The Mandarin Center at Cheng Kung had two weeks off from December 10th onwards. I used that opportunity to go on a trip to Hualian. Hualian is on Taiwan's east coast, just about on the opposite side of the island from Tainan. I started by taking a bus to Taipei with two classmates. It was about a 4 hour ride. When we got to Taipei we met up with one more classmate who was already in Taipei. We then proceeded to miss our train by about 10 seconds. After staying in Taipei for a night, we went to Hualian the next morning. It was about a four hour train ride to Hualian from Taipei.
I took some photos from the train on the way down. It looks like they're building some big highway or something.
This is Hualian Station. I assume this pattern is a traditional pattern used by the aboriginies from the Hualian area.
The photo above is what greeted us when we got to Hualian. Crud. We were planning to spend most of our time there outside, so rain was not welcome at all. However, it wasn't actually raining at the time when we got there, so we immediately rented some scooters and headed off to Taroko Gorge. Taroko Gorge is the main reason for coming to Hualian. It's a huge gorge in the mountains to the west of Hualian. It's gorgeous, and you can get there in about an hour from Hualian.
This tunnel is the entrance to the trail we wanted to hike on. A sign at the entrance said to watch out for poisonous snakes, and it warned us not to go in unless we had hard helmets and flashlights. We had cell phones, which are kind of like flashlights, our skulls are pretty thick, and I don't think any of us is allergic to poisonous snakes, so we went in anyway. Preparation? Bah!
Since I was using my camera's flash you really can't tell, but this tunnel was pitch black. The only thing we could see was the small bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
The capacity for the above bridge was only 10 people. 10! So of course what does everyone do when they get on it? Jump around! My friends too engaged in such antics, but I stood off to the side and just prayed that I wouldn't see three friends and a handful of Singaporean children plunge to their deaths.
There was an all-natural toilet at the end of the path.
The tunnel in the photo above was the last one on the trail. We saw people coming out of it with the shoes and socks off, and they were all wearing ponchos. Their actions were 100% correct and not at all strange it turns out. The inside of the tunnel has a path, but it submerges in some places, and water falls on you from up above at points, so it really is best to take off your shoes and put on a poncho.
That was it for our first day. It was starting to get dark, so we left Taroko and headed back to Hualian. We visited a night market, but being snobby Tainan residents, we were unimpressed by the market's small size. There was some good food, but Hualian's night markets don't hold a candle to Tainan's.
The next day it was raining hard, so we decided to go to a hot spring. We didn't do much aside from that, so I don't really have any photos, but in the evening we also went to see some aboriginal dancing. They have it just about every night it seems.
The dancers have bells strapped to their legs just like some certain, unsavory English dancers do.
I got all of my nicest photos on the day when we were leaving. It figures that it would clear up just in time for us to leave. I hate the universe and all life in it.
Taroko is gorgeous. Are you on your favorite travel site buying your plane tickets to Taiwan right now? No? Get on it!
And not only is Taroko gorgeous, but the train ride to Hualian is also pretty amazing. For much of the ride you have the sea on one side of you and the mountains on the other. I can only imagine that the ride south from Hualian to Taitung is also nice, but I haven't had the chance to do that yet.
I only wish it hadn't been cloudy and raining while we were there. I might have gotten more nice photos otherwise.