Getting There

It isn’t easy reaching Hehuan Mountain by public transport because local tourism buses don’t connect Qingjing Farm to Hehuan Mountain. Cabs can be quite expensive and not easy to find. Our B&B owner arranged a morning sunrise tour to Hehuan Mountain for us. We’d share the ride with 7 other passengers.

Stargazing

We left our B&B at around 4 a.m. and picked the other passengers along the way. The ride to Hehuan Mountain is smooth and the only sharp turns occurred along the curves of the mountain road. The driver doubled as our tour guide. We stopped under the dark sky and our guide pointed towards the constellations above. We felt a bit left out because his explanation was in Chinese. We didn’t realise that the entire tour would be in Chinese. Turns out that we were the only ones who didn’t speak the language. Whilst the others laughed at his jokes; we admired the sky above. Sometimes, he would speak to us in broken English and see if we were OK. It was too late to observe the Milky Way and we tried to make the most of the experience.

Pit Stops

It’s hard to get your orientation in the darkness. The change in altitude wasn’t too bad and I was mildly queasy. The tour would focus on 5 or 6 points in Hehuan Mountain, but most of those points were lost in translation. The views made the effort worth it.

TIP

Hehuan Mountain has some excellent hiking trails offering stunning views of the cascading peaks. After acclimatisation in Qingjing (Cingjing), it makes sense to spend the next night in Songsyue Lodge. It’s the only accommodation available in Hehuan Mountain. Sadly, we couldn’t make the booking and chose to spend 2 nights in Qingjing. Hiking in Hehuan Mountain may require a permit and it’s better to follow local rules/instructions before attempting a hike. The weather conditions change drastically in the high altitude mountains depending upon the seasons and time of day. High altitude hikes can be tricky if you’re not adequately prepared.

Waiting for Sunrise

Our guide zipped through the curvy mountain roads. We saw many vantage points on the way and I wished our guide would have stopped. But, he had his own secluded corner in the mountains. There weren’t many tourists at this point. I was disappointed though. The clouds didn’t look as spectacular as the other spots we’d seen through our window.

Mountain Flora

Light was slowly trickling into the sky and spilling over the mountains. We could spot a variety of flowers. The sun was nowhere in sight and we’d have to wait for a bit. Everyone chose a spot and the guide helped to find the best angle to capture sunrise.

Sunrise

No matter how many times I’ve watched the sun rise and set in the sky; I’ve always found every experience to be as breathtaking as my first. There’s something magical about observing the sun. It also makes normal people turn into photo-hungry zombies. As I found a spot to observe the sun, one of the passengers in our group walked upto me and asked me to step aside. I was puzzled. There was a lot of place and she’d chosen me to move from my spot. If she’d asked nicely, I wouldn’t have thought twice. However, I didn’t want to fight for a spot on a mountain. We leave those fights in the plains where we’re outrun by people and greed. The mountains are for solitude and reflection. It’s the only place where we can hope to be human again. I stepped aside and tried not to let it ruin the moment.

Once the sun emerges from the cloud cover, it’s just a matter of minutes before the sky is filled with bright yellow light. We stayed for a bit and moved to the next point.

Vantage Point

Travel has always been my escape from reality. I feel at home in the mountains — with the deafening silence — clearing the noise in my head. The fresh mountain air makes me appreciate life. There’s sanctity in the mountains. A rare purity of thought and emotion. I couldn’t get myself to read about Taiwan’s past history and conflict with Japan. I understand why history is important, but in the mountains — I want to be an escapist.

We could see the different peaks of the mountains from the vantage point. The sun hit those greens and popped colour in the mountains.

Taroko National Park

Taroko National Park spreads over 92,000 hectares in the northern part of the Central Mountain Range. Hehuan Mountain is located in the western section of the national park and is conveniently accessed from Qingjing Farm.

Before sunrise, our guide had clicked a picture for us with the board of the Taroko National Park. Most tour groups made a second stop here, to click pictures with the mountains after sunrise.

Cascading Peaks

The peaks looked stunning in the morning sunlight. Basil wanted to try a trail, but we hadn’t planned this section of the trip well. Without knowing transportation back, it’s tricky to explore these parts of the mountains.

Mountains & Peaks…

Strike a Pose

Photography is a big thing in this part of the world. Tourists prefer to have themselves in every frame rather than taking in the beauty of the mountains. Guides double as photographers and advise tourists how to pose or jump at the right moment. We spotted a tourism bus (light vehicle) chugging along the mountain roads. A pair of mountain birds (I’m bad with names) fluttered around and was quite friendly with tourists.

Back to Qingjing

Dingdai Glass Villa

We reached our B&B around 7 a.m. and we were in time for breakfast. I was feeling queasy on the way back to Qingjing and we spent the next few hours in our room.

Cryptomeria Trail

We used our EasyCard to board the Nantou Tourism bus. We had borrowed a map from the manager and showed the bus driver the spot we wanted to explore. We found the Cryptomeria Trail opposite mini Swiss Village.

Hidden Trails

This was the last map we found near the administration office and lodging.

Into the Woods

This path was deserted at noon. We found a campsite next to this trail and it looked interesting.

Village Roads

We continued walking and taking in the sights of this bucolic village escape. We didn’t find anyone here. It seemed like a farming village.

487-Steps Trail

487-Steps Trail lies at the south gate of Qingjing Skywalk. I was tired and skipped this path. Basil climbed for a bit and returned in 20 minutes.  There are other trails in Qingjing, but we decided to call it a day. We had lunch at the local 7-Eleven and then caught the bus back to our B&B. We spent the rest of the evening in our room.

Moonlight

Sunrise may have been disappointing, but moonrise was spectacular. We got VIP seats for this celestial event at the balcony of our B&B. The clouds spread across the sky and touched the higher peaks of the mountains. 

Spending an extra night in Qingjing wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Walkers. Wanderers. Travellers. Now in Seoul.

29 replies on “Sunrise at Taiwan’s Hehuan Mountain

    1. Awww! No, I’m not an intrepid traveller. Basil surely is one. I’m the weak link on every trip. lol. I barely survive the journey. I’m amazed by your walks and the places you take me to (virtually). I’m a fan! xoxo

    1. Thanks a bunch! We’ve been following each other for years now. 🙂 I love your pictures through Japan. Basil’s done the hard work of capturing these pictures. He’d be happy to read your comment. Thanks for joining the conversation. It’s always good to hear from you. 🙂

  1. Looks like an amazing place. Your account about getting lost in translation brought back a memory of my trip to Shenzhen. I had specifically stated that I wanted an English- speaking guide but the one I got couldn’t speak a word of English but rattled off non-stop in Mandarin, even trying to sell us souvenirs at various times. Another family of 4 who happened to be Malay became so irritated by the non-stop ‘noise’ that one male member actually told the guide to shut up. By the time I got back to the hotel in the evening, I was feeling traumatised and even suffered from a headache. However, like you said, the views made all these little setbacks worthwhile.

    1. I guess we didn’t have much choice here. We assumed it would be in English or he’d know some English. lol. I’m not complaining. I would love to learn Mandarin someday. We had a similar problem in Mainland China. I guess they like to crack jokes and have a nice trip. It’s all fine. I just like solitude in the morning, especially during sunrise. It’s spiritual for me. 🙂 It was worth it!

    1. Taroko National Park is vast! I’m writing a more detailed account in my next post. You don’t need to do the sunrise tour. There wasn’t any hiking on this tour. It was just a car ride. 🙂 It was a great experience. Those mountains look amazing.

  2. I love your posts, your wonderful images and how you detail your experiences. I smiled when you said the tour was only in Chinese….may be a gift to be able to just focus on the beauty. Your night shots and sunrise “sunstar” are outstanding and I smiled at the jumping shot. You got some people in your shot. 🤣

    1. Hi Jane! How have you been? Your comment made my day! I love your photography and I’m a big fan. Basil’s taking his photography more seriously now. I’m happy because I can just dream and not bother about pictures. 🙂 Sunrise, sunstar, and moonlight were shot by him. He changed his camera hoping to capture the Milky Way in Taiwan. We didn’t see the Milky Way on this trip. 😦 I clicked the jumping shot. It couldn’t resist. 🙂

      1. I’m doing well, Cheryl, thanks! Basil has a great eye and you both are a dynamic duo with your writing and photography. Night shots are a challenge and fun to do- Basil got some nice constellations. 🙂 Best to you both in your travels. 😁

  3. This place look awesome. In my opinion, two best pictures are 1) the frame in which the sun is yet to appear 2) the sun in the background with flower in the foreground. I feel the entire SE Asia including China goes crazy with pictures. I find it amusing when the Chinese never fail to count 1,2,3 before pressing the shutter.

  4. Well you guys really are troopers to get up at such an ungodly hour and then also find out that the guide did not speak English! The woods, the trail and the flowers all look so lovely and your photos give a great sense of the place. I especially love the moonlit shots.

    One of the reasons why we prefer not to go with guides (unless absolutely necessary and yes there are those times!) is what you experienced here of the guide sticking to his own agenda and not being able to stop where you want to. Those things can be frustrating. Although of course its always great to have the relief of not dealing with directions and logistics. Does seem like overall though it was all a worthwhile experience! Thanks for sharing.

    peta

    1. Hi Peta! We’ve got used to waking early for sunrise tours. It started in Jeju (South Korea) and Indonesia was a test of our resilience. 🙂 The woods were a surprise find. I wish we had more time to explore them. We got lucky with the moon.
      I agree about tour guides. We avoid them on most trips. It’s hard to find transportation for this stretch of the trip. It was worth the effort! Thanks for stopping by. xoxo
      Cheryl

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