I apologize for not updating for some time - after a long break from wedding planning, I've realized that as dumb as this seems, photographers and DJs are already booking up for September. I think it's ridiculous that one needs to book such things six months in advance - a party for 100 people should not take this long to plan or need to be planned so far in advance, it's purely idiotic - but there it is. After several photographers I liked were either booked already, too expensive or both, we found this very talented professional. We can't afford her for more than 4 hours, but we're fine with 4 hours of coverage and getting photos from the end of the reception from guests. We'd rather have 4 hours of an amazing, offbeat, non-traditional pro than 7 hours of someone not as good, or a typical "Wedding Photographer" who takes the same dumb poses and pictures of pearls and soft focus roses for every wedding, who won't get the vibe we're going for (non-traditional "party to celebrate a marriage", with lots of color, all our favorite people, good food and shenanigans, not a Wedding with a capital W in any way except for the part where we get married. No white in sight, no roses, no satin or taffeta, no pearls, no white dress, no cake that tastes like Styrofoam, no garters, no bouquets, no YMCA, no dried up Wedding Chicken, no "giving away", none of it).
But in the midst of all that - happy to have a photographer, still no DJ because we can't afford the usual cost of a pro - we managed to go hiking last week on Dajian Mountain, and do some other fun stuff in between. More on the other stuff later.
Dajian Mountain is a mountain and scenic area in the town of Xizhi, 20 minutes east-ish of Taipei. The "summit" (not the true summit, which has less of a panoramic view) commands fine views from Taipei - including 101 in the distance - all the way to Keelung, the Pacific Ocean and Keelung Island.
A view of Taipei from Tianxiu Temple in Xizhi
You can also see Yangmingshan and Guanyinshan on the other side if the weather is clear. (Yangmingshan is peaking out over another mountain, so you can only see the top). While it is theoretically possible to set out from the Xizhi train station and climb from there, I highly recommend taking the free bus - it comes every 45 minutes to an hour from the train station to Tianxiugong (天秀宮)- a temple 3/4 of the way up the mountain. Ask around for where it picks up. If you take the bus, you won't miss much in the way of fine views that you can't get at the top.
This area is protected - at least I am pretty sure it is - and, like Pingxi, is a riot of butterflies. I saw several different species and while I'm no lepidopterist (that's your word of the day, kids), I was impressed by the color and variety found there, so someone with an interest in butterflies would quite enjoy it.
Creepy Pandas at Tianxiu Temple
We had just missed a bus so we took a taxi to Tianxiu Temple (125 kuai). We ate lunch there - there are many options, all of them mediocre) and you can also pick up water and Pocari Sweat.
Then we headed to Xiufeng (?) waterfall, up the hill and then down a peaceful, easy wooded trail that can be slippery in wet weather. The waterfall was lovely, cascading down a rippled rock face into a heart-shaped pool. The rocks were red and gray -red where the water was not constantly flowing over, allowing lichens to grow, and gray where nothing could grow due to the force of the water. The cool air spilling off the waterfall was also a treat. Down the trail a bit to the end, you'll come to an area with four chairs and what used to be a table - a fine spot for a picnic.
Red lichen rocks at the waterfall
The lovely waterfall off the side trail
After that we walked back up to the road and continued up to the viewpoint of Da Jian Mountain, hung out there, befriended some other hikers, ate lunch and continued on our way.
A view of Yangming Mountain peeking out behind a ridge
Partway up the trail, a prayer-bead holding Guanyin was placed next to a golden rooster and a maneki-neko (招財) cat.
We tried to continue along to another waterfall, skirting Monk's Head Mountain and going over a series of easy hilly summits, and then going down a slippery, narrow path through the underbrush, but met some hikers on their way up who insisted that further down, the trail was no longer passable. It had taken a lot of energy to get down, using our arms and always precariously balancing on the slippery mud and rocks, and we didn't feel like going further only to have to turn back without reaching our goal, so we turned tail and went back up the trail. We decided not to continue along but rather to walk back to Da Jian Mountain, enjoy the late afternoon and then head down on foot to Tianxiu Temple and by bus further down (though we ended up on foot for most of it as it took awhile for a bus to arrive).
An Earth God (土地公）shrine partway down the path that led nowhere
Towards the end, we tried to head to a temple at the base of the hill, not far from the train station, that has a preserved monk idol (another one, like the one we visited in Beitou a few months ago, where the idol is in fact the real body of a departed monk) - but when we got to the turn-off, it was late, we were meeting someone in Raohe Night Market for dinner soon, and it was up another hill that we were too tired to climb - so we gave it a pass for now and will revisit it some other day. We plan to return to Xizhi for the Old Street as well as the Xinshan / Dream Lake hike, anyway.
Back at Tianxiu Temple, some guy was feeding his varmint. Awww, what an adowwable wittle varmint!
Dajianshan in the late afternoon