in the mountains outside of Hsinchu, there are dozens of tiny towns just waiting to be discovered. Emei and Beipu had been on my radar while we lived there - along with Neiwan, Lion's Head Mountain, and a dozen other things. but I never went. not once in my 3 years living nearby.
here's how I explain this phenomenon. you move somewhere new. you spend a little bit of time exploring, but most of your time adjusting. [and America to Taiwan was quite the adjustment.] you settle into a routine and then knowing that you plan to stay for a few years, you always think you'll have time to go "later." throw in an element of not feeling like it's the best idea to scoot out in the middle of nowhere alone on a random tuesday, and most of my Hsinchu adventures occurred pretty close to home. [or at least, to the main center of civilization.]
now that I'm belatedly aware of this, and that the move to Taipei didn't require so much of an adjustment, I've been making an effort to get out and explore. it also helps that the mountains are a lot more accessible in Taipei... but we were speaking of Hsinchu.
a few weeks ago Husband and I went down to visit some friends still teaching at the old school in Hsinchu. we gave up our scooter when we moved, but they fortunately have two. we decided to spend a day having what we like to call a "scoot adventure" and headed off into the mountains.
there were two stops on our itinerary: Emei and Beipu. our friends had driven out to both a few weeks prior, which meant we knew the way and wouldn't have to wander the countryside. [not that getting lost while scooting can't be enjoyable, but we had a time frame here.]
Emei wasn't much more than a few empty streets, but boasts a gorgeous temple and a lake. oh, and one really giant Buddha holding a globe outside a place called the Nature Loving Wonderland. we weren't really sure what this place was... temple or hotel, museum or monastery. so I did a little internet investigation and came across their english website:
"The Nature Loving Wonderland is a home for ALL. It is the garden of utmost bliss, a cultural center for spiritual enrichment, a common ground for social interaction and a venue for the exchange of Nature Loving culture in the pursuit of cosmic unification." we didn't realize that all were welcome to unify the cosmos, so we kept driving instead.
our next destination was Beipu. the town center was bustling with activity, streets closed off so pedestrians could wander through market stalls. I purchased myself a six dollar straw hat before we made our way to the main temple.
I always feel a bit strange taking photos in temples. but as I stepped through the door of this one, some guy was completing his prayers and then whipped out his phone for an instagram of the altar. so I snapped away... as respectfully as I could. I have no power to resist the opportunity to photograph thousands of tiny golden buddhas, intricate carvings in wood and stone, and of course dragons.
our final stop was a short scoot outside of town - the Beipu Cold Springs. by this point, the sun was beating down and we were ready for a dip. the water flowing down the river and over the wall was cold and refreshing... though you had to step on a lot of rocks to get in.
we cooled off, had a snack, and lounged on the rocks for a while before scooting back into town. we ended our day with a shower followed by a visit to the ever-tasty Din Tai Fung.
it was one of those amazing expat days - where you stop and look around in awe that this is where you live. I'm glad that I've moved past the point of needing to adjust, but still haven't lost the wonder of exploring somewhere new.