We began our first full day in Taiwan it with a delicious breakfast at a street kitchen (see photo below) that served steamed buns and warm soy milk. Afterwards, Shuwen’s sister Jane took us to Hui Sun Forest (sometimes also spelled Huei Sun Forest). This is both a university forest as well as a recreational area with nice trails, meadows, a restaurant, and even a conference center.
It was also my first experience with the subtropical forests of Taiwan (later on, we would visit Shan Lin Xi and Xi Tou as well), and wow, that’s really “forest” how it should be! Green, green, green, with tall trees, gnarly trees, giant ferns, tree ferns, dense undergrowth, big taro leaves, beautiful maples, little flowers, giant spiders, and birds making the cutest sounds (luckily, I didn’t run into any centipedes or the giant earthworms).
We hiked the Shanlan Trail to Lan Pavillion together, that’s 2.4km one way (4.8km total, about 3 miles). Shuwen and I were huffing and puffing and sweating uphill, while Jane, being used to the climate, took it as a more leisurely stroll – in sandals! After that hike we had lunch at the restaurant, and then wandered around the area, looking for a spot that would take us (well, me…) a bit higher up and out of the forest for a better view. In the end, Shuwen and Jane took a stroll at the meadows while I hiked up the Sihwufong Mountain Trail, which was short (about 1km one way) and not too steep.
I also had a first encounter with some nice patches of bamboo there (and would get plenty more opportunity to photograph it, later). After that, we headed home. I was extremely happy with the forest experiences already.
Something about the weather and climate below this gallery:
During our stay, the lower areas were often very hazy, while higher regions were either sunny, or “normally” cloudy. The elevation differences are quite dramatic on the relatively small island of Taiwan: from sea level to the highest mountain (Yushan) it’s almost 4000m difference (~13000 ft.), so the higher mountains were often capped with clouds.
I don’t know what it would be like in other seasons of course, but the haze brings very interesting light in the late afternoon hours before sunset: around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the sun is low enough that it’s light is filtered by the haze, creating a very nice, soft and and warm light – photographically speaking, the haze acts as a giant soft box or diffuser. Which is quite pleasant because it takes the edge off of the combination of temperature and humidity, as well.
Oh yes, the humidity really gave me a hard time. Living in dry Southern California for a little more than 2 years now, pleasantly located 30 minutes inland, away from the more damp & cool coast, the high humidity in Taiwan was a shock. It’s hard to describe how unpleasant something like 25°C (77°F), a temperature that I would normally describe as “pleasantly warm”, can feel when it’s so humid. I don’t want to know what it is like when it’s hotter, in the Summer. I had some really tough hiking experience in this humidity, but that will follow later, in a separate post. 🙂