Imagine arriving in a new country for the first time and getting such a fantastic feeling that you just can’t stop smiling.
We are totally smitten within 5 hours of landing. The challenge of navigating Taipei airport, purchasing a SIM card and finding the right train – on time – from a mass of platforms/train lines was no challenge at all and here we are in Hualien grinning like we have just won the lottery.
Unusually perhaps, Hualien was our first stop in Taiwan. Without doubt, Taroko Gorge is stunning, justifiably popular for all the beautiful scenery and walking trails in the national park area. What we did not expect was all the other reasons to enjoy Hualien.
1. Fun Themes
Incredibly hospitable hosts with a unique take on decoration is normal. What fun ! Surrounded by rabbits and drinking the best (oolong) tea, I felt like Alice as she slipped down the rabbit hole. Next-door paid homage to the Queen of England, down the road were cats and comic book heros. Our train here was “Hello Kitty” themed. It’s impossible not to smile.
2. That “Top Gun” feeling
3. Night markets
Great for food and interesting entertainment. And the biggest watermelons known to man.
4. Qingshi Cliffs
25km north, (just past Taroko) are the tall sheer cliffs leading down to the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean. Walking to the viewing point hear the tiny singing frogs and spot a wild monkey in the branches that spill down the hillside to the (wide) walkway.
5. Cycle ride to the black stone beach (Cisingtan Beach)
Only 10 mins from the city. Smooth black stones, warm enough for a hot stone massage.
6. Jici Beach
This is the locals favourite spot for swimming, surfing and romantic dates. A lovely drive down to the sheltered cove with a black sand beach.
7. The dumplings…
A little worried initially that we would not be able to read any menus (we can’t), now much more concerned we will leave Taiwan looking like dumplings ourselves – they are that good in Hualien.
Borrow a bike to work off those dumplings. Use the cycle paths in and around Hualien to enjoy the town and it’s many sights. For the energetic, there is a long coastal bike trail, dotted with campsites.
9. Scenic Coastal Drive
The roads are empty and the views stunning. Fishing villages and aboriginal towns dot the highway. The natural scenery is jaw dropping beautiful with plenty of viewing platforms to gaze upon gorges, mountains, rivers, pacific beaches, rice paddies. Car hire was easy and not expensive.
10. Photographers paradise
If your camera is not exhausted by now, the parks and temples offer plenty more opportunities to capture the colours and culture of this beautiful, diverse town. Save time for the harbor area too.
48 hours hours after arriving, we have already decided to return to Taiwan very soon. Taroko National Park and the East Coast Scenic Drive were great days out and we will post some more photos and travel information on these soon.