Taipei had left me wet and soaked. But I wasn’t finished with Taiwan yet.
After 2 days in Taipei, with no improvement in the weather, I took the train to Hualien. Hualien, considered to be one of the finest cities in Taiwan and tourism mainstay, had another attraction : The Taroko Gorge.
And the fact that it was not raining in Hualien.
Hualien is just a 3 hour train ride from Taipei, and getting a train was a relatively easy, given the frequency of trains running between Hualien and Taipei. Once you reach the Hualien train station and step out of it, one of the first sights to greet you, is the visitor information centre. Mighty useful this one, since they have maps in English.
And across the street from the train station, you will also find a few hostels to choose from, with dorms in the range of 400 – 500 NTD. I choose the Amigos hostel, which was neat and comfy. And rented a bicycle to see around the city.
My first stop was the Yinpin Prefectural temple in Zhongyang Road. Established in the Qing dynasty, this is the oldest temple in Hualien today. And with no tourists heading this way, it makes for a relaxing hour of visiting.
And then, I called it a day for today. Taroko gorge will have to wait for the next day.
The next day, I started as early as I could in the morning, for the long bicycle trip to Taroko gorge. It was roughly 20 KMs away, and the roads were in fine condition. The only problem was that there was a risk of rockfall after the recent rains. Well, if there was a rockfall, it didn’t make much of a difference on how I was travelling in the Taroko.
In case you wanted to take it less strenuous, there are bus services from Hualien city centre, and the train station all the way to Taroko visitor centre, and further to Shakadang and Buluowan. But given that the buses have to travel slowly in the gorge, the chances are likely that they will take the same distance as riding a bicycle. But either way, you can see the majestic Tunnel of nine turns on your way.
Note: Do note that the last bus leaves Hualien at 3 PM. And the last return bus is at 7 PM.
The Taroko national park itself is totally free to enter and explore, except for certain restricted mountain areas for which a permit is required. The permits take upto a week, and they can be applied here.
There are myriad pathways that one can take to walk through the Taroko gorge, but my favourite one is the swallow grotto (Yanzikou). Like many paths in the Taroko gorge, this one also has a sizeable amount of rocky overheads, and the ‘rockfall warning’ signs. Be advised that you may come face-to-face with a lot of other travellers, who are also plying this route.
Another interesting trail is the Shakadang trail, which follows the path of the Shakadang trail and offers beautiful views everywhere. Unfortunately for me, the path was shortened when I visited here, and I could just walk a view hundred metres before I had to turn back. Weather can be a spoilsport in the Gorge.
But the highlight of a visit to the Taroko gorge, has to be the eternal spring shrine in the Liwu River valley. Built in memory of the labourers who died during the construction of the Central Cross-island highway, the eternal spring shine can be tricky to get to. Especially after the rain season, with its wet surfaces. But follow the tour groups, and you will be just fine.
Once you cross the eternal spring shine (also called the changchun shrine) you will find smaller pathways and stairs leading to Kuanyin caves, Taroko tower, and the heaven trail to Changuang temple.