January 20 Lalashan, Taiwan

On Sunday, we drove out to Lalashan National Forest to see the God trees. I think a closer English translation from the Chinese might be the Divine trees, but I like the sound and symbolism  of God trees. So large, so beautiful, so close to God in the heavens…. And Lala Shan translates to beautiful mountain from the Chinese. These are both very appropriate translations to describe this area of Taiwan.

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Cute sign!

I have been trying to see these trees since I first started coming to Taiwan. I had read that they were amazing. And they are! These trees are from 500 – 2,800 years old. The characteristics of these giant juniper trees makes them seem like something from a fairy tale. They are very tall, like the coastal redwood trees. And they have trunks at their base unlike any other trees that I have seen. 17 different types of epiphytes can be growing on their trunks and branches.

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Jeff standing next to a tree with many different epiphytes

These God trees were very, very tall. So we had the same problem photographing them as happens with the coastal redwood trees. How do you get them to fit in a single photo?

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Harmony standing on the path at the base of a tree. She is very small, and the entire tree still doesn’t fit in my photo frame!

This was not even one of the taller, more famous trees. The famous trees all had their own signs. There were 24 of them with these special signs.

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God tree sign. These signs were also very cute!

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Looking up towards the top of the tree

These trees also had the most amazing trunks!

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A split trunk that looks like two trees growing together

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Jeff standing on a platform near the base of a trunk of one of the god trees

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A god tree with a really wide trunk base

I took many, many photos of these amazing trees, just like I seem to do every time I visit the redwood trees in California. Hopefully, I will get an album online soon that I can link to this post with more tree photos.

I would love to come back and see these trees again, but I am not sure if I will be able to. The reason for saying that is because you have to drive halfway along Taiwan’s northeastern cross mountain road to get to the road that leads to Lalashan. This road is spectacular, and also not easy to drive. Much of it is one lane, hung off the side of the mountains. It has many, many switchbacks and curves, so the driver has to always be hyper-aware, watching for traffic that might come around the curve in the opposite direction. Then when two cars meet, going in the opposite directions, comes the tricky maneuver. Which driver carefully backs up until they reach a part of the road wide enough to allow the cars to get around each other? Mostly, it is okay because there is not a lot of traffic on this road, going either direction. Still, even in the middle of the cross mountain road, you can run into the unexpected. We were winding down a mountain to a one lane bridge across a river gorge when suddenly there were cars and two trucks parked along the road, and people all over the bridge. Jeff parked, and we got out to see what was going on. Can you tell what was happening from this photo?

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Woman getting ready to bungee over a river gorge

We had come across the Taipei Bungee Jumping Club. This bridge was very high, and on a low traffic road, so it was perfect for jumping off!  We watched for awhile. It looked like they were having a lot of fun, safely. Then we continued on our way. Jeff drove the entire road, and did a great job! Neither Harmony or I had brought international drivers licences, so we could not drive the rental car.

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Harmony near a statue of Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek slept here. This might be the Taiwanese version of George Washington slept here. But in this case, he did. Twice. Our final stop for the day was at Cilan National Forest, at the other end (eastern) side of the northern cross mountain highway.  In August 1963 and August 1966, late president Chiang Kai-shek stayed in the chateau here. So they have turned it into a museum to commemorate this stay. Cute, and kind of creepy at the same time.

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Jeff taking photos in front of the small chateau where Chiang Kai-shek stayed in Cilan

A recording inside the chateau kept playing his voice, talking about something. And they had left the chateau set up exactly like it was fifty years ago.

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The living room with his photo with his wife over the fireplace

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Chiang Kai-shek slept here in the bedroom

The view from the living room, dining room, and porch was magnificent.

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Jeff and Harmony relaxing on the porch at Chiang Kai-shek’s chateau

Behind the chateau, there was a trail through the forest. This was a beautiful, sub-tropical forest, like many that I have hiked through in other parts of Taiwan. It had ferms, palms, vines, and lots of trees.

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Harmony hiking in the Cilan forest

It also had monkeys.

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Monkey in the Cilan forest

It was not the same type of forest as the God tree forest, but still it was very beautiful it was getting dark, so we only hiked about one third of the way up in the mountains before we turned around and headed  back to eat dinner in the restaurant here. We drove back to Taipei by the easier route, the road with all of the tunnels blasted through the mountains between Yilan and the Taipei area.

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