On our second day in Taiwan Lexie and I woke up around 7:30 am for some reason, jet lag perhaps, and got an early start to our day. The weather was said to be sunny but when we woke up it was cloudy which turned out to be a good thing. We got our bacon, egg and cheese dan bing (essentially a sandwich) for breakfast and ate it on our walk to the MRT station. It is about a 45 minute MRT ride to the Maokong Gondola station. From that station is about a 30 minute gondola ride. It keeps climbing in elevation one hill/mountain at a time roughly going up in the shape of a J. The view is incredible whether it be in the sun or the mist.
When we get to the top we set our on our new adventure. A curvy road takes us through the hills and past tea houses that are closed around 9-10 in the morning. Finally we see one that is open 24 hours, it looks like they are setting up for the morning and are ready to help us out. There is a water fee of 80 NT and the tea Lexie bought was 300 NT.
The old lady had us sit under an awning to avoid the mist and sets up our tea station. She puts three scoops of tea into the little teapot then pours boiling water into it. The first pour of hot water is just to wash the tea. She places the teapot into a large bowl, pours water for a second time, closes the top and pours more water over it immersing it in hot water. After she does that she waits 40 seconds, pours the tea through a strainer and into the tiny vase shaped cup. She instructs us to put the teacup onto the vase and flip it over exchanging the contents in to the teacup. Then tells us to smell the tiny vase to get the fragrance of the tea. It is a enlightening process.
I have to be frank, I am not usually a tea drinker but I will not be rude as to turn it down. Tea is the culture here and if I want to be here I have to drink it (I mostly enjoy cold tea). On the other hand Lexie is and always will be a tea drinker, she LOVES tea. She is eating, I mean drinking, all of this information up.
It feels almost therapeutic as continue to drink this warm beverage on this chilly day. We take our time at this tea house staying for about an hour and start walking some more. A few minutes of walking and we are at the Tea Promotional Center where they showcase different tools used in the tea making process. If you are interested in learning more about tea I recommend you watch the documentary "All In This Tea." We don't stay at the center for very long and continue on our journey.
This is where we get kind of lost. We take a detour to a place named "Pothole" down one of the trails in the valley. We weren't surprised when we got to "Pothole" that it wasn't very interesting. It isn't even worth describing. We decided to keep going on this trail instead of climbing back up an insane amount of stairs. At this point we are down in the valley next to the river and eventually cross it. We've been walking for a few miles at this point which is great excercise complimented by the nice view. We see a cool waterfall, much more noteworthy than "Pothole", with shades of green and orange moss and an odd shack right next to it where people seem to inhabit.
A few meters down we get to a real road. At this point we are closer to the second to last gondola station so we walk/hike to it. If a cab passed our way we would've hailed it but we stuck it out and hiked. It was great to see the where we had just been as we got higher up the neighboring mountain.
These mountains are littered with tea houses and unfortunatly we had only been to one. We saw one last tea house and felt obligated to stop. On a tea high we get the energy we need to make it to the gondola station! Finally! It was a lot of fun. We got back to Seth's apartment by four pm and took a well deserved nap before going out to the his favorite bar that night.
Ganbei! Cheers! It's Chinese New Year!