Hualien and Taroko Gorge, the Eastern County of Taiwan
We woke up a little earlier to catch the sunrise from our balcony. And we realized the weather is too cold for our liking, thus we went back to bed for another 30 minutes. The air was fresh however. We got up for a simple breakfast consisting of porridge, eggs and vegetables, prepared by the minsu owner. The little doggies and cats accompanied us while we waited for our driver, Mr. Wu, who will fetch us down to Hualien county. Along the way, he’ll bring us sightseeing on the Hualien Taroko region too! Goodbye Julie’s Garden Fon Chin Homestay, it was a pleasant experience.
Mr. Wu drove us to the nearby 7-Eleven to grab some light snacks before our adventure. He mentioned that there won’t be any eateries in the mountainous area. As usual, our first choice of on-the-go food would be onigiri. We saw a rack of Chun Cui He (純粹。喝) and decided to get one each. We also explained the Chun Cui He craze in Singapore months ago, to which he laughed in disbelief. “No Taiwanese would actually want to drink this!” After our discussion about this drink fad, we promptly fell asleep in the car till our next destination.
Hualien Taroko Gorge National Park 太魯閣國家公園
As we approached our destination on the higher altitudes, we were awaken by the awkward feeling in our ears as the air pressured changed. The Mount Taroko National Park is one of the nine national parks in Taiwan, anyone traveling across the central mountain range would definitely visit this place.
Mr Wu. drove us to the highest point of the area, reaching a height of 3275 meters. We got off at the point called Wu Ling, which had absolutely stunning views. It was cold and windy, for once we had to activate our winter jackets in Taiwan. We really admire those folks that are actually mountaineering nearby. So damn cold, yet they (mostly grey haired) seemed to be enjoying their climb.
Hualien Taroko Tianxiang Village 太魯閣天祥
We began our descent towards Hualien Taroko Tianxiang Village. When we reached sea-level, Mr. Wu told us that we had been traveling along the Central Cross-Island Highway. He dropped us off at the entrance’s arch gate and told us we absolutely need to take a photo here. He even blocked off the traffic for us so we could stand in the middle of the road. I suppose this is a usual thing to do for tour guides like himself.
It was a world of difference, up 3725 meters versus down here at sea level. We actually perspired just by walking from the carpark to the toilet. Mr Wu. told us to explore the area while he rested in the carpark. So we brought onigiri along with us to check out the nearby Tianxiang Visitor Center. Instinct tells us there would be some Eki stamps over there, and we were right!
When we got back to the car shortly afterwards, we couldn’t find Mr. Wu. He texted us to let us know he’s at the nearby police center to get medical supplies because his finger was stung by a bee! Oh gosh, we were worried for him. He said it doesn’t hurt right now, though it was uncomfortable and he only has 9 fingers to drive.
Hualien Taroko Swallow Grotto Trail 燕子口步道
Next up was the Taroko Swallow Grotto Trail. It is a pedestrian path built for visitors to enjoy the majestic valley carved out from erosion by the Liwu River. The road runs parallel to the valley so Mr. Wu alighted us while he drove down to meet us at the endpoint. There were some cautionary signboards regarding falling rocks and we were supposed to wear safety helmets. But whatever, we’re gonna look ugly if we do that. Pictures first, safety second!
Come to think of it, just last week, there’s was an earthquake that hit the whole Hualien area. It’s said to be the largest quake to hit the island this year. Lightning never strikes twice, we believe it should be safe. But we were still a little scared and we rushed along the walkway back to our driver who was waiting at the other end.
Hualien Qixingtan Beach 花蓮七星潭
We are heading to Qixingtan Beach 七星潭, a crescent shaped bay off the coast of Hualien. If you do a Google search on this place, you’ll see pictures of stones stacking. I think this is what people always do when they visit the beach. Not sure why though, so monkey see monkey do, we did the same. Everything was cool (not cold kind of cool), the beach was beautiful, the color of the sea was brilliant blue. But too bad the sun was really not cooperating. We would have definitely stayed a little longer if we weren’t already on the verge of frying up.
Our driver then drove us to a shop called 浪花丸 かき氷·島食. It was a cosy cafe that sells shaved ice. Basically what we call ice kacang in Singapore. Something we really needed in this hot weather. Because of the minimum order, we got to order one each. Minmin’s dessert was shaped like a bear, while mine was supposedly Mount Fuji. Clearly mine just looked like a blue clump of ice. Oh and this shop has its very own Eki stamp too! Cute!
Hualien Bay Mall 新天堂乐园
Mr. Wu brought us to our last stop for the day, a much more mild activity this time. We visited the Hualien Bay Mall, which is home to one of the coolest Starbucks outlet in the world. The shop was deigned by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma using empty shipping containers. The interior was basically the interconnection of these containers. Pretty impressive I must say, but we didn’t get any drink as we were too full from the shaved ice.
The rest of the mall was quite empty, as there was just too much space and too little visitors. It actually took us quite awhile to explore the huge area of nothingness. We found something fun though: Go-kart! The best thing is, there wasn’t anyone else on the tracks. We had the whole place all for ourselves, and having lots of fun as overgrown kids! Sadly we can’t take any video while driving as part of their safety protocols.
Tiffany Coast Inn
And finally we bade goodbye to Mr. Wu. Thank you for entertaining us over the past three days, and hope that your finger gets better! Feel free to contact Mr. Wu through the LINE app at 0958-368710. He’d definitely make a good guide, and a good friend.
Now we fell in love with our hotel instantly. The interior was so pretty, everything was either whitewashed or sky blue, giving the entire hotel a modern look. The room was clean, though not exactly spacious. We couldn’t spend much time in our room for now, as we needed to head down to the night market for dinner. The hotel staff was helpful, and he even recommended several places we could eat at. And off we go now, to Dongdamen Night Market.
The Hunt For Mr Goose
We initially wanted to cycle (as the hotel provides complimentary bicycle rental). But Minmin can’t exactly cycle well, so we’ve got to walk instead. We went hunting for the recommended food and found some steam pork buns (包公子) nearby. Though highly recommended by the hotel staff, I would not advise this. Basically the same as what we could find in Singapore, so save your tummy for a better deal. Along the way we found some grilled mochi in some hidden alley. Not too shabby though we have no idea what the flavor was
Our main objective was to look for this shop called Mr Goose. We ordered a smaller platter of goose meat for sharing, so we don’t get too full to eat anything else. First time trying geese meat, I must say, we are totally loving it! It’s an indescribable mixture of what duck and chicken tastes like.
Hualien Dongdamen Night Market
Just before we hit the night market we found more mochis (again). Comparable to these Japanese counterparts, these mochis are damn awesome too! We got brown sugar and green bean flavors because these ain’t available in Japan. By now we’re already fatiguing from the night market visits. The difference here is the rows of old school arcade games. And this market is HUGE!
One thing we haven’t had is Taiwan’s famous crispy fried chicken. We found one of the best brands – Devil Evolution Chicken. It was delicious, but really too huge for the two of us! We got ourselves some black sesame shaved ice mochi (yet again sorry), and sat down to watch one of those street performers sing. The market was so huge, and at almost every corner, there’d be street performers or artists doing their thing. Because it was spacious, it wasn’t as crowded and difficult to maneuver as the other markets we’ve been to so far.
And this woman found her favorite stinky tofu again! The stall reads “Stinky Tofu Fries”, so I thought I’d try some. I got cheated, I thought it was a mixture of french fries and tofu. Basically it’s the same smelly thing, just in sticks form. According to her, she says it is delicious. No kissing tonight! While she is enjoying her stinky cup of stink, I went to get some iced jelly dessert to cleanse the taste out of my mouth. What’s Taiwan without bubble tea? Tried a random stall’s bubble tea before we headed back.
Hualien is a pretty place, and Taroko is definitely worth traveling to. It’s a pity we only have a night in Hualien, I’m sure there are many other places to explore. Rest our legs early for the night, cos tomorrow we’ll head north to Taipei city!