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Around Taiwan – Hehuanshan 合歡山

I got to see an amazing sunrise thanks to Zoe. She invited me to go with her and an old college friend to check out Hehuanshan, the highest point in Taiwan accessible by highway.

We left Saturday night after I finished tutoring and drove a few hours south and then turned west and wound our way slowly up a 1-lane road until we reached the highest elevation 7-11 (yeah, I had to take a photo there of course), and continued our journey until we reached Wuling.

Wuling, at 3,275 metres above sea level, is the highest automobile pass in Taiwan. -Wikipedia

We set up the cameras and attempted to take a few long exposure shots, along with 10-20 other people. My hands were frozen by the end, but I think we got some pretty great shots of the sky littered with stars. My other favorite shots involved the cars and motorcycles coming and going throughout that late night.

After we were too cold to take any more photos we drove a few minutes down the mountain until we parked next to Cafe 3158 (can you guess where the name stems from? Correct! Because it’s at 3,158m above sea level! Good job.) We slept for 2-3 hours in anticipation of sunrise and awoke freezing in our sleeping bags. The weather had dropped down to nearly 4°C (39.2°F) and we didn’t want to wiggle out of our cold bedding, but we knew we couldn’t miss the sunrise we had driven so far to see.

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I yawned awake and ran to the public bathroom with one of the best views I’ve seen. Brushing my teeth with ice cold water, and splashing it on my already frozen nose, I wandered up a level and found Zoe and her friend. We looked to the east and shivered, with anti…cipation… and cold, ready for the sun to show its brilliant face.

More and more people joined us, buses full of people were dropped off to snap some shots and go on their merry way.

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Others stuck around after the sun winked over the far off mountains, like we had, but soon enough there were fewer and fewer people overlooking the scenery. We decided to have breakfast with some hot coffee and headed back to the previous night’s spot.

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I was actually shocked by how many people were already there, but more so that quite a few people were dressed in just shorts, t-shirts, short skirts, etc., while we were dressed with undershirts, sweaters, down jackets, gloves, hats. After hanging out a few minutes I realized that as quickly as I’d frozen my fingers off the previous night, I was starting to boil under all of my layers. Eventually, I shed all of my outer layers and even then I was still too hot.

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When we finally decided to depart that beautiful view, we chose to drive a roundabout way back to Taipei. We stopped at a small apple farm on the road and then drove up to check out the “Apple King”. It was actually really impressive.

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Afterward, we continued to drive north through the mountain, stopping at a few scenic places, and had one last stop in Yilan on the east coast where we had dinner and warmed our poor bones at a hot spring spa. Somehow we decided that stuffing our face with shabu shabu would be a great idea, especially before we had to be in a bathing suit. Yeah…

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The hot spring was actually kind of fun. We tried out almost all of the different pools, including the pink and green pools, the fish pool, the water slide (first time I’ve even been on a water slide with hot water!), and the freezing cold pools. We also tried a few of the steam rooms; I think one of my favorites was the scented steam room, the peppermint really felt nice up my nose, seriously.

Feeling better and far more relaxed, we drove back to Taipei and I slept like the dead until I had to go to work the next day.

Giant thanks to Zoe who ended up driving the entire trip even when she’d only gotten around 2 hours of sleep. I’m sorry I conked out so often in the car! And thanks for the stinky fish snack, oh so delicious :D

 

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