Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Asian Facial


So I got my 2nd facial in Taiwan last night with a friend and my skin feels great! For NT$500 (about $15 US - not bad!) they do threading to get stray hairs off your face, put on an astringent gel, then put one of those tightening pore-cleaning masks, like Biore nose strips but for your whole face, on you for awhile. Then they go over your face with a vibrating scraper thing to get dead gunk off. Then more gel and a neck and shoulder rub, then a mud mask that burns a bit, then they take that off, get a scary looking tool and pop all your zits, including ones you didn't know you had. Then another gel and some tea-tree oil based zit-clearing goo and you're on your way.

Emily getting a big green facial.

I go to a place in Jingmei Night Market (景美夜市), on the southern end. It's just north of the part of the market that turns into food stands. It's a tiny place, divided half into massage/manicure (I think they do massage anyway) and half into beauty treatments - threading, facials, eyebrow shaping, permed eyelash curling etc.. They have a hilarious sign in English done up by their Indonesian friend with everything they offer. There are three chairs inside and three ladies on plastic benches with little carts. There's a curtain with two beds behind it, as well.

Yesterday's was quite a bit of fun - they threaded my peach fuzz 'stache which is a lot more painful than the usual threading I get on my neck - my friend was trying not to laugh with her peely-off mask still drying as I cried out...several creatively-worded phrases.

The little old lady doing it, of course, had no idea what I was saying and just smiled through the whole thing.

She then got to the sides of my face, where I have quite a bit of fuzz, and with no warning tore out a huge tract of it with the thread.

Me: OWWWWW
Her: "Hm. Good!"
First lady: "Foreigners have so much hair. That one always comes in for threading. Her facial hair is amazing."
Second lady: "Oooooh."

(Side note: I am in the middle of laser treatment for chin and neck hairs, because I'm part Armenian and Armenian women get whiskers).

I heard a buzzing sound and looked over at my friend.

From General Area of Friend: Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Lady: "Mmm. So many blackheads. Where do foreigners get these blackheads? So, so many blackheads."

Another woman comes into the shop, which is in a market so we relax to sounds of the arcade games in the next shopfront jangling horrendous Japanese techno, and asks where the two women are.

Third woman: "They're in back, giving facials to these two foreigners."
Customer: "Foreigners? How cute!"

(she pulls back the curtain to see the two traumatized foreigners)

"Oh look! Foreign girls! They're so white! Adorable!"

Another shop lady comes in: "Oh, foreigners! Are they teachers?"

First lady: "This one is. That one is a BRIDE."

Second and third ladies and customer: "OOOOOH!!! A BRIDE!!!!"

Me, weakly: "Well, I work in Taiwan."

Ladies: "BRIDE!!" "Where is the wedding? Is he Taiwanese? When are you having babies?"

Me: "Uhhhh...USA, he's American too, not sure about having ba - bleeheheh"

(as a mud mask gets glommed onto my face)

Second lady: "So I guess they don't need the whitening treatment?"
First lady: "Nah. They're white enough. See?" (she then lifts the shirt of my friend to show off her pale English belly) "Totally white!"
Second lady: "Wow. That's really white."

New customer: "There are white girls in here?"

Friend, to me: "Did she just say I have a fat belly?"
Me: "No, she said you're really white. Like all over."
Friend: "OK, fair enough."

Ladies: "Yes! One of them's a BRIDE!"

Customer, opening curtain: "A BRIDE! Where's the wedding? Is he Taiwanese? When are you having babies? How old are you? Foreigners are so cute!"

Me: "Uhhh"

(second lady comes over with a torture device, like pliers or tweezers but much scarier and starts popping zits)

I have to say I love this country - none of the above is really rude in Taiwanese culture, at least among older women, so I don't feel like I was treated rudely. It's just...what is. We had a good laugh over it, especially the one woman clucking approval as she yanked out huge swaths of facial fuzz. So don't take this as a bitch about anything - it's not!

...and my skin is cleaner than it's ever been, with two facials in three weeks. They do a good job, those sadistic old Asian ladies!

So, female expats and readers - I do recommend that if you want squeaky clean skin and don't mind all the hilarity that you head down to one of these places (they're not a chain or anything but there's usually one in every night market) for a treat. It's not even expensive, plus you'll have a great story to tell your friends. It's especially useful in Taiwan where the humidity, sweat, sun and pollution can do a number on your skin.

*most of the dialogue here was in Chinese or Taiwanese, I put it in English for your benefit

Monday, August 23, 2010

More Photos from our Taiwan Wedding


I have a few pictures of the food and such, but whatevs, it looks basically like you imagine - cocktail party food. Not really noteworthy as something to put on a blog. Our thoroughly bored cat, however, is always blogworthy.

He always has to be in the same room if we have a lot of guests (he gets very upset if he's separated from the action - very unlike most cats I know who disappear when strangers arrive) but he refuses to show any interest in them. At all. That, at least, is quite cat-like.


Eduardo and Sharon - Friends


The back of my dress, finally looking about as I want it to!


With Teresa (friend)


With Cara and Esther - Sisters and Friends from Taoyuan


The Passing of the Fedora



Eduardo, Sharon, Sasha and Amy (Sasha = Kaohsiung/Luzhou friend, Amy = Sanchong friend, 'cause she's hardcore like that).


Lilian, the Spicy Girl friend. ;) She always has the best dresses - managing to look womanly without looking trampy.


My rehearsal dinner dress - I am not wearing the proper undergarments, and the belt is still a bit too big - it looks more attractive when worn properly of course! I know the photo is all blown-out, but it needed flash and was taken without, so I had to brighten it excessively to get it to show any color or detail.

Still, clearly you can see which cut is more flattering: I like the cowl neck, waist and ruffles on this dress, but when it comes down to it the V-neck, high waisted narrow sash and clean lines of the other dress suit me more.

Our Taiwan Wedding Party


Spoiler alert: if you are one of my real-life friend or family readers and are attending our wedding in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS (yay!), and have not yet seen my dress, don't read on until after the big shebang.

Since I don't think too many relatives or US-based friends of mine read this blog (a few do), and those who do have already seen pictures of my Yongle Market tailored wedding dress, I feel I can post it here (I already did, from the back, when I wrote about planning from abroad).

Anyway, yesterday was our Taiwan Wedding, meaning a small snacks-and-socializing get-together for a small group of our friends, whom we invited to attend our US wedding and who are unable to do so.

Thanks, Taiwan work culture. You STINK, with your compulsory unpaid overtime, cultural aversion to saying no to an authority figure, implication in offices that leave = laziness, unreasonable bosses and low pay. I love this country but its office culture has got to go. People work too hard, earn too little and can't do things like attend a good friend's wedding in the USA because management is completely unreasonable. Something really needs to change - this working onesself to death thing doesn't work in Japan (see how broken elements of their economy are - adults living with parents, not getting married, refusing promotions because they don't want to work even harder, or unable to find jobs) and it doesn't work here either.

I am so happy I don't have a local style job. I'd have moved back to the USA years ago if I had to work that way, and so it's no surprise to me that 21% of Taiwanese adults would move abroad if they could do so easily.

Ahem. Anyway. I don't have all the pictures yet, but I hope to soon (I didn't take any - our friends all did).

We started at 7 with an extended coffee table laden with:

- mango passionfruit salsa and regular Tostitos (a welcome change after nasty Doritos) - made in part by Brendan with my direction
- hummus with baguette rounds, cherry tomatoes and carrots
- pesto, sundried tomato and cream cheese spread, cheese plate, pepper ham and crackers
- a wedding "大餅" filled with meat and egg yolk (not my favorite)
- beer-cooked sausage bites with pepper, onion and mushroom
- betel flower and tomato salad made by Emily with my direction
- a delicious chocolate cake from My Sweetie Pie in Shida:

Here's the story: one day, I asked Brendan why he didn't have any sweet pet names for me, like "honey" or "dear" or "foofyface" or whatever. He replied, "OK, I'll make up a name for you. Fish...sock!" Ever since then "Fish Sock" has been our term of endearment for each other.

And yes, I Rickrolled our Taiwan Wedding Cake.


Plus there vodka and punch, Australian white wine, tonic, a few bottles of soda and tons of Asahi and Taiwan beer.

I had eaten two seaweed triangles and one egg tart all day so the minute the food was out I poured myself a vodka punch and dug into the cheese plate and hummus.

We kicked off around 7 as people slowly trickled in and got into full swing closer to 8. It was great to see most of my Taiwan friends in one place again - we hadn't hosted a party since Christmas (saving money for the wedding) and hadn't seen many friends, like Sasha, in an entire season. Not everyone could be there - Joseph is in the USA and Aliya was attending a huge birthday party for a friend in Kending.

Around 9 I finally got it together and put on first my rehearsal dinner dress - I don't have a good picture yet, but it's cerulean blue and copper with a tiered tea-length skirt. It's more formal than what everyone else will be wearing but as the bride I figure it's OK to be one notch fancier.

Then I changed out of that and put on my wedding dress for everyone. I had planned to do the whole shebang - jewelry, makeup, shoes - but realized at the last minute that makeup would take me about 45 minutes and all my jewelry is packed already. Oops. Still looked pretty good, though, and I got to test sitting down in it, which I hadn't done before:



Note the cat in the background looking utterly disinterested.

I was carping on before about how I ended up with brown hair after my very pricey salon job the other day. I'd kind of wanted red with highlights. Now that I see this photo - red with highlights wouldn't have looked good with this dress. At all. I'm finally OK with the color I ended up with.

It was determined that Brendan was not fancypants enough with me in my dress, so he donned Emily's girlish fedora. Backwards.


We had, in fact, hoped for something more upscale and elegant - taking everyone out to Alley Cat's in Huashan and buying dinner and drinks, for example - but the budget for the big wedding ate all that up, so a smaller, at-home party it was. It was a lot of fun, too: I don't think we could have had more fun at Alley Cat's than we did in our own apartment. The people, not the venue, really make the event.

I blame the vodka punch for the rendition of "聽媽媽的話“ that Emily and I did later - basically, only in Taiwan would a song like "Listen To Your Mom" (the translation of the famous Jay Chou song referenced above) be a chart-topping hit. So imagine if the Backstreet Boys or some other boy band tried a song on a similar theme. Then get two girls buzzed on good food, good company and vodka punch who have both had some vocal/musical training sit on the couch singing it, improvised and a capella. That's what you'd get. It was atrocious and wonderful!

I don't think I've ever shown the front of my dress on here, so I'll put it below, without the obi sash train, taken with me and my tailor in Yongle Market (the part that smells like pig brains):

Not what little girls dream of when they imagine their wedding dress, but just perfect for me!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Here's a bright idea for you

Taoyuan Airport to Institute Food Review System

Text:

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport authorities will organize a food review to help improve its unenviable image as a place for “awful and expensive food,” the airport’s office director announced yesterday.

Beginning in October, a public review of the food sold at the airport will be held on a regular basis to encourage caterers at the airport’s two terminals to present more appealing food, Taoyuan Aviation Office Director Wei Sheng-chih (魏勝之) said.

Complaints from passengers using Taiwan’s main gateway are all too common, with the food generally criticized as being of dreadful quality, overpriced and with little variety.

Responding to the criticisms, Wei said the airport has made some improvements, including introducing popular restaurants to cater to passengers.

He said it would also invite passengers, food critics and travel tour organizers to review the food at the airport to encourage caterers to offer more local gourmet foods and make dining at the terminals more attractive.

Wei’s office will also take measures to encourage the businesses there to drop their prices to more reasonable levels and to provide consumers with a wider variety of dining options, he said.

--------------------------------------

OK. That's nice. It's true that most of the food in the airport is overpriced and atrocious. There's only one place I find acceptable - overpriced but at least the food is edible - and that's the one with the lanterns and the fake hedgerows that has a Western side and an Asian side. The Asian side food is overpriced, but at least it's basically OK. (The Western side provides soggy sandwiches and subpar coffee).

Otherwise there's that painfully horrendous bakery thing where two small danishes that taste like they're made of plaster and kids' glue sticks and charred, bitter coffee could cost you NT $300.

Terminal 2 is slightly better, but astronomically overpriced for what you get - more so than other airports (pretty much every airport has overpriced food, but Taoyuan manages to go beyond).

So.

Here's my idea, guys. Tell me if I'm crazy.

Instead of a food review system to review food we already know is bad, why not encourage more restaurants to open?

I know, it's just nuts to think about, isn't it? /sarcasm

I realize that having sixteen duty free shops that all sell the same stuff somehow brings in more revenue and that most airports have overpriced, unsatisfactory food because the entire point is to keep you shopping, not eating, while you wait for your flight, but you'd get happier customers snapping up manicure kits, stale Godiva and souvenir mugs if they're well fed and haven't spent all their money on baked goods that put the "paste" in "pastry".

It is true, by the way, that there are far more storefronts to shop in than eat in because they bring in more money, though I have to wonder why. I mean, how many bottles of Bulgari Omnia (for the ladies) and Chivas (for the men) can Japanese tourists buy? Do we really need all those shops that sell the same stuff?

And the Hello Kitty waiting area for kids? Really? I don't like Starbucks, but if there were one I'd go because their lattes are vaguely drinkable if you're desperate. So why isn't there a Starbucks? (If there is, I haven't found it, and I fly out of Taoyuan fairly frequently, as many expats do). Why is a Hello Kitty waiting area somehow higher on the Places of Importance scale than a coffee shop?

I don't need a review system to tell me that the coffee at TPE is made of spent jet fuel and costs half my monthly salary.

What we need are more restaurants. So why not spend the time and money you're wasting on the review system and open more restaurants?!

I mean, is this really so inconceivable?



Friday, August 13, 2010

Kending (Sucks) and Eluanbi (is Awesome)


In my continued effort to be a better blogger, here are some photos from our trip to Kending and Eluanbi last month:



Rrrrr!



This trip completed our trio of planned rental car trips – conveniently all before Emily leaves, as neither Brendan nor I are good drivers, and neither of us have an international permit. A few months ago you may have seen my post on the North Cross-Island Highway, then the other day I posted about the Central Cross Island Highway (such as it is – more like the road from Puli as the actual highway remains unrepaired), and so here’s Kending.

Before I arrived, Brendan and Emily wandered around Kaohsiung with Emily’s friend Robin who, bless his heart, manages to look like the most generic Taiwanese college kid or young office worker in…well, in Taiwan. I wasn’t around for this part of the trip as I had a seminar, so I can’t report on it much. I heard, though, that it was very hot (thanks Captain Obvious) and they drank, among other liquids ingested continuously during their blistering, scorching walking tour, a Kaohsiung specialty: green tea with cream.

Very nice and Typical Taiwanese Kid Lookin' Robin.


I should note that I wasn't in Kaohsiung - all of the photos above were taken by Emily Taylor. (Some may have been taken by Brendan, but I am pretty sure they're all Emily.)


Donggang's Huaqiao Seafood Market.

I met them at the HSR station at about 8pm, and we rented a car with Car Plus. Emily chose the cheapest thing on the car menu and we ended up with a Yaris. In her words, “it aspires to be a car. It’s got the engine of a blender and the protection of a plastic bag, really brilliant cupholders.” We made fun of the poor Yaris through the entire trip: “I think I can I think I can I think I can!” while climbing even mild hills or passing someone on the highway. With its 1600 CC engine (or so), I joked that it was about as powerful as two large pearl milk teas (700 CC each) on a skateboard. “Do you think this thing could do 100?” “It wouldn’t do 100 if you chucked it off a cliff!”

We stopped in Donggang for dinner after getting lost in Zuoying – we ended up going the wrong way on the highway and having to turn back, and getting lost. Fortunately Donggang, small as it is, stays up late – probably due to fishermen coming in fairly late. We found a grill-your-own seafood stand still open by the harbor, and had an amazing meal of fresh seafood, mostly unseasoned. Think just-grilled oysters, flavored only with their own deliciousness and some sea salt. Giant crab claws. Eel on a stick. A big pile of fresh clams. A fish sprinkled with sea salt, pepper and lemon. A few grilled veggies (peas and mushrooms). We downed it with lots of beer – well, we two non-drivers had lots of beer. Emily had one tiny cupful.

I do rate Donggang’s Huaqiao Seafood Market as one of the best meals in Taiwan – where the old guidebook writers got off saying that Shida Night Market is in the top five but this place isn’t clearly didn’t know what they were talking about, or have no tastebuds. Shida is good, but it pales in comparison to this. Only in Keelung have I had seafood this good (and Yehliu – that was good too.)

Cold coconuts available at Eluanbi - they chop the top off with a machete and give it to you with a straw to drink the juice. Refreshing and healthy!

We hit the road after that and reached Kending at about 2am. The place was still hopping with a makeshift night market (oxymoron that) full of shell necklaces, friendship bracelets and surfer t-shirt shops alongside mediocre looking snack stands, a few bars and what appeared to be a strip club. We moved on and ended up in Eluanbi – quieter and more to our taste. We agreed that our first stop the next morning would be the southernmost point in Taiwan – quite near our camping area. I do recommend camping here – it’s not that expensive and facilities are good. We stayed just over from “Coconut Forest” (椰子林) which looked creepy and abandoned, and the owner woke up for our late arrival to find us a spot, and gave us a discounted rate thanks to the late hour.

The view from just below the nuclear power station to the east of Eluanbi. This is a nice place to stop, get out of the car, walk to the cliff and take photos.

There are outlets – if you do camp, bring a fan. Otherwise the humidity and heat make it unbearable even at night. By the end the accumulation of sweat and bug spray had me waking up feeling like I was covered in a viscous slime. (I don't have any good photos of Slimy Jenna, so I posted this below that nice picture near Chuanfan Rock). Our sleeping bags acted as mattresses - it was too hot to sleep in them - and we had to air htem out and wipe them down with water before moving on - they were really...horrid. Think sweat, sunblock, oily skin and bug spray all coming together to form something truly otherworldly and disgusting.

Oh and bug spray? Totally doesn't work that well if you get the nice-smelling kind like I did. I still got many huge bites from these nasty black mosquitos.

I have to say that Kending town did not impress us even a little bit - we aren't really ones for bars, Thai food (like it's trying to be Krabi, Ko Samui or Bali) and cheap shell necklaces. We never went down to the beach - if the crowded road was any indication, it would have been packed and filthy with the hordes of people. So not our thing. Good place to go if you want to party - or if you are taking the bus, as you can get a hotel and walk to the beach and shops, but not really leave. But not if you want a relaxing vacation with good scenery and peaceful ocean scenes. In fact, I felt the whole town was trying way too hard to be something it should never have become. I was also a bit put off by all the backpacker food (overpriced Thai, lackluster Mexican, underwhelming American) - half the quality at twice the price! Give me some fresh oysters from Huaqiao anyday - and you can get there by bus, too.

So yeah - Kending? Not recommended.

Kending National Park and Eluanbi, however, I highly recommend. Unfortunately, these require a car. There are buses - we saw buses that said "Eluanbi" on them, and there are stops marked - but we would rarely see a bus actually go through the small town, and never saw one coming up the other way past the nuclear power plant.

This was, however, the most beautiful part of the trip.

Southernmost Point in Taiwan

We started the next morning at the southernmost point in Taiwan - a spot you can drive to on a side road leaving the main one. You drive up, then down, then park near an abandoned old house (what a cool house - I would totally live there if it were liveable. You don't get more southern than that). Then it's a 500 meter walk along a good path through mangrove forest, where you see huge, colorful butterflies. I'd say many were almost the size of my open hand. We also saw lizards - larger than the usual tiny, skittering ones you see hiking up north. There's at least one grave - I wonder about the feng shui of that.

We didn't stay at the platform at the true southernmost point for long, as large insects had taken it upon themselves to dive bomb me relentlessly. Probably because my bathing suit (I had forgotten a t-shirt so wore my very conservative bathing suit top) was covered in giant hibiscus flower patterns.

Then we drove up towards the nuclear power plant, where the views are vast:



And turned around, not realizing that the best drive was straight ahead. We came back through Chuanfan Rock, or rather the road near it:



There's a lackluster beach here with a rocky surf that is nice for a quick warm-water dip but overall...eh. Better than Kending town though!

I was amused by the strip of stores - snorkel rentals, a 7-11, souvenirs, boring food - and then across the street a blue truck blaring Taiwanese music (the old kind - think like the stuff taxi drivers listen to) skids into the parking lot and quickly "opens for business" - fresh fruit, vegetables, a small cache of seafood, some other sundries - and all the locals converge on it to do their daily shopping. The contrast was striking. I was more interested in the truck than the shops, personally.

We then headed up to the park office and got a map, driving on through Sheding, where we stopped for a noodle soup lunch at a restaurant/karaoke "bar" (by "bar" I mean they sell beer and have a karaoke machine). We met this interesting fellow:


And sang a few songs with him. We figure he's the tiny village's Good Time Guy, or he was 20 years ago but since there's nothing else to do in town, it sort of stuck.

At that point we ended up back in Eluanbi and drove the old route - we passed the power plant again and rounded a hill, where we came to a gorgeous aqua beach with soft golden sand and very few people. We stopped here for a swim and it was far better than anything Kending could offer. This is the beach I recommend if you want to come and have a real swim.

The water was clear and cool - cold even - the waves were mild, fun for playing but not scary - and the depth stayed shallow fairly far out. It was clear enough that even several meters out you could see your feet.

The only downside - those tiny fish that bite you, even through swimsuits. I hate those.

Back by the parking area, you can wash off for ten kuai, buy a coconut to drink or a sausage and get cold water from a cooler - a local has set up a little blue-truck business there offering these things and it was welcome refreshment.

Then we drove through Kending National Park, which has lovely hills and scenery:

Passing vans and trucks with kids sticking out the sunroof or on the back enjoying the sun (you'll note in the first picture that Brendan was terrified of sunburn after his Penghu experience and as such wore his shirt into the water, to hilarious effect).

Hengchun is worth a quick drive through and stop for maybe lunch or juice, but not all that interesting. We did stop to see the old city wall:

And the cool tank they have on display:

...and the "old street" is nice enough. But not really exciting.

It was starting to get dark as we headed back, and we were just south of Donggang by sundown:

Along the highway many coffeeshops have sprung up beside the rocky beaches, where you can stop, have a cold drink and enjoy the ocean one last time before driving back up to Kaohsiung.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

BAD JENNA



Sorry. I know it's been almost a month.

I'm just...busy. I'm getting married in three weeks. In a large wedding. That we planned from the other side of the planet. A wedding on something of a budget in which huge sections that most people delegate to paid professionals...are done by us. DIY. And while B's family has been fantastic, mine have been a little on the dramaaaaatic side. I love them anyway, but it's true.

And yeeess, I took the photo above. I did not rip it out of a calendar or scan a postcard. I took that!

Just goes to show that no matter how much the Taipei basin overpopulates, and no matter how much crap fills the air from China next door (cough cough, wheeze), and now much industry blights the west coast (industry that keeps the economy humming, I know), there's a reason why Taiwan is also called Formosa. It really, truly and deeply is a gorgeous place. It's east, northeast and south coasts, islands and northern mountains along with the central mountains are absolutely stunning. No two ways about it. They say China is beautiful and in some places, it's true. Taiwan still has that beauty - I can't help but think that huge tracts of it have been destroyed in China - tumbled temples, ravaged environments and filthy ecosystems, razed meadows and forests, blanched mountains, depressing zoos, bilious rivers.

It's truly a gem of a place and it's too bad that so many people don't realize it - they think "Taiwan" and it's synonymous with "my keyboard was made there". Not with "mind-bending mountain vistas and cloud seas". Or, if they're a little more astute, maybe they associate it with Sun Moon Lake or Alishan or some such. Eh. I'm sorry, but the sheer vastness, the gut-punching raw beauty of the drive from Puli to Lishan and down to Yilan shoves those tourist-blighted spots down to pale also-rans. And yet you see so few travelers up there.

Which is good, in a sense. I have it all to myself when I go - which is every few years when I need a soul-resting break and a reminder that I am truly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Vistas like the one above are good for things like that. When you're planning a wedding - a large wedding, a DIY wedding, a nontraditional wedding, from a distance, you need that perspective sometimes.

So we rented a car - the bus is an option, but it sucks - you can't scream "WOOOO!" out the windows, play burned mix CDs, lean out the window and stop where you please to eat, take pictures or run around shouting about how beautiful it all is. We burned piles of music, grabbed the car at Taizhong HSR Station (CarPlus - recommended. Very good service though their good cars book out fast - we ended up with a Mitsubishi Colt when a Toyota Camry or Altis (Corolla) would have done better. You can return the cars elsewhere for a $1200 NT fee - we returned ours in Taipei. They do insist that you have an International Driver's Permit and they do check.

Anyway, here are some photos of our recent weekend in Lishan for you:


Farms of Lishan with Snow Mountain peaking out the top.


Drew and Emily in the creepy abandoned church.


View from the ridge just below Lishan's main town.



Side doors of creepy abandoned church.


View, I believe, from Fushoushan.


Creepy abandoned church.


One of the peaks of Hehuan Mountain. At this point I turned back toward the soaring views beyond and shouted "WOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOHOOOO!" at passing cars. A lot of people shouted back!

And no, the roads are not that safe. Drive carefully, use your horn, watch the mirrors and be prepared to brake at a moment's notice.


Clouds rolling in.


Emily at Fushoushan.


Happy folks from Tainan on a weekend trip. It is amazing, the hospitality up in the mountains - we shared tea, shared food, swapped stories and had conversations with so many people.


Drew with David at the supremely tacky (and yet not ugly) "The Old England".


Books in the abandoned church.


Drew in a sniper hole at Fushoushan.


Maple leaves at our farm homestay, right outside our door, from the porch. I loved that in the evenings we could sit out there, drink tea, futz around and enjoy the cool (cool!) air.


Fruit and tea grown near Lishan. Lishan's fruit, vegetables and high mountain tea are superb.


Harvesting snow pears in Lishan.


Awwwww. Me and Brendan.


The new, less creepy, church.


This reminds me of the lyric of a favorite song, "Falling Is Like This" - One minute there was road beneath us - and the next just sky..."

Flower at Fushoushan.


"WOOOOOOO!"


"The Old England: Since 2009"


Rose after a nighttime rain in Lishan


Pears at Fushoushan.


The owner of our farm homestay - Mingxiu (明秀) - it's a kilometer down a steep hill from the top of Lishan proper, but totally worth it. Not cheap ($1500-$2000 /night for a double room with electric blanket, cable TV, hot water and other amenities in a cabin built with local wood) but the best deal in town for what you get and the lovely setting, if you ask me. The owner and his family are very friendly. Drop me a comment if you are ever interested in staying there - I highly recommend it.


More farming near Lishan.

Street food stand with the best damn view in the country.


Since 2009.


Tea at a farm stand just off Hehuanshan.

Farming near Nanshan in the Lanyang Valley.


Lanyang River Valley - after Lishan you basically head down, leaving Taizhong county and entering Yilan County. The signage is terrible once you hit Yilan.


Lanyang River Valley from the top of the mountain on the way down.
View from pagoda on the way to Tianchi lake at Fushoushan Farm about 4km up from Lishan and walkable for those hardy enough - though we drove.


Fushoushan trees.