We continued through the winding roads between mountain ranges, driving slowly through Taroko National Park to take in the scenery. “Taroko” is a word from Truku, an indigenous Taiwanese tribe. I don’t know exactly what it means, but from Google searches, it can mean “human being,” “magnificent,” or be used interchangeably with Truku.
Known for its abundance of limestone and marble, Taroko has stunning ridges, aqua-tinted waters, and in more recent years, lots of tourists. I can’t blame them though – it’s a gorgeous display of natural beauty and I, a tourist, was one of them. One of the more popular trails was Baiyang Trail, an easy walk that ends at spring water flowing from inside a cave, The Water Curtain. This trail was originally built to create a hydroelectric power station, but after much controversy over park preservation, was called to a halt. Years of construction work disturbed the ground, creating cracks in one of the caves where water streams down like a “curtain.” The water, lack of light, and people made it difficult to take a proper picture, so here’s one off the trail.
There’s still some debate as to how much construction can be done in the mountains, as they can make the cliffs prone to landslides and disrupt the landscape. But lo and behold, before we reached our car, I spotted a Formosan Rock Macaque from less than ten feet away!
The road to Fushoushan from Baiyang Trail is long, narrow, and curvy. If you thought driving in the city was crazy, the mountains could be worse. Passing another car going the opposite direction could mean mere inches between each vehicle. The turns meant many blind spots and for me, some queasiness. By the time we approached Fushoushan (20 minutes by car up the mountain from Lishan!), it was dark and foggy.
Fushoushan Farm was established to support KMT veterans and also houses one of Chiang Kai-shek’s vacation residences. In front of the dictator’s house is a small “Heaven” Pond, which looked more like greasy miso soup than a nice blue like pictures had depicted. We stayed in very basic buildings, which a family friend likened to army barracks. My family and their friends don’t think highly of Chiang Kai-shek, since they remember him most significantly for the KMT’s suppression of thousands of Taiwanese political dissidents through disappearances, imprisonment, and executions.
Other than that, the grounds are nice. Many varieties of fruit grow here, and we caught the last week of peach season. Some of the more expensive fruits (like the Asian pears pictured) are individually wrapped in paper bags to keep them safe from insects and other critters.
After heading back into cities, we spent a few days visiting family before hurrying up to Taipei. The biggest typhoon of the year was heading toward Taiwan, and we did not want to be stuck elsewhere. Throughout the night, winds howled, storm shutters of the hotel banged, and waves of rain thrashed against the windows. In the morning, all was calm again. The east side where we were a few days prior was struck hardest. In Taipei, save for uprooted trees, rows of knocked over scooters, and overflowing rivers, it was much better. I do not envy the workers who have to drain this construction site pictured below.
Our last meal in Taipei was at Silks House in the Regent. We were treated by a family friend’s friend, who knew that this was one of the best restaurants that would not be closed after the typhoon. Each table has its own room and server. The food was relatively simple but delicious.
General rule of thumb is to never plan on flying during a typhoon. Airports would be shut down anyway and flights rescheduled. My flight was delayed just two hours, according to the website. Little did I know that it was going to be a long night. Continued strong winds further backed up flights and even tilted planes off the ground! The airport was disorganized, water ran out around 10PM, and crowds of angry customers grumbled at every gate. I eventually found the changed gate, and at 2AM, I was finally homeward bound.