost a crystal clear-blue and no longer shrouded with clouds. The place was sunny and it was almost scorching although the air was still cool and rather chilly. Such a contrast!

Breakfast was a simple fare and after breakfast, we walked about the premises and explore the compound as it was quite misty to enjoy the beauty of this place the day before.

Note: This was served for all the 3 days we stayed at Top Cloud Villa.
If you prefer something different, you could always head out to the roadside stalls featured in part 1.
They may open at a later time though. 🙂

Top Cloud Villa Tea House 

That’s me! 😀

Top Cloud Villa 

That’s Poh!

The car behind Poh fetches the family that came in together with us out as they were only staying for a night but the following car that came was to bring us on our day tour! We had agreed to engage a local driver when we were discussing about the trip and we had made arrangement with the villa the day before. The charges are slightly higher but we were not fussy about the difference.

Off we went! The first stop was He Huan Shan, also known as the Joy Mountain  (合歡山).

Along the way up!

Posing along the highway

Taking pictures against the sun is not a good idea…

The mountains

Halfway to our destination, we had a stopover and purchased some fruits for snacks.

Really looked like it was out of the world

This is apparently a star-gazing track!

仙界

The Couple Stone (夫妻石)

The pears are huge!!

Here’s a picture of our driver for the day trip. We address him as 石师傅 .

The auntie who sold us the fruits

Stray

According to our driver, he mentioned that due to the environment including altitude, low air pressure at the mountains e.t.c., the fruits grown are sweeter, bigger and juicier. The pears could really quench one’s thirst but even though the sun was really scorching, the air was cold and as the car drove higher, the colder it got. Another lesson learnt: Do not wear black cardigans. Initially I had intended to leave it on since it could prevent me from being suntanned. However, the cardigan heated up so quickly, it was as though my arms were burning! I took it off and endured the chill instead.

We were also introduced to a kind of special trees that grew in that area and one would probably see it very often in Chinese painitings but I can’t recall its name offhand. 😦

Almost reaching the top

Our car stopped by the road and we were told that if we want to reach the first peak, we would have to travel by feet. *gasp*

We dropped off along the road and began making our way uphill.

Brr…
P.S. Poh was wearing bermudas, not even long pants!

As you can see from the picture above, Poh’s hair was almost blown out of place and all of us are huddling together for some warmth. Despite the glaring sun, the temperature at where we were standing was 12 degree Celsius. According to our driver, if we had joined the tour that morning to view the sunrise, the temperature was a mere 3 degree Celsius  Sounds really really cold to me…

Poh acting cool…

The place we dropped at

A hotel in the mountains that was closed to the public as it was undergoing renovation

A man-made track along the slopes of the mountains

We put on our thickest jacket, even though the sun was almost at its hottest.

A beautiful sea of clouds!

Poh took the lead and up the mountains we went!

A long way up.

Posing with the beautiful backdrop

Doesn’t this look like the Alps in spring?

Hardy Trees that lined the route we took

From afar, it seemed as though the bushes are soft and lush but do not be mistaken. At such high altitudes, the plants which could survive  the harsh conditions of the dipping temperatures at night are hardy and have needle-like leaves. We were warned to stick to our path and even with our long pants, we were told not to walk into the bushes as we might be scratched by the leaves of the bushes.

Find me!
P.S. It’s pretty easy eh?

The difference between the Alps and the mountains in Taiwan are:

1. The Alps are, of course, much higher;

2. The locals in the countries where the Alps stretches across speak mainly their native language which is not common in Singapore. In Taiwan, however, the people speaks Chinese! This is definitely a plus for us since it’s a language we were taught in, spoken at home and used frequently in our daily conversations.

3. The flight to see the gorgeous sight in Alps spans over  more than 12 hours whereas the trip is Taiwan is merely less than 5 hours!  😀

More slopes to climb! 

Spot the sharpest point in this picture? That’s Mountain ZhongYangJian (中央尖山)

We reached the TOP! 

Mount Hehuan East Peak (Left) and Main Peak (Right)

Mount Cilai, North Peak and Main Peak

By ZM

By ZM

By ZM

The place is just too beautiful, we can’t get enough of it! 

One last look at the breathtaking sight before we headed down

Our driver had surprised us earlier by appearing the peak and welcoming us even though he dropped us at a further distance and did not ascend the mountain the way we did. Turned out he actually took another route from behind the slopes and as we spent a long while in the mountain, we went the way he came up from as it was shorter.

Bye!!!

Sights along the way down the mountain

After we returned to our car, we were driven to have our lunch at a restaurant opened by a true-blue Taiwanese Aborigine who is the descendant of those who had lived in the mountains, the Seediq. If you had watched the movie “Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale“, that’s the people I am referring to.

There is a spacious parking area (for about 8 cars) right in front of the eatery so if you are driving, fret not in finding a parking lot!

Beautiful view out the window

Lunch packages 

While we waited for our food, the owner was really friendly to chat us up and even sang for us. As we were listening him, we also noticed pictures of Aaron Kwok on our tables! He was there!!! 😀

The singing began… The owner has a really impressive stereo system and selection of songs!

Who would have guessed one could still karaoke at such high heights! :O

A friendly message to those who party and drink: Call a cab!

After a while, the food came! 😀

Initially, we had wanted to visit the Aowanda National Forest Recreation Area.  Here’s a video on the four seasons of Aowanda.

http://media.forest.gov.tw/content.asp?cuitem=6999&mp=1

Unfortunately, after lunch, we were informed that the typhoon that had struck the area last month had caused roads to be blocked and we were unable to go. Disappointed yet not wanting to waste the rest of the day doing nothing, we headed to the touristy area in Puli: Puli Wine Brewery and the Paper Church.

An aftermath from the earthquake in Puli in 1999

A red tea store that was supposed to sell red tea infused with Shao Xing wine but we could hardly taste it.. :/

A memorial to commerate the lives lost during the 1999 earthquake

A live performance just outside Puli Wine Brewery

We have reached!

The different stages of being drunk

Even though it is called a wine brewery, it was not much of a brewery inside though one could sample some of the shao xing wine locally produced. There is also a small museum on the second level but it was mainly stand-up boards with posters on how the wine was produced and the different kind of wines. On the first level, a wholesale tourist attraction stands where one can buy a variety of snacks said to have shao xing wine but in probably super minute percent. -_- Nonetheless, we bought a soft and yummy sponge cake and liquor jelly in there before we took a short tour around the shops opposite the brewery and headed towards the paper church. It seemed like the business around the area had taken a dip…

This store was bustling with life yet it is selling the most common thing one could find at the pasar malam:
Taiwanese Sausage

With these 2 bottles of wine as my witness,I hereby proclaimed: I was here!

The paper church was about half an hour from the wine brewery and although we were require to pay, the entrance fees could be exchanged for food and drinks within the attraction.

And I just realised it is called Paper Dome! :p

Romantic little lake

Bromance

Hum….

The Paper Dome

I did not take a lot of pictures of the Paper Dome as it was a temporary church set up and converted to a tourist attraction. And the pictures I have here pretty much summed up the place. As we went to Taiwan during September-October, it was almost autumn turned winter. As a result, you might noticed that the greenery does not sparkle as lush grasses would. In fact, most of the flowers have wilted and the plants around the place had mostly died. It was quite a pity. Nevertheless, seasons come and go… We will just have to come back at the right season of the year the next time.

On our way back to our hotel, we were discussing about the food in Taiwan that we liked and our driver suggested we try the famous sun cake from Ichihuku (一福堂) along the way back.

Ichihuku

As you can see, the skies were turning dark. We were the last customers to enter the shops but even so, the staff were friendly and they allow us to sample the sun cakes, cutting up fresh ones as there was no more samples in the sample boxes. The staff need not have to replenish them as there were merely 4 of us who might not even buy anything but they were warm, served us tea, told us to try all the flavours of the cakes and cookies they have. I thought that was really nice and heartwarming. On top and above of just the plain good customer service, they even offered to send the cakes and cookies we bought to our hotel at Taipei on the last second day of our travel so that we need not have to lug bulky boxes as we descend from Cing Jing the day after. Such thoughtfulness were really appreciated, especially when we will not travel to Taipei the next day. Furthermore, she mentioned that as the cakes were freshly produced everyday, she will have the factory send the latest produced cakes and cookies to our hotel so that the food could last longer. I think this is a trait we should learn from them. Unfortunately, we work really long hours and perhaps it’s these long hours that wear Singaporeans out. The staff working at this outlet ends work at 6 pm so it could have been slightly easier for them but they could live somewhere far as travelling from this outlet to Puli Centre would take at least twenty to thirty minutes. Either way, if all staff behave like they enjoy their job and their customers’ joy, it would be wonderful.

Ok, back to the food. I picked three types of sun cakes: the original flavour, one with honey and another with milk and a crispy cod-fish cracker with seafood while the rest bought assortments of other sun cakes, cookies and crackers.

We paid the share of our buys and boarded the car back to our minsu. 

In the next installment of our travels, we will explore the sun moon lake (日月潭) as well as a lesser known place: The Heavenly Stairway (天梯). See you soon!! 😀

The wall of Ichihuku is made up of many mooncake moulds!

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