Adventures in Asia

Business trips can be a somewhat disappointing form of travel since you are, most of the time, working. Since I work in the electronics industry, I've had the opportunity to travel to China, Taiwan and Japan several times. I often joke that I see more of the inside of airports and hotels than I do the actual country, but I try to seize opportunities to experience the countries I'm in as much as possible.

My two main outlets are good food and running. China is easy for the former, but not so much for the latter. Traveling along with a foodie colleague who happens to be Chinese means eating a lot of great, authentic cuisine. We order a lot of different dishes to share, and they are placed on a rotating, round plate on the middle of the table. It's great for trying a lot of different food - if you dare!

Social dining in Shanghai

Cantonese in Dongguan
And then there is Japan, where everything comes in perfectly laid out, delicate bits.

Lunchtime bento box at a meeting.
Just don't ask me what it is I was eating - most of the time I couldn't tell you! The glass on the left in the picture below was actual filled with seaweed in some sauce that we drank.

All sorts of delicious and strange things at a traditional Japanese restaurant.
And then there is running. Sometimes I am forced to hotel treadmills, but more often than not I'm able to wander the streets and local parks around where ever I am. This time I was in Asia for two weeks, and had the weekend in Taipei. Since I'm becoming familiar with Taipei, I planned a grand day out in Yangmingshan national park on the outskirts of Taipei.

Starting from the end of the metro at Xinbeitou, I followed the steep road winding upwards towards the mountains, passing sulfurous vents indicative of the hotsprings the Beitou district is famous for. A hot spring wasn't very appealing just then. It was hot and humid, and I found myself quickly wondering if the three water bottles in my pack would hold me through the day.

Beware of monkeys. Too bad I didn't actually see any!
After slogging up the road for a while, I found a clearly marked turnoff to Mt Shamao. I had originally planned to bypass this peak, but the cool forest trail looked much more appealing than the road.

The uphill was mostly steep stairs, and I hike aggressively, relishing the tough effort of climbing. I met several other hikers, which I always find reassuring in foreign countries.

Steep and hot! On the way up Mt Shamao.
From the top, I scuttled back down to the road and purchased some more fluids before heading for the first big objective of the day, Mt Qixing.

Mt Qixing as seen from Mt Shamao
Mt Qixing was clearly a popular hiking choice, unsurprising since this is the highest mountain in the region. Although I often wear headphones while running alone, I took out one to be able to listen properly to my surroundings as I passed people. That was when I heard the chorus of what must have been birds. One of the birds would start making their trilling sound and others would catch on, so that the sound spread through the forest like a ripple in a pond. The sound would grow until, as though there were some silent signal, they would stop.

The path was mostly stone steps, on Mt Shamao. After passing through the forest, the surroundings turned to thick bamboo and then grass, taller than my head. Near the top, the wind began to blow, and by the time I topped out it was nearly strong enough to blow off my cap.

On top of Mt Qixing!
I stopped for a quick snack on top, but actually started to cool off pretty quickly in the wind. Randomly, a guy carrying a road bike (!) appeared on the summit. Other hikers on top clearly asked him what the deal was in Chinese, and I wonder what he answered!

The view from Mt Qixing
I didn't rest for long, since there were more summits to climb! I descended quickly down the opposite side of Mt Qixing. The next section would be a few kilometers to get to the trail up Mt Datun, and when I saw the bus stop at the base of Mt Qixing I nearly quit. I was starting to get tired, it was hot, what was the point? But I reminded myself that a long day with lots of vert was just was I needed to prepare for my summer races, put on some motivating music, and shuffled on.

Steep stairs and tall grass in Yangmingshan National Park
The path up to Mt Datun was - surprise surprise - stairs! Stairs are fatiguing in a completely different way than a regular trail, as you have to take the same sized step every time. On the way up Mt Datun I entertained myself by watching blue-tailed lizards dart away from their sunbathing on the steps. One of the lizards was a little more lazy and I was able to photograph it:

The Mt Datun traverse passed over three peaks. After the first peak, I hit a 'real' trail, without stone paving, for the first time all day. It was then I understood why they went through all the trouble of building stone walkways. The soil was slick clay, and even though it hadn't rained for several days the surface was slippery.

The trail was also very grown in some areas. I was bushwhacking through grass taller than my head. I had seen signs warning about poisonous snakes, and I was a little worried about stepping on one. I solved this by swimming forward in the grass with my arms, so I could see the trail ahead of me.

There is a trail somewhere behind me.
The final climb in the Mt Datun traverse was the steepest of them all. There was a rope that I used to pull myself, hand over hand, up what was probably a 40 degree slope. But finally I stood on top, and just had a long downhill to get back to the metro at Xinbeitou.

It grew hotter and hotter as I descended back into the valley, and I rewarded myself with a large bottle of juice that I drank on the spot before getting on the metro. What a great way to spend a Sunday in Taipei!

Strava here

- The Wild Bazilchuk


  1. I'm impressed by the amount of exploring you get in during your work trips. Looks beautiful!


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