Taiwan is the first country I have gone back to in Asia. This wasn’t planned either, but merely a happy coincidence that Korean thanksgiving gave me 5 days off and I began having the urge for a change.
Luckily for me, my friend Chad was in the same boat and 2 weeks later, here we are in Taiwan.
My first time in Taiwan was only for a weekend and I spent the entire time exploring Taipei, but this little island has so much to offer than just the city. In fact, it’s everything but the city that attracts people here and it was also for this same reason that the Portuguese named it Ilha Formosa (beautiful island).
As soon as I arrived, I met Chad at the train station and headed east towards Hualien. This tiny city is located on the east coast, nestled in between mountains and the Pacific Ocean. From here we planned to rent scooters and putt putt north on the east coast highway towards Toroko national park which is a gorge – a valley created by water, an area made up of numerous lush mountains and also houses aborigine villages.
Hualien attracts tourists for this main reason since it doesn’t have much else to offer other than the stunning scenery.
We couch surfed with a local who took us to a night market and introduced us to some delicious Taiwanese snacks. My favourite was the coffin bread which is french toast, but cut out and stuffed with your meat of choice. The dumplings are also to die for, hand made and savoury!
A night Hualien is just as much as you need. We took off the next day on rented scooters toward Taroko which is about an hour ride from the city. Highways in Taiwan have a scooter lane making it safe and easy to ride here, in comparison to other countries in Asia.
Once at Taroko we were in awe.. from the beauty of the mountains and the numerous waterfalls. The plan was to camp for the night and only one of the two campgrounds were open. Also numerous trails in the park were shut down, most likely due to the typhoon that took place just days earlier. The campground was about halfway into the national park, about a 40 min drive on the curvy roads underneath rock, mountains and waterfalls. Stunning to say the least!
The park wasn’t too crowded due to the moon festival which is similar to Korean thanksgiving – a tradition to honor the harvest. This day is also the one day of the year that the full moon is the biggest. It was serene to ride along the roads at night, into the moonlight as it glistened onto the valley waters, amidst mountains. That one moment of time has been ingrained in me, pictures simply can not do it justice so I didn’t even try.
Waking up the raging waterfall was a different sort of wake up call. The air was refreshing and crisp. We headed back to Hualien in order to head to our next destination via train – Tainan. So far, this trip is turning out to be pretty amazing.