The day started with a 5 a.m. wakeup call. We got dressed and went downstairs to meet our driver for a sunrise tour! It was Aleid’s birthday, so it was even more special.
The tour started with a long drive through curvy mountain roads. The first stop was called a “father and mother tree”; we didn’t know why it was special but everyone else was taking pictures so we did too.
The next stop was the sunrise. We had pictured a secluded location somewhere in the mountains, but obviously forgot that the Chinese like to share these special moments with as many people as possible. We had the pleasure of being accompanied by at least 100 other tourists, all speaking in normal conversation tones throughout.
When we arrived, a few rays were just peeking over the mountains.
A few minutes later, we saw the sun crest the mountains. It was pretty cool.
The next stop was a sacred tree (shèng mù, not shèng mǔ, which is the Virgin Mary) that was 2,700 years old. It was so massive I didn’t even try to take a picture of it.
The last stop, and Carlos’ favorite, was the monkeys! They’re a native species to Alishan, and were just chillin’ on the side of the road when we pulled over. I think they must be fed well by tourists, because they were not afraid of us at all. In fact, they even tried to get in the car!
I took a delightfully warm nap and then we went to lunch. I got pork fried rice, but to be adventurous we also ordered a dish of “Fried Dragon Thread”. It turned out to be normal fried greens, but sure sounded exciting!
Our driver came around noon, so we got back to Chiayi around 2 in the afternoon. Once there, we explored our options for getting to our next destination, Hualien (on the east coast by Taroko Gorge). Quick, here’s a map for reference:
There was a train directly there (passing through Taibei, but we wouldn’t have to change trains), but it cost over 1000NTD ($35). Despite a tempting offer from an aggressive tour guide to drive us there in a taxi for the low low price of 10,000NTD ($350), we opted for a bus to Taibei. It was only 210NTD ($7), and it left almost immediately. I slept and read, and 3.5 hours later, we arrived in Taibei.
In Taibei, we looked for the cheapest way to complete our trip to Hualien. We got a train headed that way for 450NTD, which means we saved 400 ($15) by opting to figure out our own route. We only had about 20 minutes before departing, but the three of us have quick layovers down to an art. We made a quick dash upstairs for a bathroom break, ATMS, dinner (bread), and birthday cake for Aleid.
We started with the cake, which was slightly challenging as we tried to pass the tall, wobbling cakes between us on the moving train. Then I ate my French loaf, with the mysterious milk (the only characters I could read) substance. At first I thought I had just forgotten what butter tasted like, but I think it was actually sweetened. Either way, it was delicious.
In Hualien, we went for a walk to see the city a little bit and stopped at an internet cafe, then I showered and went to bed.