Taichung to Hualien
Any visit to Taiwan would be incomplete without a trip to Hualien on the island's east coast. Boasting sights such as Taroko Gorge and the Chingshui Cliffs, Hualien really is a must see. Since Hualien is a major tourist attraction, the best time to visit is during the week. Expect to pay more during weekends and holidays.
From Taichung you can take a TRA train from the main station downtown or an THSRC high speed train from the station in Wurih Township. For our trip, we took the 9:16am HSR train to Taipei (NT$560 weekdays, NT$700 weekends). Once at Taipei Main station we bought tickets for the 10:50am TRA train to Hualien. We opted to take the faster ziqiang (自強) train for NT$465 although there is a slower, cheaper juguang (莒光) train for about NT$365. There are about 4-5 trains to Hualien per day so if the train is full, don't worry. There are 3 different types of train available: Taroko express train, ziqiang and juguang .
There are many places to rent a scooter near the Hualien train station. If you walk out the main entrance, you will see some on the right-hand side and all along Guo Lien First Road (國聯一路). If you have a local license, you can rent a 125cc scooter for about NT$300-NT$350 a day. They will ask you to leave your Taiwan Health Insurance card in return for the ownership and insurance papers.
There are many places to stay in and around Hualien; we found our Bed and Breakfast on the internet. You should call ahead to check out the current rates. The Rose Garden (2F, No. 7-1 Kung Yuan Road 09 3753 2828) is a small B&B right in the heart of downtown, 5 minutes from the train station, night markets and the waterfront. Weekday prices range from NT$1400-NT$1600 per night including breakfast. The staff speak English so reservations should not be a problem.
The most likely reason for being in Hualien is to see Taroko National Park. Indeed this is a destination worth experiencing. To get to Taroko Gorge, drive north from Hualien on Hwy 9 for about an hour. There is a small town (Shincheng) just before the park where you should fill up your gas tank. Once in the park, check out the park headquarters just off to the right before continuing on. The headquarters has a gift shop on the second floor; it has books and other information about Taroko. We bought an English book about Taroko for NT$120. In addition to pictures of the area, there was a fairly detailed map.
First to see on your journey is the Eternal Spring Temple (長春祠); a beautiful temple built into the side of the mountain. A waterfall picturesquely meanders its way to the river below. Walk across the bridge to get a closer look. Next stop is the Swallow Grotto (燕子口). At the Swallow Grotto, you can enter the 1.5Km trail from the long suspension bridge. On the trail, you will notice caves and small waterfalls. This is also a very narrow part of the gorge where the Liwu River flows far below. Afterwards, continue on to the Tunnel of Nine Turns (九曲洞). On this trail, you make your way through tunnels cut into the side of the gorge. This is touted as being one of Taroko's most spectacular sites so it is worth checking out. We stopped for tea in Liushui (綠水) before making our way to Tiansiang (天祥) for lunch.
Tiansiang is a small town right in the heart of the park where you can stop to have lunch or buy fruit in the market. The Grand Formosa Hotel is also located here. Since we were traveling with our 2 year old daughter, we decided to call it a day. We turned back for our hotel in Hualien to take a rest.
Our next adventure took us up the coast to the Chingshui Cliffs. From Hualien, follow highway 9 to Taroko but continue on towards Heren (和仁). This is a really cool drive as there are many tunnels passing through the mountains; one such tunnel is over 1Km long! The Chingshui Cliffs provide a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean as 800 meter cliffs plunge straight into the water below. Unfortunately, we only got to see this attraction from a distance as a rock-slide prevented traffic. W turned back to have lunch in Hualien. Later that evening, we took a trip to Chishing Beach(七星潭) to watch the fishing boats return with their catch. This didn't happen, but we were able to get our feet wet and lounge on the smooth-stoned beach until the sun had completely set.
Later that evening, we ventured out to the Southern Night Market located at the bottom of Heping Road (和平路). Food stalls, vendors and typical night market games can be found in abundance. If you're lucky, you can catch a fireworks show in the late evening. If you can't wait, just buy your own fireworks in the market. There is also a KTV bar at the far end of the market.
- Hualien Official Tourist Website
- Taroko National Park Website
- Rose Garden Bed and Breakfast
- My Personal Photos of Hualien