I went in search of flowers. That’s why I’m here. And we typically look for flowers near hot springs or waterfalls. We went to a few different wild places, but the week we went exploring it was an unusually rainy week. Locals say it’s unusual - and that it was the rainiest in years! So in the end, we didn't find any flowers, but I saw a whole new world of beauty that I never expected. And learned some things - here are some of them in random order:
The mountains of Central Taiwan are insanely luscious and gorgeous. I love everything about them! Their wild shapes, the plants that grow on them, the waterfalls that stream down them unexpectedly around every turn. Huge leafy elephant ears, ferns of all sizes and shapes, shell ginger flowers cascading down the hillsides and endless bamboo in golden and green colors whose leafy tops sway gently in the wind.
In Taiwan there are are huge black butterflies. They are larger than the size of Monarchs and jet black. They flutter in and out of the leaves and are gorgeous!
There are insects in the jungle that make a lot of noise. I remember in my younger years traveling throughout Chiapas, Mexico where the cicadas were so deafening it was hard to sleep. In Taiwan there are cicadas, yes, but there’s another insect that’s even louder, that sounds like a warning siren. It’s only when you go deep into the jungle that you hear them. And if there are many of them sounding all at once around you, it can be overwhelming and eery. It almost sounds like nature is saying, ‘Don’t go there!’ And if that’s the case, we listened, because it was either raining and the rocks were slippery as we tried to rope down the mountain, or the waterfalls were rushing so hard that getting near them was dangerous.
Bamboo in the wild is insanely beautiful. I can’t hardly explain it in words. I saw bamboo that was wider than my hand at the base and in the richest colors!
Rushing water that is so strong it could kill you instantly if you fell in … does a number on your five senses and your body. Mother Nature is supreme and standing next to this kind of power is deafening and humbling to say the least. We are like little ants on this planet. The trees don’t need us and any time the Earth wants to flick us off like some fleas, it is possible. I bow down to the raw, vast power of Mother Earth and make offerings of immense gratitude.
Old school tea houses are my new jam. I didn’t really know they still existed. I remember sitting on a tatami in a small room lined with rice paper and a quiet sliding door in Korea, sipping on sweet medicinal teas topped with pine nuts. But I’ve never seen such exquisite beauty in a teahouse environment as the Wuwei Tea House in Taichung, Taiwan. The wood, the architecture, the leafy pond, the blend of complexity with simplicity, the turtles and koi fish of every warm color. Over 30 private rooms where you can enjoy not only the art of tea ceremony, but also incredibly delicious and memorable food that is forever registered with my taste buds (yes, like that).
I wish I could LIVE in a place like this teahouse - it is so supremely comforting, but I also content to sit with friends around a table, inhaling the roasted oolong tea from the smelling cup, tasting the roasted tea leaves in the water as they boil on the floor to the side of the table, while munching on perfect pairings like: pistachios, preserved plums and fried taro sesame mochi.
Props to google maps, waze, airbnb, google translator … not sure how I’d travel on the fly, making decisions last-minute on where to go and where to stay without them. Not to mention the language barrier. I don’t speak or read Chinese, so when I stay at someone’s cabin in the middle of nowhere in the mountains in central Taiwan and neither of speak each other’s language, yet are coordinating times, places + directions, the app translates for both of us! I’ve used google translator many times and it’s super helpful. Granted, I think the skills of intuiting what they’re saying, using body language and deeeeep listening is much more powerful, and those skills are constantly employed as well. And I would venture to say we might travel more slowly if we still had to use maps to get around. However, I am grateful for the ability to use technology to connect to people and places that I might not otherwise reach.
Renting a car and hitting the open road is so liberating, always. I am amazed at how easy it is, and how driving here is so comfortable. Taiwanese are good drivers and even though I can’t read the signs, having an international driver’s license seems to make it all okay, haha. Driving is pretty much common sense, and it’s fun! Making mistakes or taking wrong turns is all a part of the madness of traveling and builds the resilience muscles. Being able to go where I want to go and explore with such ability to stop at any moment gives me such a sense of freedom.
Love from Taipei,