Ultimate Backpacking : Snow, Hitchhiking, and All That (Day 1)

I’ve been ranting a lot about how irritating winter is in Northern Taiwan. Taiwan’s humidity makes cold weather difficult to bear, and it doesn’t even snow. Except in some of its high mountains, such as Hehuan mountain and Guanshan. Since winter’s almost ending, me and my friends decided to take a trip to Hehuan mountain last Wednesday and unexpectedly our trip turned into something more than just the pleasure of playing with snow.

None of us really knew the exact way to go to Hehuan Mt. by public transportation. It turned out that we had to take a bus from Taichung city to Puli town of Nantou, and from there take another bus to Hehuan Mt. Since the bus didn’t go all the way to the top, we had to find a car from our last stop. We finally got a car rental (which was pretty expensive – I think we were tricked by the driver >.< ). We didn’t really go all the way to the peak of the mountain, but pretty close to the top, I think. The total time we spent going from Taichung to the mountain top was around 7 hours. So long I know, but it was due to the long queue of cars also eager to get to the top.

After spending some time taking pictures, the day had finally gotten darker, and we had to descend back to the nearest town to find some place to sleep. The problem is, we had no idea how to go. There were no more buses, and even if there were, we still had to walk some distance (approximately > 6 km) to get to the bus stop. We also didn’t have the number of the driver who’d taken us up. I guess we didn’t want to spend money anymore only for him to take us down a few km.

We decided to walk at first to the nearest crowded place. We’d seen a parking area before as we went up, maybe there we could find something to eat and think our way through the situation. After walking some time through the cold dark road, only depending on passing cars’ lights to show the way, we finally got to the place and bought some hot soup.

It was already 7 p.m. when we decided to get back, and the only solution that we came up with was to try out hitchhiking. We had no other choice, anyway. It was cold and dark and far from any town. We dared ourselves to stop the first coming car, and how lucky of us that it was of a very kind young couple with their toddler who accepted to let us in without the slightest hesitation.

I’ve never hitchhiked before (okay, I had once but in a totally different setting), and this couple just let us in, drove us happily to the nearest town and even offered to help us find a place to sleep. They were so friendly, and the weirdest part was this : on our way, the young couple made a stop near a gas station because they needed to go to the toilet, and they just left us in their car – keys and bags still there – saying : “Just wait a minute, okay? Don’t any of you need to go to the restroom?” We were shocked at how they really just trusted us with their belongings. We were strangers no matter what!

After a 2 hour drive, the couple finally dropped us at the center of Puli town, after we politely turned down their offer to help us find some hotel. It was too much. They themselves need to rest, we thought.

And now comes our next problem : we hadn’t the slightest idea where to sleep that night. We didn’t really plan on staying at Puli, so none of us actually researched on where to say there. We decided to eat first, and try to figure things out. We found an Indonesian restaurant, and the woman there told us about a hotel she knew nearby.

After eating, we tried to find the hotel, but with no results. When we saw a police station on our way, we came up with the idea to just get in there and ask directions from some police officers. They told us to just walk along that same road we’ve been going, but to the opposite direction. We should find some 5 or 6 hotels and ask for room.

After walking well more than 1 km, we did find some hotels, 5 of them, but they were all full. No room for us. We should have guessed. It was Chinese New Year vacation time, alright. It was already almost 12 p.m. We decided to walk back to the direction where we’d started, thinking what we should do. Maybe we should just go back to the police station and ask if we can sleep in one of their cells? Maybe we should just sleep on the steps in front of a bank building? Maybe we should find KTV and rent a karaoke room for the night and just sleep there? We doubt this small town has KTV, though. Maybe we should find the bus station and sleep there?

Desperate and certain that we would definitely not sleep well that night, we decided to walk to the bus station. On our way, two aged men were talking and looking curiously at us. We, too, looked at them, thinking whether or not we should ask them if they know where KTV is in this town. Surprisingly, they talked to us first and asked why we were wandering about at this time of the night with heavy bags on our shoulders (I’m almost certain that’s what they had asked in Chinese :D ).

After my friend explained our situation to them, they told us that we could try looking at another street, just across us to our right. There are some hotels there, but on the smaller streets, not on the main road.

Feeling hope again, we walked to the direction they’d told us, and yes! We saw a small hotel named Jin Shan Hotel. They only had one room left, and they were hesitating on accepting 8 people to sleep in there. Finally they did let us take the room, gave us extra mattresses and blankets and pillows all for 3000 NTD.

1 a.m. and we finally got each a proper place to sleep. What’s with today and all the unexpected help we got? First on our way down Hehuan Mt., next on our desperate need of some place to sleep in Puli.

It was a tiring day, but definitely still great.

… to be continued.

– cheers to all – 

3 thoughts on “Ultimate Backpacking : Snow, Hitchhiking, and All That (Day 1)

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