One of the best things about Taiwan is its nature. The fact that the island is so small, adds to the awesomeness since many of the hiking trails and mountains are more or less accessible by public transportation. By less I mean it is sometimes a bit challenging to find the information needed to get to your destination.
Once we got this idea to go see one of the most famous national parks in Taiwan. After some quick planning and budgeting, we (okay, fine, the engineer..) managed to put together a really nice weekend trip.
I and the engineer managed to get train tickets, book a hotel and see some of the wonderful nature of Hualien on the east coast of Taiwan. Even on a Monday we barely got seats for Friday, and the return tickets were for the last possible Northbound train on Sunday evening. We bought our tickets at a ticket office, and the guy selling them was rolling his eyes so hard I thought they’d pop out, shaking his head and sort of giggling. He really didn’t seem to think it’d be even possible to get the tickets, and looked very surprised when he actually found us seats.
We stayed in the Lakeshore Hotel, which was a bit far from the Hualien railway station, but accessible by taxi, which cost around 150 TWD. The hotel itself was gorgeous, with saunas (it wasn’t a Finnish sauna, so there was no throwing water on stones, but it was still nice) and a spa area, free massage chairs and super friendly staff. For a reason unknown to us, we got an upgrade to this beautiful 8th-floor room. It had a bathtub with a sea view and came equipped with a handsome man. Just kidding, I brought my own 😉
On Saturday we took a bus from the railway station to Taroko National Park. Buses 1133 and 1133A tickets cost 250 TWD per person and you could buy them at this very easy to find counter. The driver we got wasn’t too much into this little thing called “customer service”, he was visibly upset for having to leave his break and cigarette and get behind the wheel. Sorry, man 😦
We opted for this bus since it’s super convenient, affordable and does the same as those pretty annoying hop on hop off red double deckers you can see in all big cities around the world, that is, allows you to get on and off it as many times as you want with the same ticket. They also accept EasyCard, but I have no clue how much the fares would be since you’d have to pay for each ride separately.
Given I was slightly sick on that day, we had to adjust our plans accordingly, so no one-day hike for us. Instead, we got off at three stops to admire the nature: Buluowan, Yanzikou and Eternal Spring Shrine.
If you want to do more trekking and have more time and your lungs aren’t on fire, the park has so many options for you. See some of your options below (this is my way to make you scroll through this post 😀 ).
Buluowan had some amazing nature, combined with a visitors’ centre (closed on a Saturday???) and absolutely stunning views.
As we learned in the national park, sometimes the roads and trails get closed for various reasons. Here is the official website telling the road conditions.
After Buluowan we went to see 燕子口步道 or Yanzikou trail and were not disappointed. You get to walk through this cave type of formation and see the Liwu River below. It looks insanely gorgeous, and there is no way to actually capture its beauty with a smartphone camera. We tried but have to see it yourself. There are rocks falling sometimes, and they suggest you wear a helmet, which we didn’t because we don’t usually carry extra helmets with us just in case.
Yanzikou was so insanely pretty, we almost didn’t wanna leave. There’s a restaurant there, too, but the food was not very good (which we don’t say often but as grown-ups we get to when we know it’s true). However, you’ll want to support their business, since I’d imagine it’s not the easiest way to earn a living.
Our last stop after that was the Eternal Spring Shrine, which was just a slight disappointment since the shrine itself was closed due to some recent landslides. The scenery was still stunning, though.
As we had left a bit too late in the morning, we didn’t have much time to spare, so we just headed back to the hotel after this. Also, the last tour bus leaves at 17:00.
After spoiling ourselves at the hotel’s spa, we realised it’s time to get something to eat. Hungry and tired, we were not happy to realise there’s like absolutely nothing open anywhere near the hotel after 20:00, so we just went to the only place that’s still open. Luckily, it happened to be this lovely little hot pot restaurant 辣匠麻辣燙 with one actual vegetarian option on its menu. After the usual clarification that yes, we actually do eat onion and garlic, we got our pots (a little clarification: due to the large Buddhist population here, most restaurants consider onion and garlic not to be a part of a vegetarian diet. Apparently, they make you horny.) Wasn’t the best food ever, but we were hungry and we ate it all, although they didn’t sell beer and we were crying a bit because of that.
The next morning we had to check out of the room by 11, and since our train was leaving at 20 something in the evening, we had to kill the whole day somehow. We left our stuff at the railway station locker room for 30 TWD and went looking for food. We found an Indian restaurant and some spiders. After that, the enginerd had some homework to do (the brainiac is now studying Chinese, too), and we spent a couple of hours in a cafe eating chocolate cake, which is always important. Our final destination in Hualien was Nanbin Park by the sea. To get there, we also passed the Dongmen Night Market. It was a beautiful day, and the sea was so pretty it’s impossible to even describe it properly.
In short, you have to visit Hualien. You have to! It’s the most beautiful, peaceful and friendly place ever, and we’re definitely going back.
PS: To learn more about vegetarian food in Taiwan, check out one of our latest posts here!