Sometimes I wonder if I am alone on this: I don’t find watching sunrise romantic. I’d rather be fast asleep at that time, thank you very much. So it didn’t make sense that I even bothered to climb up Elephant Mountain back in September 2017. It was, as my friend insisted, to get the best view of the sunset. I didn’t care much for it, but I did care about not wanting to rain on his parade. Big mistake. BIG. Oh dear lawd, I was not prepared for that i
nitiation from hell 20-minute hike. Granted, I wasn’t exactly fit but I do a lot of walking so I thought I was all set. Ha! Hahahaha NO. I wasn’t even halfway up there and I thought I was going to pass out, I kid you not. (That was when my heart can take physical activities like that.) I stopped twice or thrice as I went up, up, up the halfway point. I wanted to cry. I wanted to run back down those steps, screaming and crying some more. You know what stopped me? The thought that I was already THERE. Just a few more steps, a couple more and I’ll reach the halfway point. When I do, I give myself full permission to collapse.
Turns out I didn’t collapse. I met my other friend on the halfway point, where we can view Taiwan in its late afternoon glory. Gulping down what water I had left, I patiently waited for the sun to set. My friend, the one who insisted that we see this beautiful sunset at this beautiful spot, was nowhere to be found. He was still CLIMBING UP THE MOUNTAIN to get to the top. That’s how sunset crazy he was. I’m surprised we’re still friends after that Elephant Mountain hike.
But then came the sunset and that was when I suddenly realized that THIS. This was what it meant to devote time and energy and effort to finally see something beautiful. As the sun set into the city, my eyes drank in the fading sunlight, the pinks and oranges and blues of the sky, the lights of buildings and homes turning on one by one as night settled in. It was still a city view but to witness day turning into night and watch the city lights twinkle and light up the brief almost-darkness was breathtaking all on its own.
As I stood there in the deck, silenced in awe at something I never even bothered with (sunset, this damn beautiful city sunset), I suddenly felt different emotions cram inside me. I was in a foreign place, one where I traveled without my family, just friends. That was a first for me. I drank in the scene that lay before me, suddenly feeling content, at peace, and oddly enough — deeply happy. It was at that point when I realized this is the reason people travel, probably. To witness something like this. To feel a thousand emotions with just a single moment. I wanted to hit the pause button and just freeze that time.
There were other places we visited (I especially liked the night markets and the temples) but that hike up Elephant Mountain? It was one of my favorites, surprisingly.