After our fun day in Hualien, we spent the next day with my dad’s colleague, who lives in Hualien and knows the area very well. She took us to Taroko National Park (and drove the entire way since the roads have lots of twists and turns and I get carsick very easily).
The morning was a little wet but it didn’t deter us from exploring the park. Here’s a photo I took of the park from the visitors center:
We hiked a bit and found ourselves walking up the stairs to see a resort inside the park. The stairs seemed never-ending and while we were climbing the stairs, I saw a sign to be careful of random insects and snaked (gross!):
After walking around the visitor’s center and watching a movie about the aboriginals that used to inhabit the park, we drove along the Yanzikou (Swallow Grotto) Trail and stopped a few times to take photos:
The area is known as Swallow’s grotto because the holes are where the swallows lay eggs and rest:
The small holes in the marble are caused by the river and erosion from the water. There aren’t a lot of guard rails along the walking trails and it can get quite dangerous. I asked my dad if there were a lot of suicides in the area and he said no, simply because by the time you get up there, you’re enjoying the scenery so much that you decide not to kill yourself (good reasoning, I wonder if it’s true). The view from where we were hiking:
Me and my dad:
We hiked for quite some time and managed to see the Eternal Spring Shrine, we walked across a suspension footbridge, and waterfalls:
It was a fun day and quite a lot of exercise – we even went and hiked to the Water Sheet Cave and to get there, we had to walk through dark tunnels (a few of them) before we got to the cave. It was scary walking through complete darkness but a fun experience. Most people go with a tour group because it’s difficult to drive around the area, but if you don’t want to do a tour, you can hire a taxi driver to take you to the national park and show you around.
My dad found a restaurant that’s very popular in Hualien with mainlanders that visit as well as locals – 055 Lobster and Seafood Restaurant. The restaurant has good reviews and my dad drove us there while we were visiting the Hualien area. It’s a little off the beaten path (although it might not be considering tour buses stop at the restaurant) but my dad was able to navigate the dark roads to get to the restaurant:
When you arrive, you’re seated at a table and given a number. It’s almost like dim sum because there aren’t menus and you have to get up and figure out what kinds of fish you have and tell them the weight and preparation you’d prefer for the fish. Here’s one employee taking an order:
They have fresh clams, lobsters, prawns, etc at the restaurant but we arrived a little late and the selection wasn’t great for the lobsters:
We ordered the moerella iridescens clams with basil and ginger:
We also ordered some local shrimp (Shang Qing, their specialty) that were very sweet:
And a local fish which is supposed to be their specialty but I don’t recall the name:
The fish was prepared with ginger and scallions and much sweeter than any fish I’ve ever eaten in the US. We also ordered a miso-based soup with fish (the fish is supposed to be a delicacy in Hualien) and was very chewy/tasted like tendon.
The restaurant is definitely no frills and they only accept cash, but the food was good and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the Hualien area!
· March 6, 2015
After going to the Lintian forest, my dad drove us to the coast to see eight arch bridge and to eat seafood. The drive was pretty long (maybe two hours?) and the roads were a little scary to navigate because there were so many twists and turns (and I don’t remember a lot of safety guard rails while we were driving!) Luckily my dad is a good driver and we got to the eight arch bridge in one piece.
The bridge is to the right of the water and leads people to a small island that also has a lighthouse (sadly, I don’t have any photos of the bridge because they’re all on Ken’s phone!). But, some more photos of the scenery:
The area was not very well developed and there aren’t that many resorts there (although in the winter time, it’s very windy and we were wearing our winter coats while walking on the bridge). During the summertime, it’s well visited but tourists usually don’t sunbathe here (because Asian people don’t sunbathe and because there isn’t sand, it’s very rocky). It’s a beautiful area and fun to get there; during our long drive, we talked about my mom and dad as teenagers in Taiwan and about how all their friends from high school are now famous politicians!
· March 5, 2015
On our first full morning, we drove to the Lintian Mountain Forestry Center, a large forest that used to be filled with cypress trees but was used for lumbering by the Japanese during the 1920s. Most of the cypress trees have been cut down but the forestry center is still very beautiful and interesting to walk around.
The forestry center became a town because they were exporting so much cypress from Taiwan to Japan that they needed workers and their families to live there. The area has a dormitory, a clinic, a welfare center, a rice store, a grocery store, a laundry, a barbershop, a fire department, a kindergarten and an elementary school, all of which you can walk through during your visit. It’s free to visit and worth a morning tour – get more information here.
This house was made of cypress and still had a faint smell of the cypress tree, even though the house was build in the early 1900′s:
These railways were built specifically for transporting cypress trees out of this area:
Here’s part of the town:
We walked around the cypress town and ate lunch in the area, too. The dormitories still have some of the artifacts from the people that lived there. My mom recognized some of the records and artists that the cypress workers listened to, too!
After our lunch, we took a long drive along the coast – more tomorrow!
· March 4, 2015
After a day in Taipei and Nankang, my dad bought us train tickets so we could travel to Hualien on the east side of the country. The train system in Taiwan is really clean, fast, easy to use, and affordable. We took an early morning train from Taipei to Hualien:
The weather in December was chilly (in the 50s) and somewhat wet. Once we arrived in Hualien, we took a cab to a hotel – there are a lot of nice hotels in the area since Hualien is very touristy and fun for people to visit when they’re traveling within the island. After we checked into the hotel, we walked to a restaurant that my dad visited the last time he was in Hualien.
The restaurant is known for their chicken and traditional Taiwanese food. My dad tried to explain what they do to the chicken, but it got somewhat lost in translation. I later found out that what they do is castrate the chicken while it’s young…but it’s a free range chicken with hearty meat.
We started with some vegetables, one of my favorites from the entire trip, shanshu, which was sauteed with goji berries, garlic, and fish:
We also ordered clams with basil and garlic:
Traditional water spinach:
And the chicken:
When I told my dad I thought it was a little tough, he said that’s what made it so special! Then he offered me another piece by saying, isn’t is SO TOUGH? Me, Ken and my mom weren’t huge fans of it but my dad insisted we eat more because it was such a delicacy.
For dessert, my dad ordered the speciality of the restaurant. The sweet potato dessert takes a while to prepare because they coat it in sugar, which takes a bit:
The sweet potato is covered in warm sugar and then dunked into ice to make a caramelized shell:
Fishing out the sweet potato:
You can see the sugar makes everything stick together but it’s worth it because the sweet potato is warm under the cold caramelized sugar:
After the filling lunch, it was raining out so our initial plans to drive to Taroko National Park, but it can be dangerous if you’re not used to driving in that area and we decided not to risk it. Instead, my dad took us to a hot spring!
The area has a lot of fun hot springs and people go all year round to relax with friends, soak in the water, and bathe. We went to a hot spring that is also a resort (a little western-y):
There were flamingos on the grounds:
We rested for a bit in their cafe and drank coffees and ate milk candy before heading to the hot springs. We rented rooms (you can rent them by the hour) and it’s almost the same as taking a bath. They have marble bathtubs and the water comes directly from the hot spring. It smells a little bit like sulfur, but makes your skin very soft and is very relaxing.
After our fun afternoon at the hot springs, we ate at Dai’s Dumplings:
They only serve wontons at the restaurant and it’s only about $3USD for one bottle, but they were filling and it was a good way to end the evening.
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