The view from my hotel was once again beautiful. I knew I was in for a treat as I woke up to this stunning view seen below. We packed up our stuff again and loaded into our vans. This was our third hotel to stay in since I had come to Taiwan. It was lots of packing and unpacking, but totally worth the effort. That morning we were to visit one tea district and then in the afternoon we could visit another.
The first tea district was Shan-Lin-Si. It is in the mountains about 4,000 feet high. According to the tea master, his tea garden was the most photographed of all the tea fields in Taiwan. He says he built the garden according to the lay of the land which gave him this "Baqua" shape. If you are not familiar with "Baqua" as I was not, it is a Feng Shui term used to describe a shape that means there are 8 sides going in 4 directions in a circular fashion. I think the picture of the tea garden best describes it.
The tea master told us the people visit from all over to study the garden and try to recreate it, but they can't. Since the world is a unique place and no two people are just alike, I guess no two tea gardens can be the same either! But we all enjoyed a taste of the wonderful teas from this garden. He had interesting cups for us to sip our tea from. They were small white porcelain cups with two small blue fish painted on the bottom of the cup. As the tea swirled in my cup, it almost made the little fish look like they were swimming!
After our lovely visit and tasting at the "Baqua" tea garden, we headed to our next destination, but not before a wonderful lunch. I just loved the way the meals in Taiwan are served family style. I have to say I got quite adept at using chopsticks after using them for every meal!
Our drive in the mountains was quite interesting. The picture below shows our vans enroute to the tea garden. We are not on a one way road as it may appear. This road is two-way traffic winding up and around the mountains-sometimes with full 180 degree turns. There was a three-way radio being used so that the drivers could communicate between each other. Since I was in the last van, we would be alerted to oncoming vehicles and we would pull over. It appeared many times that there wasn't enough room for the sometimes large vehicles to get by, but they always seemed to manage.
In addition to the narrow two-way roads winding up and down the mountain, there were many places that the road had been washed out due to typhoons and storms. If you can see beyond the fog (yes, it was foggy too) in the picture below, the road has been washed out with no guard rails either. To make it just a little bit more interesting, it was raining on and off due to the typhoon that was edging its way along Taiwan. I have to say, it made for a very exciting drive and I was very glad for the beautiful scenery to turn my attention away from our travel conditions!
Our vans got us safely to our next stop which was in the Ali Shan Tea District. Tea Master Steve surprised us by showing up at the tea garden. The garden is run by one of the farmers he has been working with to help make his tea production more modern. It amused me to see that it doesn't matter where you are in the world, men love their toys and remotes. Below is a picture of how the solar panel (black covering) and the rain protective panel (white covering) can cover the withering tea leaves which would be laying on the a canvas on the concrete. But, the cool thing is, it can all be done by one click of a button from a remote control! We saw many other automated things that Steve has helped the farmer with and then we were off to his tea fields!
A short trip from the factory was a beautiful tea garden. To top it off, the sun came out and the sky turned blue.
The garden was literally in the clouds. I always wonder when I fly and look out the window of the plane, what it would be like to be in the clouds. Now, I know. The tea fields were lush and green. The contrast between the vibrant green leaves of the Camellia Sinensis, the white billowy clouds, and the blue sky took my breath away. Talk about feeling like you were on top of the world.
We managed to get down the mountain safely without incident, even though we added darkness into the other problematic road conditions. After a wonderful dinner, we then transferred from our vans into the larger bus and headed back to Taipei for our next adventure. Below is our group enjoying their dinner and thankful for arriving safely out of the mountains.
This day was so amazing. How I wish all of you could "be on top of the world." I am looking forward to sharing with you the rest of my tea trip in the next few blogs.
What part of my trip has been your favorite to read about? Do you feel like I am taking you there virtually? I do hope so.
Happy Travels and Sipping, Lisa