More Than Just a Hike to the top of Elephant Mountain
Taipei 101 can be seen from almost any area in Taipei because of its stature, but the most amazing view can be seen atop the Elephant Mountain — you just need to hike hundreds of steps.
It was a Wednesday. From our hotel in Zhongzheng, we took the MRT from Beimen Station towards Xiangshan Station. The commute took thirty minutes. As we approach the exit of Xiangshan Station, I slowly started to feel nervous as I am afraid I would give up and not finish the hike. You see, my last hike was three years ago, and that time, I was still relatively fit. Fast forward to present, I have gained a lot of pounds, and I am unfit as ever.
As we make it to the street, our lips frowned at the sight of the rain. It was raining heavily. Kevin and I talked it over if we should push through with the hike. We don't want to risk it as we might get sick, and it can compromise our trip. It's just the second day of our trip after all. We decided to just wait hoping the rain would stop soon. We saw a small pavilion, and stayed there. While waiting, at the back of my head, I felt relieved that we won't be able to hike as the rain poured harder. But after an hour of waiting, the pouring rain became a drizzle. Kevin thought it's the best time to start the hike. I concurred.
When we stepped out of the pavilion, we were confused on where exactly the trail starts. There were only two directions to head to: right or left; we turned left. We followed a path that led us to a seemingly trail start. But something was wrong: no one was there; only an uncle taking selfies with Taipei 101 on his background. He saw us, and approached us asking if we are going to hike the mountain. We said yes. He told us we were on the wrong place, and he will bring us to the start of the trail. But before we left, he asked us for a favour if we can take photos of him. Of course, we obliged. Every time I took a shot, he would check it. It took me four or five shots before he got contented with the picture. On the way to the trail, uncle asked us if we are from the Philippines. He told us he has been to Manila a couple of times as his former company did some business in the city. He asked us a lot of questions, and we gladly answered them all. After walking for a few minutes, we reached the start of the trail. We thanked uncle, and bid him goodbye.
Unfortunately, it started raining again. Heavily.
We ran for cover, and we waited for around 20 minutes, but there were no signs of the rain subsiding. We were close to giving up. But then we saw a provision shop; we went there hoping they sell umbrellas. As expected, the store owner, an aunty, cannot speak English, so I took aid from my handphone to translate the word umbrella, and showed it to her. To our dismay, she shook her head no. Kevin and I looked at each other, thinking the exact same thing: let's just ditch the hike. As we were about to head back to the station, and just carry on to the next place in our itinerary, an uncle who was walking his dog has, apparently, overheard our conversation, or lack thereof, with the shop owner. He has an umbrella, and he happily offered it to us. We were hesitant at first to accept it, but he was so keen and insisting — he kept saying goodbye while eagerly waving his hands up like telling us to just go and hike the freaking mountain. We were so grateful; we have uttered “xièxie“ many times. We told him we will return the umbrella once we’re back down.
It was still raining, but we already have an umbrella. There was no stopping us now. The sight of the steps is so overwhelming -- there were literally hundreds! As expected, after a climbing a few, I already lost my breath. I stopped whenever I needed to. We also stopped by the viewing platforms to admire the view and to take some photos. We met three teenage girls who were also taking photos on the viewing platform. Using hand signs, I asked them if they can take a picture of us, and in return I will also take pictures of them. They gladly accepted.We went on and continued the hike afterwards, but we met the girls again when we are nearing the top. It's funny because the other hikers easily passed by us, while the five of us barely can't catch our breaths. Suddenly, I shouted, "Let's go!", for encouragement. I think the girls completely understood the message I was trying to convey. We continued climbing the steps, and finally reached the top.
Upon seeing the beautiful view, and realising how high we are, these words came out of my mouth: "We finally made it!"
Going down the mountain was quite easy. It was still raining, but we didn't mind much.
I am still in awe of the kindness we received from the people we met during this hike, despite the language barrier. Kevin and I added this hike to our itinerary just to see Taipei's wonderful skyline. Little did we know it will be more than that. This is the reason why I love travelling: it always surprises me.