[guide] simple magic in Pingxi

No. I am not leaving Taiwan in 4 days. You can’t make me desert the rolling verdant hills, the waffle grandiosity, the sweeping sunsets, the twinkling monsoon-reflected lights, or the bubbling waterfalls. I won’t do it.

Perhaps in bittersweetness, this last weekend’s trip was one of the more lovely of our time thus far. Meeting at the ungodly hour of 7:35 was only slightly painful, and leaving 15 min late and making our train was only slightly stressful.

(If only the gilmore gals could just keep their romances in order so I wouldn’t have to keep clicking “next episode” on Netflix on pre-trip evenings, and tapping snooze the next morning. Alas, Jess will never walk a straight line. But I digress)

We set off for Pingxi, a village area south of Taipei known for being the host to an annual lantern festival, and being the inspiration for (apparently) famous anime movie Spirited Away, that infused magic with face-eating monsters? Or something.

https://flic.kr/p/x9kAbj[/embed>brThe%20day%20began%20with%20a%20hike%20to%20some%20grumbling%20from%20the%20peanut%20gallery%20(it%20was%20hot%20and%20high),%20as%20we%20made%20our%20way%20to%20the%20famous%20crags%20of Xiao-Zi%20Shan%20(shan%20meaning%20mountain).%20The%20winding%20ascent%20started%20with%20stone%20cut%20stairs%20and%20then%20graduated%20to%20rope-assisted%20steps%20up%20the%20face%20of%20jutting%20rocks%20in%20the%20midst%20of%20mountain%20forestry.%20It%20was%20one%20of%20the%20coolest%20things%20I've%20done,%20even%20cooler%20thana%20href=https://alimentarily.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/the-accidental-30-km-bike-ride-a-weekend-at-sun-moon-lake/%20that%20accidental%2030%20km%20bike%20ride/a. There%20are%20three%20total%20such%20crags%20in%20the%20area,%20easily%20accessible%20and%20honestly%20not%20at%20all a%20difficult%20or%20technical%20hike%20~%20all%20we%20really%20needed%20was%20a%20sweat%20towel%20for%20the%20summer%20heat%20(no?%20just%20me?)%20and%20our%20thighs%20of%20steel.%20In%20all,%20the%20three%20must%20have%20taken%20us%20less%20than%201.5%20hours%20to%20ascend%20and%20descend.It%20would%20have%20been%20shorter,%20if%20not%20for%20missing%20the%20turn%20of%20for%20the%20tallest%20(and%20most%20beautiful)%20of%20the%20three:%20Putuo%20Mtn.%20-%20we%20climbed%20all%20the%20way%20up,%20got%20lost,%20climbed%20all%20the%20way%20down,%20remained%20confused,%20said%20goodbye%20to%20half%20our%20leftover%20group,%20and%20climbed%20all%20the%20way%20up%20again%20~%20(Our%20highly%20enthusiastic%20resident%20gentleman%20member%20RAN%20the%20last%20portion%20to%20try%20and%20find the%20entrance.%20What/why/stop%20being%20so%20nice!%20And%20he%20missed%20it%20anyways,%20only%20perpetuating%20the%20nice-guy-finishing-last%20stereotype)%20Finally,%20we%20found%20the%20entrance,%20which%20is%20about%20halfway%20up,%20and%20marked%20by%20a%20tiny%20little sign%20to%20the%20right,%20indicating%20a%20dirt%20path.Maybe%20it%20was%20the%20travails%20but%20that%20last%20one%20felt%20most%20beautiful.%20It%20could%20also%20have%20been%20the%20fact%20that%20it%20was%20the%20tallest,%20and%20offered%20wide%20sweeping%20views%20of%20the%20valley%20below,%20lanterns%20floating%20at%20mountain-top%20height,%20released%20from%20the%20village%20below,%20and%20an%20intermittent%20cooling%20breeze.%20We%20felt%20small,%20the%20view%20was%20expansive,%20I%20wanted%20to%20put%20down%20roots%20and%20move%20in.%20Or%20out,%20I%20guess?%20But%20alas,%20our%20friends%20awaited%20impatiently%20in%20the%20village%20below%20so%20we%20made%20our%20way%20back%20to%20reality.BUT%20were%20stopped%20halfway%20to%20find%20half%20our%20group%20that%20was%20supposedly%20waiting%20for%20us%20in%20the%20village%20–%20throwing%20down%20in%20the%20middle%20of%20the%20forest%20with%20a%20bunch%20of%20middle-aged%20Taiwanese%20hikers.%20These%20people%20were%20amazing%20-%20they%20had%20basically%20set%20up%20camp%20and%20were%20kings%20and%20queens%20of%20the%20mid:%20partying%20midday%20midforest%20midlife.%20#SquadGoals.%20As%20soon%20as%20I%20walked%20up,%20an%20iced%20beer%20was%20pushed%20into%20one%20hand%20and%20green%20mangos%20that%20were%20tart%20and%20sweet%20and%20luscious%20into%20the%20other.%20Ganbei!%20(cheers)brhttps://flic.kr/p/x9shEp

They referred to us all by our ethnicity – I became “In-du”, while others were christened “Salvador” (Irvin), “Japan” (Keiko), and “Yi Da Li” (Italy – Drew), and generally laughed for about 30 minutes straight. We told jokes, giggled, exchanged facebook profiles, ate their food, took pictures, and then had to bid a quick farewell.

We must look really cute and lost as a group or something, because we have been blessed by complete strangers giving us food and kindness so many places in Taiwan. I could not and still cannot express my gratitude adequately, so I’ll just put these strong thank you vibes into the internet ether here. Someone commented while we were there “America has a few things to learn” and I had this thought – that these people, they don’t offer their kindness hoping to be thanked profusely in return – and that in itself is as exotic as Taiwan gets from our homeland. I really hope we can save these moments in little heart boxes and remember them in our land of the polite thankyou’s.

The evening ended in Jiaoxi – the Spirited Away town itself – famed for its night market. I had a life changing peanut candy shaving ice cream burrito (yes. read that again I dare you), bought some gifts, and took 15 of the same photo of the bay below – it was that. beautiful.

The lanterns, the ice cream, the bustling crowds, the scenery, the mosquitoes — it was all the perfect last weekend in this beautiful island nation ya girl could have asked for.




How to get to Xiaozishan (Pingxi) from Taipei

TRA from Taipei Main Station to Ruifeng (88 NTD round trip I believe) and then exit at the station to purchase a day pass for the Pingxi railway line (64 NTD)! We didn’t make use of ours due to unforseen circumstances, but saw some great things we wished we could have visited- namely Shihfen Waterfall, and all the sweet-looking villages in transit.

Get off at Pingxi station, and walk through the village/stalls area. Turn left at the one intersection between stalls, and walk to the main road. Turn left again – the entrance to the hike should come up on your right within a few minutes!

Detailed description on how to get there and some great pictures here! : http://www.goteamjosh.com/blog/pingxi-crags

To get to Jiaoxi – head back to Ruifeng station, walk out of the station and up the street to the left – a ton of buses are at the stop in front of a small park. There are a few that pass through or to Jiaoxi – ask a local!

Also, Jasmine and I owe all our trip planning abilities to countless bloggers in the blogosphere who are beyond meticulous with their documentation. A shoutout to all of dem! (too many to name at present)


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