First post for a very long time. There's not been so much to report in the last few weeks.
At the weekend, as it was our birthdays, we took a trip to Mingchih in Yilan County. It is actually just a few kilometers across the border from Taoyuan County, however we drove there via the freeway which skirts under Taipei (picture of a rainbow seen above the freeway), the 13 Km Xueshan Tunnel and Yilan on the East Coast.
After arriving at the first overnight stop, a B&B in Luodong, we discovered we had two punctures, we must have run over something on the road near the B&B. Such is the efficiency of things in Taiwan, we had 2 new tyres less than an hour a half later despite it being after 8 o'clock at night. The mechanic did a mini-service too and wouldn't accept a tip.
The next morning in heavy rain we set off for the steep, narrow and windy climb up to Mingchih.
Thankfully the weather up there was a lot better.
We visited the picturesque lake and heard the 'clarinet man' (some nice videos below). He performs twice a day on the banks of the lake, 5 days a week. A black swan lives on one of the islands and comes across when he plays, attracted by the music. The man said that generally the swan only paddles across for the morning performance. He kindly played a special song for Alice.
On the sunday we took an organised trip to see the 1000+ year old red cypress trees growing on the mountain. There are 62 trees in the area, 51 of which have been given names. The guided walk takes you on a 2-hour circuit amongst the trees, mostly up and down, good exercise with a 10.5 kg girl on your back for the second half. Just as we ended the tour the clouds descended and the rain started again.
On the way back, rather than retrace our steps and return home via Yilan and risk long traffic jams on Freeway 5 we continued on the narrow windy cross-island road and got back into Taoyuan County much more quickly. The rain discouraged people from coming up the mountain so there was very little traffic coming the other way, which was good as the road is quite narrow in places and two cars cannot pass.