Sunday, October 25, 2009

sulfur baths and dark mountains

Taiwan story of the week!

When my family lived in Taipei, Taiwan we would go up into the lush, tropical mountains for mini-vacations.  I can't remember the name of the place...guo lian, I think.  
Anyhow, we'd borrow the OMF van and drive a few hours outside the city until the air smelled green and all the trees were heavy with mist.  There was a resort that had warm, smelly sulfur water for all its running water, and had a man-made river of sulfur water curving through its grounds.
We always seemed to go on an outrageously rainy weekend, and so most of our time was spent in the pouring rain which was actually chilly up in the mountains.  The first time we arrived, my parents unloaded all of our stuff and wondered what they could do with three little kids cooped up in a room with just tatami mats and a sulfur bath.
But I really wanted to go play outside on the playground, and so after putting on raincoats, we all ventured out into the wet.  You haven't really lived until you've experienced a tropical rainstorm: 'torrential' just doesn't cut it.

Our raincoats were clad in vain, but I had a great time riding the flying fox and playing on all but the most slippery play equipment.  When our lips were decidedly blue, we all filed back and cooked beans and hot dogs (but I remember ramen noodles, I think.  at any rate, Dad had brought a bunsen burner) and waited our turn for the sulfur bath.

Now I've heard many times that sulfur smells like rotting eggs, but to me it just smells very strongly.  It has a smell so earthy that is repulsive only until you let yourself get used to it.  Anyhow, all the sulfur water was very warm, even the outside river through the resort. 
We would wear our swimsuits, put on sweatpants and a sweater, walk through the rain, and then quickly strip our warm clothes and jump into the steaming sulfur water.

We must have gone to the sulfur resort quite a few times, and only one time was it sunny.  That visit we made use of the trails for the first time, and discovered a beautiful hidden waterfall with rainbows in the spray.

But all those times with the rain made the mountains look like a classic Chinese watercolor picture.  My parents have a scroll with dark mountains and misty trees and the illusion of rain, and that captures something of the mountain vacations.

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