I am a STEM quadruple major and recent University of Washington graduate. I currently work as a Software Engineer at Facebook.
Read more about me via the links on this page, and feel free to e-mail me with any questions.
|2014||Apr||+||Software Engineer @ Facebook|
|2013||Aug||-||Undergrad @ UW|
|2009||Aug-Dec||Study Abroad in Europe|
|2007||Sep||+||Undergrad @ UW|
|Secure e-mail||read here|
If you can guess where the cover photo was taken, I will add your name to a list of winners (coming soon).
Here are the latest photos and posts from my blog.
Power was out today between around 1 PM and 11:22 PM. In these kinds of scenarios, one typically panics and looks for friends who have power. In contrast, my overnight biking trips gave me confidence in enjoying life without too many conveniences. We actually were in a great situation, comparatively:
We spent the day cleaning the kitchen and pantry. We then decided to head to Lynnwood to meet up with friends and play board games, but turned around prematurely due to traffic - Southbound I-5 was mostly blocked due to a fallen tree, and local streets were busy. It took us a while to navigate back home.
We then went out to eat dinner, brought some other friends back, lit up a bunch of candles, and played board games! I then started thinking about going to sleep… and the lights came on.
It’s Sunday morning in the forest of Deception Pass State Park. Cold. I have only a little food (with a little more reserve food). The plan is to explore the park on an empty stomach and only eat in Oak Harbor sometime later. It is seven in the morning, which is actually rather late - the sun rose at six. The tent is packed, and here is the full campsite (and the bike, of course):
The morning is very foggy here, on Reflection Lake.
Yesterday evening I bought a $2 map of the entire park with all its trails. I decided that I only have the patience to explore a little bit on bike, so I went to North Beach. It was foggy there, too.
The trees were magnificent.
I climbed back to the bridge, which is what most people think of when they come to Deception Pass (because they don’t think to explore). It’s actually fairly low, compared to all the other climbs I would do that day (Whidbey Island is quite hilly!) - and I was lucky to experience both the blanket fog and periods of opening up.
I walked the bike North across both bridges, taking pictures along the way. Then I put away the camera and slowly rolled South, taking a last look at the lack of any view, before speeding up and making full speed to Oak Harbor.
… that was a lie. I stopped at least three times to take pictures, but they’re not worth more than a mention. Oak Harbor itself was preparing for a hydroplane race, but they seemed to be preparing slowly enough that I decided I would have enough time for breakfast - or, brunch, rather.
An hour (or more) later, the race had still not started, so I took one last look at Oak Harbor and continued on.
The route down Whidbey Island doesn’t actually follow the highway all the time - occasionally it turns off to side roads. One such side road runs between Penn Cove, connected to the Skagit Bay, and the Kennedy Lagoon.
The next stop was Coupeville. The town looks like an ordinary residential area from the highway - but the old town is something else entirely. There is the Coupeville Wharf with a gift shop and some shipping history, and there is the waterfront street with its cafes and locally famous ice cream.
“Main street” leads out of town, crosses the highway, then continues straight South, passing colorful fields and eventually reaching Fort Casey.
The rest of the island was rather uneventful, except that I saw two deer: one alive and completely at home, the other progressing toward a carcass. Sad.
I took the ferry to Mukilteo. At both the Clinton and Mukilteo ferry terminals there is no separate pedestrian walkway, so pedestrians and bicyclists board and alight in the same way as cars. For the cars, it means they have to wait to load, and then wait again to unload. For the bicyclists, it means we are the first on and the first off.
This is where it got weird. The best part about returning to the Eastside was the route along 527 from Mill Creek to Canyon Park. It is direct, has a bike lane, and slopes very gently downhill the entire way. The weird part was the North Creek Trail or, rather, the many parts of it from Canyon Park to Woodinville. They were not labeled as “North Creek Trail”, parts were not paved, and, most annoyingly, there were no directional signs. I would have very much liked a sign saying “this way to Woodinville / Cascadia College / UW Bothell / Sammammish River Trail”. Instead, I felt compelled to check my phone for directions every few minutes.
At UW Bothell, the trail became straightforward, and I soon entered familiar territory.
GPS track: https://www.strava.com/activities/370816521
The idea of a trip to the Skagit valley came in Spring of this year, but the recent purchase of camping gear (which I first used for STP) and the timing of the RSVP (annual Seattle to Vancouver ride) finalized the plans and determined the direction of the tour. On Saturday morning, I rode out, stopping as customary for a stretch break at Martha Lake in Lynnwood and for breakfast in Snohomish.
In Snohomish I met up with the bikers headed for Vancouver and rode with them until Mount Vernon. Meet A. and C.:
I found them right outside Bakery Creations in Snohomish. I was just about to stop for a 30-minute breakfast break, while they were getting ready to leave. From there, I was too busy trying to catch up to take pictures.
In Mount Vernon, A. C. and I split up - the RSVP bikers went North, while I continued straight into the town, then toward La Conner.
The fields began in earnest:
I arrived in La Conner just before the stores closed and was able to get a sandwich, eating half and saving half for the evening.
La Conner is a fun small town with a small shopping street, waterfront, seaplane tours, etc.
It also has a bridge across the Swinomish Channel, which separates Hidalgo Island from the mainland. On the other side of the bridge is Swinomish territory.
The road soon became hilly, as I rolled through valleys and ascended hills on the way to Deception Pass.
Exploring the park itself would have to wait until check-in. I got a campsite without an issue. Two of the five hiker / biker campsites were open, and I got assurance that there were reserves in case all of them fill up. The cost was only $12 - a small fraction of what a regular car site costs. To get to the campsite I was sent along a narrow trail in order to avoid a hill past the park entrance.
I then set up my tent, relaxed a bit, then rode to the coast to watch the sunset.
GPS track here: https://www.strava.com/activities/369918207
This is the second installment of the STP 2015 series in which I describe the second day’s ride from Chehalis to Portland, but which begins with the night in Chehalis.
After dinner, which consisted of cheap all-you-can-eat spaghetti, I went directly to sleep. The night was good, with the exception of the sleeping bag being a bit too warm and the slight worry over road rash. (Fortunately, the road rash went away the next day, I applied the lubricant I got from a stand in Centralia, and was not bothered again.) The previous night I only got three hours of sleep with all the packing and trying to attach the number to the shirt, and this was a catch-up.
My home for the night:
The next morning, I packed everything back into the garbage bag and threw it back into the truck. Breakfast consisted of all-you-can-eat pancakes, eggs, and some meat thing.
The morning was cold. The cold was probably compounded by the fact that the only hot beverage they had was coffee. After breakfast, it was still cold, and the first twenty minutes were hard. Then the body woke up and again started feeling comfortable stopping and taking shots of the countryside.
The road was actually climbing another hill. At the top of the hill was Napavine. The name of the town derives from a local language and has nothing to do with (grape) vines or the Napa Valley. It is a small town that votes overwhelmingly Republican and, to STP riders, is known for its banana bread.
The next stop after Napavine was Winlock.
Winlock turned into Vader, Vader became Castle Rock, but neither had much of free food. (Vader had bananas, but by donation, and who collects donations for bananas.) Then came the official food stop in Lexington.
And then came Longview, and we got stuck in traffic. To be fair to all the drivers and truckers, we were the reason for the traffic, and we also had to wait in it. The reason for the mess was that bicyclists and cars / trucks took turns crossing the Lewis-Clark Bridge over the Columbia River. In the next photo, we the highway and bridge are to the viewer’s left, the river to the viewer’s far ahead.
When it did come to be our turn, we were warned to stay off the bike lane lest our tires be popped and our water bottles surrendered due to a metal plate on the downhill. Indeed, I saw a scattering of water bottles and even some tools on the shoulder as I slowly descended on the Oregon side of the bridge.
Oregon it was.
From here until St. John’s bridge, we simply followed the highway. There was another food stop at St. Helens High School.
Then came more of the highway and, finally, the crossing into Portland and St. John’s Bridge.
The other side of the bridge felt like Portland proper - an urban microcenter, followed by single-family houses and very bike-friendly streets. The finish was close.
This is the story of my pilgrimage to Portland. At the finish I finally bought a bike jersey (but not the official one - they were, as always, sold out), picked up my “free gift” (an aluminum cup), and cached in my meal ticket (for a tiny portion of soup noodles they dared call pad thai). I wished then that I didn’t have to go to work the next day, and thus could continue my trip to Newport, and down the coast all the way to San Francisco or beyond. But that will have to wait a bit.
GPS Track: https://www.strava.com/activities/344915686
On July 11-12 I joined about ten thousand others in a two-day ride from Seattle to Portland. It was my organized ride or, as I put it then, the first time wearing a number. The total length is 331 km - I logged 348 km, which include 10 km to get from my house to the start line, because it doesn’t count unless I start at my house. Thus, I started at 6:16 at the minus-tenth kilometer, managing to stuff all of my baggage onto the bike.
On overnight solo rides, this is what my bike would look like.
At the start line, I pulled everything out of the paniers, stuffed it into a garbage back, and tossed it on the Chehalis-bound truck. The paniers then folded up, and all that was left in the bag was my camera, a spare water bottle some emergency food, and a spare shirt. The wind jacket I brought mysteriously disappeared somewhere between my house and the start line.
The first food stop was in Kent, the first place where I witnessed a sea of bikes (other than the start line).
We continued parallel to the Interurban Trail, then into Puyallup. In Puyallup came “The Hill”, the dreaded part of the STP which, actually, seemed easier than the Maple Leaf Hill I climb twice during my commute to work.
The most exciting part of the trip was the path through Joint Base Lewis-McCord. Interestingly, some groups of the STP detoured around the base. I’m not sure if this is because of moral objections or lack of permits. Going through the base was great because we got the roads to ourselves and biked in peace and quiet.
And the most exciting part of the most exciting part was the lunch stop at the McCord Airfield.
There was a town at the South entrance to the base, and that town was called Roy.
From Roy we took the highway to Yelm. We knew we were in Yelm because of an ugly old water tower.
We then took the Yelm-Tenino trail. The trail passes by a lake where I decided to take a break, eat some snacks, and watch the water.
I got to Tenino, it was starting to rain. I made the best use of the
spare shirt, loaded up on Clif bars (just in case) and made full speed
to Centralia, and thence to Chehalis where I called for the night.
GPS track: https://www.strava.com/activities/344128124
I have a backlog of biking trips to share. This one is a slow ride from the Kingston ferry terminal to the Bremerton ferry terminal: https://www.strava.com/activities/338521305
I wasted a lot of time sitting on a beach near Port Gamble and staring at the water (the beach may have been an abandoned graveyard, and the town has plans to clean up the polluted water), as well as in the Port Gamble museum (mostly about the two families which originally formed a European settlement there). The restaurant / bar above the museum serves high-quality organic brunch food at prices comparable to mainstream Seattle brunch locations.
The road is very pleasant into Port Gamble, and also down into Poulsbo and all the way until Silverdale. Silverdale is a huge car mall with wide roads and lots of traffic. South of Silverdale, the road is pleasant again until it becomes Kitsap Way - the shoulder there is annoying to bike on. Finally, Bremerton and it’s confusing one-way downtown and ferry terminal.
On one Saturday morning, as I rode the bus to the market, I heard an unfamiliar PSA on the bus loudspeakers. Intrigued, I recorded all three of them with my cell phone.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one who was intrigued. After many complaints from both passengers and drivers, the PSAs were pulled two days later.
Here they are. All three of them.
Last Saturday I rode my bike into Mt. Rainier National Park. Starting in Sumner (ST 587 Seattle - Puyallup, every hour), I followed the most popular section of the Foothills Trail to South Prairie. (Last fall I traversed the entire trail.) I then took the direct route toward the Carbon River entrance.
The second set of five photos was taken inside the park.
There used to be a gravel road along Carbon River to Ipsut Campground. After the road was damaged during the floods of 2006, the Park Service decided to close the road to MVs and instead turn it into a bikeable trail. It mostly is bikeable, with a few rough patches. It does provide very easy access to the Wonderland Trail, though I didn’t have any time left to go on the trail.
What’s missing is any view of Mt. Rainier, at least from the main road. I did catch a glimpse of just the cap from a spur trail. The Wonderland Trail definitely has its views, too.
Last Saturday I went on another long bike ride [https://www.strava.com/activities/288042332]. I left at 06:25, took the Interurban Trail North to Martha Lake, then descended to Snohomish, where I had second breakfast. Around 09:30 I continued North along the Centennial Trail to Machias, then took a country road in a loop that ended in Monroe. By this time, it was noon. From Monroe I continued South along my usual route (get off SR-203 as fast as possible), ending up in Redmond, then Factoria around 15:30.
Today’s bike ride was easy and slow. Photos from Myrtle Edwards Park, Ballard Locks, and Golden Gardens Park.
Houtong Cat Village is a cat village. Interestingly, the name Houtong means “monkey cave”. It also has a burned-down coal plant. And cats. Lots of cats.
Getting here is easy. Train from Taipei to Ruifang, then Ruifang to Houtong. It’s a good intermediate stop before exploring the Pingxi line, as Pingxi trains tend to stop either here or in Ruifang. I went on to Sandiaoling to hike the waterfall trail, but that’s in the next post.
After I returned from Tamsui, J. and I had lunch near Dongmen. The place is called Kao-chi, and they specialize in shengjianbao. After lunch we went to another place where we had shaved ice. We also explored an underground mall and a department store.
That evening I went to the Shilin night market. Special mention to the hujiaobing stand - they sell crispy dumplings cooked in a large pot. The line was long, and I regret only buying one.
This is Tamsui (Danshui, meaning “fresh water”, as contrasted with “salt water”). It is here that Tamsui River meets the Taiwan Strait. Here also is the history of George Leslie Mackay, a dentist-missionary who lived here.
Tamsui is a lovely place, and it’s a pity that I had so little time to spend here.
It’s several months late, but I would like to finish my Taiwan story.
The taxi dropped me off close to the Taichung railway station (not HSR), and I bought the train ticket to Taipei. By this time, my phone battery was dead, but I had plenty of backup power on my laptop. So, I connected the phone to the laptop, turned it on, tethered the laptop back to the phone, got on-line, found the number for the hostel, and used the train station’s payphone to call the hostel and warn them that I would be arriving late. This was the last logistical difficulty on the trip, except for the return to the US - the next few days in Taipei would be more or less straightforward.
The train arrived in Taipei Main Station around 12:10, that is, twenty minutes before the last MRT trains leave the station. I made my way to the hostel. Once there, I found my room, dropped all the luggage in a corner, connected all my electronics to the wall, took a much-needed shower, and quickly fell asleep.
I began the day with a delicious meat dumpling. What followed was basically a mash-up of places in central Taipei. I didn’t have much of a clue of what I was doing, except I visited Freedom Square (CKS was, incidentally, closed on the same day for renovation), biked along the river, and saw the old street.
That day I had dinner with J. I don’t remember the location, except if probably thought it was a Korean restaurant because we got complementary side dishes.
Next: Tamsui, followed by lots of yum.
Today was my first long ride of the season, as I went around the lake (Washington)… and the other lake (Sammamish). There was a lunch stop at Genki Sushi in Factoria Mall.
Total length: 109.9 km.
Wall time: 7:09:03
Saddle time: 5:19:47 (lunch took 41 minutes)
It’s already mid-January, but I would like to share my goal for this year. In 2014 I logged 3025 km of biking, but I only started biking regularly in May. In 2015, I will bike 6500 km, or 125 km per week.
This is actually really easy. If I simply biked to work and back every weekday for a year, I would be almost there. But I won’t do that. I’m not persistent enough. So, there will be lots of interesting bike rides, lots of exploring.
Here are photos from my ride on the 31st of December. (If you follow that link, you get an elevation profile and a map.) By tradition, every year I get on my bike and go around my friends’ houses, delivering gifts. This tradition stalled somewhat over the past few years, but this time I was ready to resume it. This time I had to make two stops: one in North Lynnwood, the other in Brier. On the way to Lynnwood, I took the coastal route, which passes through Edmonds.
The day was clear and very cold.
This evening I was at the 46th District Town Hall Meeting chaired by Sen. David Frockt, Rep. Gerry Pollet, and Rep. Jessyn Farrell. The representatives made brief opening remarks and proceeded to answer questions about the upcoming legislative session.
My notes are below. DISCLAIMER: These are summaries that attempt to match the spirit of what was said - as such, they likely contain errors.
Main topics for the next legislative session:
Do you plan to obey by the McCleary decision and implement Initiative 1351, and how?
On Eric Garner: will there be legislature dealing with excessive force, grand juries, or prosecutorial independence; and, if so, what?
Legislative rules limit the number of years retirees can work. This creates a problem for substitute teachers. Can anything be done about the rules set in 2008 about substitute teachers?
I am proud that I-1351 passed but worried that it won’t get implemented; proud that the legislature refused to tie teacher evaluations to test scores, losing the federal waiver as a result of this, but worried that you might backtrack.
The Bree Collaborative Report concludes that we need to increase access to chemical dependency services. But it ignores the role of licensed mental health providers, and many people with chemical dependencies have underlying mental health problems. Please find ways to let people with Masters level mental health degrees to be licensed to treat chemical dependency.
The state gave $8.7 billion in tax break to aerospace (Boeing). That much money would pay for many things. The state did not put out any requirements to create new jobs, protect existing jobs, or pay living wages. How and why did this happen? What are you going to do to correct this situation?
Personal story about a single mother who lives on $430 / month. DSHS recommends that she get welfare, but she says she needs a job.
You are strong supporters of healthcare quality and safety. Safety is never a strong priority on the national level. Medical error is still the 3rd leading cause of death. The State should prioritize safety.
Medical marijuana: there is a tremendous knowledge base of bad actors in the medical system. There is no provision for shops to have people to sit down. There is a circus atmosphere in these shops, which is not what patients need. Need to fix the medical system and push bad actors into the recreational.
Objectives or concerns over recreational marijuana?
Rent control: Kshama Sawant ran for rent control, which is illegal under state law. Have you thought about the pros and cons of that law? More generally, how can we create adorable housing?
64% of Sophomores today won’t be able to graduate due to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. What can we do about that?
Why has the Oil Transportation Safety Act not passed?
Issues at Kenmore Industrial Park, commonly known as Lakepointe. It is a very important watershed. Several court cases to get property owner to remediate that site. WA previously used it as hazardous waste dump. State is now using the site to build 520 bridge. Entire structure is now made there, with no environmental impact statement. Kenmore residents have to put up with toxic fumes, etc. being released by barge traffic. At the end of the day, the court order is not being followed by the government.
Tax reform: this is not the time and place to talk about specifics. I have a plan to present to legislators. The plan is comprehensive. I have shown it to legislators and know that it has merit. I would like to show it to different people and see how much support we have. I would like to ask people who are interested to work with me.
Medical cannabis: thank you for support in the last session. The future of medical cannabis is very much in doubt, but I know you’ll keep your heart and minds open to concerns of patients.
Women’s health: how can we make sure Washington can pay for basic services without cutting family planning?
Last five years, $2.6 billion was taken out of K12, and we have more students than 10 years ago. The budget was balanced on the backs of teachers during the Recession. The increased funding we are talking about is just returning to previous level. We need the CoLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment).
We passed I-594 and HB1840. What may we expect in Olympia?
How do we improve transportation? A lot of buses deadhead between Seattle and Snohomish County, park by Boeing, and we can’t use them. We need to incentivize agencies to be more efficient.
I am concerned that the tone of discussion is anti-business: capital gains tax, rent control, highest minimum wage and mandated sick leave in Seattle, etc. How can we ensure that new businesses are excited to be in Seattle, while preventing existing businesses from leaving? How can we moderate the tone to be a little more pro-business?
I am concerned that we have no statewide plan for rail. Rural towns need rail just as we all need rail. There is no cross-state transportation for rail. Sounder trains sit idle on existing track, why can’t we use them? Commerce uses the same tracks. There are no plans for more passenger trains competing for rail space. We can push back on oil trains this way.
The Audubon Committee urges immediate action regarding oil transportation. This should be a bipartisan issue as cities all over the state are in great danger. Thank you for taking this on. Sorry that some issues that should be bipartisan are not.
Services for individuals with developmental disabilities and wage parity for direct support staff: community residential providers and… (two others) serve the same people but are not funded equally. Wage disparity directly impacts turnover. Will you support and help pass bills proposed for wage parity for direct support staff?
I am pleasantly surprised by the results of the Elway poll supporting carbon tax. There is no question about the carbon tax and its bigger impact on the world. Climate change is the biggest issue affecting the world, and someone has to lead. What are your thoughts on the chances of this passing?
On climate change: we are fighting not just for your children, but for the unborn child of my grandson.
Sound Transit proposed putting in power line towers on our street in Haller Lake. I have asked the state to intervene and would like an update.
Question to the audience: Wow many of you have seen the Milky Way without binoculars or a telescope from your Seattle backyard? Since 1970 we lost the ability to see the night sky from our backyards. We could have a less light polluted state if we pass the Model Lighting Ordinance.
I woke up earlier because people were moving around. There was still some time before breakfast, so I repacked and had more of my snacks. I brought a lot of food up the mountain, and I ate most of it at the lodge. Eventually it was time for breakfast.
The call to leave was at 03:00. We all started out in one big group, though some people later went ahead, and some trailed behind. The trail of lights stretched far into the darkness. The moon was out, and the stars were dimmer in the night sky.
Just as it started to dawn, clouds and fog rolled in. They stayed throughout the morning, obliterating any chance of getting a good view off the summit. We did make it before sunrise, though. There were group shots.
At long last it was my turn.
After having their time at the summit, most people started back down. I decided to stick around, hoping for the skies to clear. (They didn’t.) In the process, I got to witness a funny ritual: a newlywed couple changed into wedding suit and dress and had a photoshoot that probably lasted a good half-hour. All this in freezing temperatures and sub-freezing wind chill.
I was then offered warm milk. And I needed it.
We prepared to leave. Here is the happy couple again, hopefully no longer freezing.
I took some parting pictures of Paiyun Lodge and had my noddle soup lunch.
Then I said good bye and left. I was going pretty quickly, keeping a pace of 3 km / hour, which means I came down in just under three hours. It also means I had to wait two hours for my return bus.
I was quite happy to see the same driver on the bus as the previous day. But this ride was more fun because I got to converse with a Chinese language teacher from Taipei. She made an excited conversation partner for me and the driver: “I didn’t hear what you said, could you repeat that?” At one point the driver was explaining how he would instruct me to transfer to get to Shueili. After he finished, she asked me: “Did you understand that? Yeah?” Then, to the driver, “See, he understands, you don’t need to explain to him again!”
I will be contacting her after this post goes live.
I ended up getting off the bus at a stop called Dingkan, which is the closest stop to Shueili. Eventually a bus came and took me into Shueili. I walked to the National Park Headquarters and saw my friend A. at the front desk, waiting for me. I was back.
We ate dinner. It was a kind of dumpling with a soft outside, which is eaten, and the meat is eaten with soup. Very cool! Unfortunately there was, yet again, not much time, even though I firmly decided that I would take the last shuttle taxi to Taichung. We did have time to stop at a bakery where I bought lots of baked things, which I enjoyed very much.
It was a good end to a long trip. For the next few days I would be in Taipei hanging out with J. and doing whatever I want.
This is the day when I hiked to the top of Yushan Main Peak. In the previous post I explained the steps to prepare for the trip. In this post I describe my experiences on the trip itself.
Start with a tranquil view of Sun-Moon Lake at 06:40. The ferry boats haven’t started their day yet.
My hotel (Crystal Inn Resort) gave me a take-out version of their breakfast since I had to leave so early.
I took the 07:00 “school bus” to the main bus station on the other side of the lake. The reason I call it a school bus is that the other passengers were schoolkids on their way to school.
Transfer time was about 40 minutes. It was plenty of time to eat breakfast and to get acquainted with a fellow Singaporean traveler - who, as it turns out, was on his way back from visiting Seattle.
The bus ride was quite fun. The driver narrated along the way, talking fast but in short phrases.
Soon we made our first stop at a specialty store that had wines, various kinds of candy, and really expensive tea. Outside, a lady was selling grapes. “I give you extra,” she said.
We were given a certain amount of time to explore the store. Before we bought grapes, I asked my Singaporean companion whether it was time to go back. “It’s okay,” he said. “Because I tell the driver that we’re foreigners, so don’t forget us.” This was good assurance.
The road was fairly new. Later I understood the reason why: the old road was washed away during a typhoon about a decade ago.
Soon we started climbing and entered the section of the road from which the Yushan peaks are visible. People were actively trying to take pictures through the bus windows. Eventually the driver stopped, and we got our shots.
Next were the “husband-wife trees.” These two trees were hit by lightning and died standing together.
And, at last, we came to the Tataka Visitor Center. I said good bye to the driver and to my companions, and went up the trail.
The Tataka Visitor Center is open on every day except for the second Tuesday of each month that is not a national holiday. The day was November 11th, the second Tuesday of November. The visitor center was closed. Fortunately, I knew approximately where to go. A trail leads from the main road up to the road leading to the road where the Tataka Mountaineering Center and Police Squad is.
The trail ended at a road where I turned right and descended a bit before reaching the Mountaineering Service Center. The permits were stamped, but there was some confusion about whether I needed to pay. A call to the HQ in Shueili resolved the matter. A shuttle then took me from the base to the trailhead.
I was off. The trail is beautiful in many ways, so I will just let the pictures speak.
Early on I passed a number of groups going in the opposite direction. Hello… Hi… Ni hao… Konichiwa! (I later learned that this hike is popular for Japanese tourists.) Some remarked that I started the hike a bit late. Eventually the returning groups stopped. But about 1.5 km away from camp I merged with the tail of a large procession of everyone else going up the mountain. Suddenly there were a lot of people around. “Are you alone?… Wow… How did you know how to get the permit?” I decided to stick with the group, and soon we made it to Paiyun Lodge.
Dinner was surprisingly good for a mountain meal.
Later, I went out and watched the sunset. It was beautiful.
I wanted to see the stars, too. For this I made a calculation: the middle of the night is around 23:30, but the moon is bright, and it rises early. So, around 21:00 is when I went out to see the night sky. Unfortunately, something was not right with my camera, and I wasn’t able to take good pictures of the stars.
I went to sleep, knowing that I would wake up for early breakfast around 02:30.
Yushan (Jade Mountain) is the highest peak in Taiwan (3952 m). The temperature at the summit is about 20 C colder than at sea level in Taiwan. In the Winter, the peak is typically covered with snow.
The mountain is protected by the Yushan National Park, which issues permits for the main peak and other trails in the park. The difficulty of obtaining a permit and the experience required depends on the weather conditions and itinerary. A two-day ascent to the main peak in snow-free conditions is the easiest and most common. This ascent comprises of a day-time hike to Paiyun Lodge, a night-time hike to the summit (before sunrise), and a morning descent.
Applying for permits
The number of permits that are issued to climb Yushan tend to be limited by the number of available bunks at Paiyun Lodge. The application process includes reserving a bunk and is somewhat complicated due to high demand.
There are three deadlines to keep in mind when applying for a permit to summit Yushan.
In summary: Foreign visitors should apply soon as possible, preferably before the 35-day point, and definitely before the 30-day point. Taiwanese residents should apply before the 30-day point.
The application process itself consists of several stages. Everything (except payment) is on-line via: https://mountain.ysnp.gov.tw/english/ApplyIndex.aspx?pg=02&w=2&n=22001
Yushan National Park has a pretty good introductory video that suggests supplies for the ascent. Those include warm clothes (expect a 20 C temperature drop and bring extra), extra energy-rich food, a headlamp, and a thermos for filling up with hot water at Paiyun Lodge.
You do not need to pack full meals or a sleeping bag (but I brought an inflatable pillow). You do, however, need to pre-order those in advance. Food is carried up the mountain daily, and sleeping bags are carried down / up for washing weekly.
The application is here: http://www.yushansky.com.tw/multimedia2.html
Note: I don’t see an “English” link, but there is an English-language form. Unfortunately, the form is a Microsoft Word document. I ended up uploading it into Google Docs, downloading as a PDF, importing into GIMP, and entering the order there. Obviously, it’s much easier to fill out the form in a rich text editor, but that requires that you trust the file.
This should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org Payment is via bank transfer, but if you’re a foreign visitor they might let you pay in cash.
It used to be impossible to get to Tataka by bus. Then, in April of 2014, Yuenlin Bus Company opened a scenic route from Sun-Moon Lake to Alishan with a stop at Tataka. This bus has two runs daily, leaving Sun-Moon Lake at 08:00, 09:00, arriving at Tataka at 11:10, 12:10 and Alishan at 11:50, 12:50. It then waits for an hour and leaves Alishan at 13:00, 14:00, Tataka at 14:00, 15:00, returning to Sun-Moon Lake at 16:30, 17:30.
This bus isn’t intended to take hikers to Tataka. It is intended as a tour bus for visitors to Alishan, who would either spend the night there or spend an hour there and come back the same day. It is, however, easy to board and deboard the bus at Tataka. Just be sure to remind the driver that you intend to do so.
Unfortunately the bus is quite small, so advance reservations are required for the trip there and the trip back. These can be made over the phone, but may be difficult for a non-native Chinese speaker - I had a friend help out. Payment is required in advance at the kiosk at Sun-Moon Lake for the direction toward Tataka. Make sure you get the ticket to Tataka - If it says “Alishan”, you’re overpaying.
Something to consider while booking is the return trip. The most conservative option is to book the 15:00 bus from Tataka. But it doesn’t take that long to come down the mountain - the 14:00 bus is quite doable. A more risky option for a fast hiker is to book the 12:10 bus to Alishan and thus visit Alishan as well - but this means you can’t spend much time on Yushan, you will have to come down rather quickly, and the bus company might not be happy with you booking such a small chunk of the trip, especially on a busy day.
A useful source with more information:
A note about getting around Sun-Moon Lake
It is important to check connecting buses when going on the trip. You will have to stay at Sun-Moon Lake in order to leave by the 08:00 bus. If staying in the Shueishe (Sun-Moon Lake stop) area, that’s easy, but the only way to get there from Itathao is to take the 07:00 shuttle, which arrives at the main bus station around 07:20. This is too early to buy breakfast or to eat at the hotel - try to arrange with them to pick up breakfast early or buy breakfast in advance. (The Crystal Inn, Sun-Moon Lake was able to do this for me.)
Also, the last bus from Shueishe (Sun-Moon Lake stop) to Itathao leaves at 17:20. If you need transportation after this time, the only way is to take a taxi or hire a private driver. Taxis need to be called in, arrive all the way from Puli, and so charge NT$500 for the ride to Itathao. Private drivers troll the area and will probably charge less, but be careful with those. If you do need to take a taxi, see if anyone else is waiting for one and split the fare.
Shuttle bus schedule: http://www.ntbus.com.tw/s03.html
I graduated in the summer of 2013, but my six years of course schedules are still up, and I have no plans to take them down.
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