Taiwan – Hualien and Taroko National Park
The second part of our adventure in Taiwan was a trip down to Hualien to visit Taroko National Park. As I mentioned in our Taipei post, we were staying very close to the Taipei Main Station but really any part of central Taipei gets to the station pretty quickly on the metro. There are several different trains going from Taipei to Hualien and we chose the fastest option with the least amount of stops.
It’s not uncommon to visit Taroko National Park and specifically the gorge as a day trip from Taipei but our plans were to stay two nights and figure out a way across the mountains and get to Sun Moon Lake. This isn’t as straight forward as one might think. However, we did figure it out and I’ll cover that in another post dedicated to our time in Sun Moon Lake.
After our arrival in Hualien we set off for our B & B, though this accommodation classification in Taiwan is a little bit different than one expects in the States. In our experience these B & B’s are more like studio apartments with no after hours staff and no restaurant. Instead of a breakfast buffet you get a voucher for your breakfast from a place next door! We didn’t understand this on the first morning but fortunately there was a place across the street called Good Morning with a picture of eggs as part of it’s logo and we were able to grab a couple of breakfast sandwiches and some fries to start our day.
Hualien City was a little bit more built up than Shani and I had been expecting. Our B & B was very close to the ocean and there was a lovely path along the water that took us right by the night market. Next to the night market was a large Buddhist temple with just a couple of people sitting around outside and the elderly caretaker was very excited to have us take pictures. It’s not every day you have a temple to yourself!
Both nights in Hualien we ate at the night market. The street food at the market was delicious, cheap and a real saviour for Shani. The pork products on offer were exceptional and I even found a ‘burrito’ at the Happiness Burrito Bar run by two very friendly ladies.
Hualien City is the gateway to Taroko National Park, which was the main purpose of our visit to Hualien. According to the national park website, the park “covers more than 92,000 hectares in the northern section of the Central Mountain Range. This park features high mountains and sheer gorges. Many of its peaks tower above 3,000m in elevation, with many natural wonders. The spectacular Taroko Gorge and the scenic beauty of Liwu River can be conveniently viewed from the Central Cross-Island Highway. The varied mountain peaks, numerous waterfalls, diverse plant forms and animal life, together with the indigenous Taroko people, create the rich texture of this unique natural ecosystem.”
I had opted for a private taxi to take us to the sights in Taroko. As the junior trip planner I did not follow all of the vetting process that my mentor would have preferred but it all worked out in the end! Our taxi tour driver was Tiffany, and you can find her on Facebook. She was excellent, spoke English, and I would highly recommend her for your tour of Taroko.
Unfortunately for us, it was raining for most of our day tour to Taroko. As it does rain a lot in Taiwan this was not unexpected. Still, the park was amazingly beautiful and the worst of the rain passed after just an hour or so. All of the rain causes significant landslides and one section that we walked requested that we wear hard hats. People have been killed by falling rocks.
Besides the beautiful gorge with its exposed marble walls, one of the other sights in Taroko is the Buddhist Xiangde temple, set high on a plateau overlooking the river and gorge. It’s a very peaceful and beautiful spot and we wandered around the temple for about an hour.
After the temple we grabbed some snacks from 7-11 (they are everywhere!) and sat on a bench and enjoyed the amazing views. This was the turn around point in our tour and we still had a few sights to see. One of these was the picturesque Changchun Shine which commemorates the 226 personnel who died during the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway that runs through the park.
We arrived back in Hualien City in the late afternoon with time to relax and then head back out to the night market for some more street food! There was also a decent sized liquor store near the night market that had some fair prices on wine so a stop there was required as well. All the 7-11s and Family Markets had a small selection as well but wine is still pretty expensive in Taiwan. Unlike Vietnam, where it seemed like everyone was constantly drinking beer, the Taiwanese seem much more reserved about drinking, at least in public.
One of the cool things about this night market was that it also had street performers doing different things. One group were doing a fire dance, in another section there were singers, but by far our favorite was the girl playing drums. She had a full kit out and a backing track and was killing it. We were really impressed with her!
And that was our visit to Hualien and Taroko Gorge. The next day we were off to Sun Moon Lake and more adventures. If you’d like to know more about our time in Hualien and Taroko Gorge or our trip to Taiwan just drop us a line or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you. If you’d like the exact itinerary or more info on the places we stayed or tours and drivers we used just let us know.