Crossing the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan

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High in the Central Mountain Range of Taiwan.

In the summer of last year I was nearing the end of my first sojourn in . By the beginning of August I would be in for a wedding in the family with no idea what I’d be doing after that. Since I wasn’t sure if I would be returning to Taiwan I made vague plans to go on a road trip. With only about a week to go before my departure the weather took an ominous turn as Typhoon Matmo 麥德姆 barreled toward the island. On July 20th, with the pressure of time bearing down on us, my girlfriend and I hopped on a 125cc scooter—the same kind of dinky, puttering scooter you see people riding around any Taiwanese town—and set out from with the goal of crossing the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 at Wǔlíng 武陵, the highest paved (and publicly-accessible) mountain pass in Taiwan at 3,275 meters above sea level. With luck, time and weather permitting, we’d be able to visit Héhuānshān 合歡山 and maybe even drive down into the amazingly scenic Taroko Gorge 太魯閣峽谷 on the east side of the island.

Bin Laden Hotpot House

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A curiously named hotpot restaurant at Qingjing Farm in Nantou.

My attention was drawn to this curious roadside restaurant while riding through Qingjing Farm 清境農場, an exquisitely awful tourist trap located deep in the mountains of . My Chinese reading ability is rudimentary at best so I wouldn’t have noticed anything unusual if it weren’t pointed out to me—but pictured here is Bin Laden Hotpot House 賓拉登鍋屋, a restaurant named after mass murderer and terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden. I suppose that must be him on the sign—decked out in the customary cowboy hat of his native homeland.