Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hiking in Taiwan

Bob and I went hiking in Yangmingshan National Park, which is just a metro ride away from Taipei. We made it to the peak of Mt. Qixing, which at 1120 meters/3675 feet is the highest mountain in Taipei. It's also a dormant volcano, so there was plenty of sulphur pits around, which you'll see below.

Because of the volcanic rock, the vegetation around Taipei is very lush and green, similar to Hawai'i. We saw several different types of flowers, plants, and fungi.

The walking paths throughout the park were very well maintained. They were also very steep.

We basically walked up stairs for 3 kilometers! And then walked down stairs for 3 kilometers.

It was interesting to see how the vegetation changed. At lower heights it looked like the photos above, with lots of green ferns, flowers, and other plants. But because of the weather pattern here (it's very close to the ocean), you see vegetation differences at lower elevations than you would see elsewhere. At around 500 m, the dense, green vegetation changes to bamboo.

Around 900 m the bamboo gives away to this sturdy grass.

After many, many, many steps (and a few complaints from me) we finally reached the top of the mountain, where it was quite cold!

After enjoying the peak for about 2 minutes, we decided to head down the mountain on a different path.

This path took us by many fumaroles, which really, really smelled. A fumaroles is a vent which emits steam and gasses. The gasses, which on this particular volcano are sulphur dioxide (hence the smell), escape through vents on the side of the mountain, discoloring the area around them.

This particular fumarole was huge! It made such an explosive noise and produced a lot of steam.

Most people don't get as close to the fumarole as Bobby. The smell keeps you away, which is good because sulphur dioxide is poisonous.

After our hike, we visited a public hot spring. The volcano produces a lot of great hot springs in the area. The one we visited had pools at different temperatures. We started in the warm pool and made our way up to the hottest pool, which was a scalding 46.2 C/115 F. I could only get my feet into that pool, but Bob was able to brave the heat and put his whole body in! Unfortunately, photos were not allowed at the pool.

After our hike and hot spring visit, we headed back to the city for dinner. We went to a local place known for its beef noodle soup. We had a lot of side dishes: these sautéed bean sprouts.

We thought this was some kind of bacon. It was delicious! Only later did we find out that this is pig ears. Wonderful, delicious pig ears.

Chard with pork and bean curd.

Some kind of sea vegetable. This was my least favorite dish.

And the main event: beef noodle soup! The beef was fall-apart, meltingly delicious. The broth was also great.

No dinner would be complete without dumplings, so we had an order of spicy dumplings. Oh man, these were so good.

Since I only complained during 95% of the hike, I earned a treat. We ordered a small (no joke) mango snow ice to share. I love, love, love snow ice! So much better than shave ice.

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