This year's trip was to the northern area of the east coast of Taiwan (see picture on the right). Synaptics chartered a tour bus for this trip, and they did a really nice job of taking us down the scenic coastal route and stopping every hour or two along the way.
There were some spectacular views from the bus of the East coast. Pictured to the right is one of the ones we snapped from the bus that gives a nice typical view - here, you can see the very mountainous coastline with dramatic rocks jutting out of the water and gorgeous green peaks all around. Most of the drive looked this way, which made it really hard to sleep despite the fact that Melanie and I combined for a total 4 hours of sleep the night before we left - cest la vie.
After a couple hours of driving down the coast, we started ducking into the valleys to the West of the coast. We stopped for lunch at a place called 牛鬥鱒魚大餐午餐, where we had a nice lunch at a pastoral stop that had a alarmingly well stocked Koi pond. Here are a couple photos.
After lunch, we continued to drive into the valley and came across a pretty neat sight. Pictured here is a river bed the likes of which I have never seen before (which really isn't saying a whole lot). As you can see, this is an INCREDIBLY broad channel cut by the water even though the flow shown in this picture (far left) is scarcely more than a trickle. The reason for this disparity is an excellent illustration of the power of the typhoons that come through here - this mild-mannered stream becomes a raging river whenever one of nature's monster storms comes blowing through.
...But back to the tour...
We then proceeded to an area called "棲蘭森林遊樂區~蔣公行館, 森林浴, 觀景涼亭"...I don't know what this means either, but it sure is a pretty place. This used to be the area surrounding one of Chiang Kai Shek's country homes. Most of this part of the tour was in Chinese, and I am pretty much illiterate (sigh) so I don't know all of the details; however, this place apparently has some sort of historical significance in the recent history of Taiwan.
Personally, I thought the most interesting part of this portion of the tour had to do with the backyard. There is a gorgeous trail that winds its way through the mountain behind the house. It takes about 45-60 minutes to hike the whole thing, mainly because there are some pretty steep steps to climb. Here you can see a few photos of the scenery.
Here is a nice little bridge where we rested for a little while, as well as a rock that hopefully doesn't say anything bad about Melanie. In the photo on the left are seated (from left to right) Vincent, Kevin, Melanie, Vivian, and David.
We also caught a nice shot of Melanie here in the little garden in front of the house. We took this picture after the hike and a nice cup of tea at the cafe near the house. This was right at sunset, and although the weather was a bit overcast, it still capped off a very pleasant day.
To the left is a picture with what could possibly be the world's cutest baby - Yang Yang. I'll go out on a limb on this one and say that Melanie's clock started going off like a klaxon when we met this little guy. I must admit that he was pretty darn cute, but there must be 100 little devils for a baby like Yang Yang, so pragmatism wins out (for now).