Wednesday 26 June 2013

Taiwan: Hualien

We didn't manage to Couchsurf in Hualien so we stayed in a hostel (Sleeping Boot). It took us around 15 minutes from the train station to get there but the hostel was really nice and clean. The staff who greeted us was extremely friendly, told us where we could go, what we could eat, etc.

At first glance, Hualien doesn't feel that different from the other cities but the roads were definitely a lot less busy. We walked around the small city center in the evening and went for a free traditional dance performance at the Shi Yi Street (石艺大街). I was invited (dragged?) upstage to dance with the performers. It was quite fun even though I was just waving my arms around. Hualien doesn't have much night life, though I heard from the people in the hostel that there are a few bars, not many but still present.

We set off early the next morning, caught the bus to Taroko Gorge (太鲁阁) and hiked up the mountain for THIS VIEW (picture above). The hike was no joke, you're basically going around the mountain, the steps are really steep and you have to watch your head. We were gasping for breath and sweating buckets at the end, but it was all worth it.

We almost missed this! Thank goodness we met the Japanese lady from our dorm and she told us that this place is really beautiful so we got off the bus and walked along the Shakadang trail (沙卡礑步道). The water is so crystal clear and blue! Love it. It was a really pleasant and tranquil walk, the walkway is fenced up but as you walked further in, the fence disappears and you can actually walk riiight next to the stream. I'm really glad we came without a tour because I heard one of the tour guide going 'you have 45 minutes to walk around, so you can only walk in for about 20 minutes and have to turn back.' We spent about an hour going in? So the whole trail actually took us about 2 hours.

Qi Xing Tan (七星潭) is a pebble beach and it is the first pebble beach I've ever seen. I thought it was just amazing. We had lots of fun picking pebbles, writing messages on them and leaving them around the beach. (I hope that's not considered as pollution oops). And it was just a really great place to sit down and enjoy the breeze and the sound of the crashing waves, albeit your butt will ache a little.

I wish we had more time in Hualien because it's my favourite city in Taiwan. A lot of people had told me that the East coast is more beautiful than the West since more people live on the West bank but we've already planned our trip centered around the West coast because it is more accessible (which makes sense since there are more people there). And it was a pity that part of Taroko National Park was closed due to thunderstorms and we didn't manage to cycle around Qi Xing Tan because my friend fell sick. I'd recommend staying at least three full days in Hualien to enjoy everything it offers.

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