Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Grass Gave a Standing Ovation

Being the over-packer that I am, I was amazed to find I could fit everything in here.
We set out for the weekend this past Thursday with only our backpacks in tow. I felt like a real traveler by this point. After a high speed rail, a train, and I'm not sure how many buses later, we arrived in Taipei! The weather was overcast with a light rain. With the intense humidity down in Tainan, the weather up north turned out to be perfect. First stop was the National Palace Museum.

This was a particularly neat museum to visit! We were packed in like sardines with lots of Chinese people, but it only added to the experience. Apparently the museum has a great deal of artifacts that only 1% is on display at a time. This is pretty remarkable considering we spent a couple hours in it delving into all three levels of it. After the museum our travels led us a shrine where the changing of the guard occurs every hour. Our instructor used to be in the Navy so I think he really enjoyed being there. The shrine and the idea of it is similar to Arlington in the U.S.

The two lines you see leading up to the shrine are created from the polish of the shoes as the changing of the guard occurs. It was not placed there before to ensure they walked in a straight line, which was what I thought it was prior to learning this.

Apparently I have a small obsession with trees whenever my camera is in hand as you will come to see later on in this post. So just ignore that fact and look at how amazing this tree really is!
Loved the door
After spending a short time there we walked, and walked, and walked. Taipei receives SO much rain every year, making for picturesque walk throughout the city. Of course we were trying to find the train station (because all we ever do these days is ride on trains), but I didn't mind when I got to look at all this.

The palm trees were intermixed among larger trees
(The red growth that happens to be hanging in front of me in EVERY picture is actually my purse, just in case you wanted to know what was hogging the center of attention in every picture featuring me. I'm working on posing better.) I don't know about you, but I have never seen a wall so green and mossy before. It stretched down the entire street like this.
Yeah I know, another tree. 500 more to go.
I literally felt like I was in the middle of a jungle at times. The lush environment, with low hanging clouds along the mountains made me feel like King Kong was going to come barreling down the hillside at any moment. The various shades of green enveloped you and you couldn't help but think the grass gave a standing ovation with every rain drop. With every step of our picturesque voyage, things kept getting better and better. Next stop on the map: Chelsea's very first hostel. I was ecstatic to finally get to experience this and let me tell you, it was one of a kind. We finally arrived to our destination...
 What happened next was truly amazing. Have you ever seen so much leopard in your life?? Everything, I repeat, EVERYTHING was covered in leopard. Even the outline of the TV in the living room was leopard print.  
My bed- pay close attention to all the detail... we even have leopard print on the walls
My bed again

This is what we looked like when we would crawl into our beds.
Many of the girls seemed overwhelmed by the copious amounts of leopard that we were confined to, but I personally thoroughly enjoyed it. We had a 10 bunk bed room that was three stories high.... all leopard. I thought it was so much fun sleeping all together like that. The beds were all stacked in weird ways with some of the beds tucked away in random corners. I felt like girls were popping out of no where in that room because it housed so many of us. We all looked forward to coming home and sleeping in our leopard thrones, complete with rock hard mattresses. Needless to say, I still slept like baby. In the end, I decided I wouldn't mind having a small room in my future home dedicated to being leopard-i-fied.

Our second, and last, day in Taipei we woke up early and headed out to visit the famous Taipei 101. This building used to be the tallest one in the world, until the building in Dubai (not sure of the name of it off hand) was built and surpassed it. The elevator ride to the highest viewing point, the 89th floor, took about 40 seconds to complete. On the way up and the way back down, you had to continuously pop your ears whilst staring up at the glistening stars on the roof of the elevator in place for dramatic effect. It blew my mind to see an elevator travel so quickly and smoothly.

From the bottom

This is the the inside side of the elevator. It shows your speed and how many floors you have traveled.
The humidity is really taking a toll :)

From the top
The greenery still astounds me. It is so beautiful!
On the 88th floor, you can see the wind damper in the building. Taipei 101 is one of few buildings that has this central damper. Pretty unique! I will let the pictures do the talking.
The wind damper held up by such massive cords.

Later that evening, we got the opportunity to go to the Taipei LDS temple. It was beautiful and felt so good to be there. Taipei is your typical city environment, full of traffic and people. I love how you can be walking along busy streets with tall buildings and then turn a corner and suddenly the temple is right there in front of you. This is exactly what we saw after turning the corner.
After sleeping in our favorite leopard den that night, we caught a train to Hualien. We only had one day here and spent most of our time in the Toroko Gorge. Remember when I said that everything else, especially in Taipei, was so beautiful? Well, those things do not even compare to the beauty found in the Toroko Gorge. It was breathtaking! Hualien has actually been my most favorite place here thus far.
This was taken at the visitors center in the gorge, which was the first stop on our tour.

I LOVED the stone path. I want one.
We had to wear hard helmets for a portion of the journey. You know, just in case of rock slides. If this didn't set off a small state of worry, then I don't know what else will.
I could stare at this water all day. Isn't it beautiful?
These are the tunnels our bus would go through. It's a little surreal to be traveling through a huge mountain.
On one of the short hikes.
King Kong's terrain
Off to the right was one of the temples. I don't have any pictures of it though. Apparently, the greenery was much more interesting to me.
Orchids grow out of the trees are here. Love it!
Someone said this was a shrine, but I'm not sure if it really was. It was 286 steps from the bottom where our bus dropped us off, to the top of the "shrine". Atop this was the highest point in the gorge we ever reached. The view was spectacular.
View from the top

View from the top again

I feel like these pictures do not do justice. The entire canyon is made out of granite and marble. All the rocks you see in the pictures are not just ordinary rocks. They too are mostly marble. I've decided that Hualien should be on everyone's bucket list.

Our trip ended with a 5.5 hour train ride (we love trains), 2.5 hours of it we got to stand in the cattle corral with other passengers who were not able to get seats. I didn't mind this because it is all part of the experience and makes for some great memories.

Sorry if this post seems short and choppy. There was so much to write about and not nearly enough time to do it all. Hopefully you were still able to experience some of it with me. Life is great and I am loving what I am doing here! Tomorrow through the rest of the weekend we will be in Kenting, the southern part of Taiwan known for the sun and ocean. The beach will be my company for the next few days, definitely my happy spot. This is what it looked like from our train ride home last weekend:
Cant wait!


  1. If you love green moss, then Oregon is the place for you! Beautiful pics Chels!

  2. What a fun trip! Also, a cheetah room from floor to ceiling is my life's dream. Lucky you!

  3. I'm pretty much in love with the leopard print room. Also, green seems to be a popular color in England as well. All that rain! :)

  4. i am still trying to figure out how the whole wind damper thing works? Looks like you had a wonderful trip.