I decided rather than spending the full time in Taipei, I’d make a brief visit to Hualien. The 4(ish) hour train journey was really pretty going through the country, but the weather looked very ominous when I arrived. Luckily, the hostel – The Black Bear, was close to the station. The lady was nice but forgot to give me the hostel room’s door key that was a fun trip up and down the stairs in the humidity and with the backpack on. But the hostel was nice and clean with comfy beds. I more or less monged about that afternoon until the rain passed before heading out for a walk to explore the town. Hualien had a good and busy town centre, I went to find the tourist market that was marked on the map and it appeared to be in the middle of nowhere and actually wasn’t really anything there except a few random fair style stalls. Hmm, that can’t be the place that it used to be then. So I went and found another night market, Zigiang, which was brilliant and luckily undercover as the rain started up again. The food at this market was amazing and I wanted to try everything. I settled on trying a beef wrap, some dumplings and a fruit shake to try and make it a tad healthy. A bit put off by the weather I went back to the hostel and chilled out for the evening.
The main reason I came to Hualien was to visit the Taroko National Park but the next morning I couldn’t muster up the energy to do it so I spent the day walking aimlessly and endlessly around Hualien. Certainly saw the industrial side of Taiwan and even got scared off by three dogs guarding a site within an industrial estate I somehow ended up walking through. Found the Hualien Distillery, which I was hoping would be a proper distillery but no it was a bloody alcohol wholesalers. Still left with a bottle of something and a few tasters, so I can’t complain too much. I aimlessly wandered over to the ‘harbour’ it was dead and nothing to do or see so I pretty continued my walk along the coast to amble about the Beiben and Nanbin Park’s, before getting adequately bored and hungry. So back to the Zigiang Market to sample some more bits, pizza and a disgustingly amazing fried sandwich with beef and gravysque sauce. Love it, Taiwan is my food heaven.
Right time to visit Taroko National Park, conveniently there is a shuttle bus that runs from the train station up to the national park and through it. My first stop was the visitor centre for a much needed coffee and breakfast before going for a walk along the gorge on the Shakadang Trail. Unfortunately, you couldn’t walk the entire path due to storms but it gives a taste of the scenery and grandeur of the gorge, just a shame the weather was overcast. I walked through some tunnels (not sure if pedestrians were actually allowed to do that but oh well) to the Eternal Spring (Changchun). The temple is beautiful set in the mountain just above the river, built to commemorate 226 people who died building the road through the mountains. I meandered around the area for a while and climbed up the tiring stairs beyond the temple to Guanyin Cave, Taroko Tower and the Bell Tower which had great views across the gorge. Deciding to walk to the next place, I set off and quickly saw that actually the bus would be a better and safer option but they are not regular. Eventually one turned up and being to knackered to explore much more, in hindsight wish I had gone to the Swallow Grotto) I headed straight to the small town of Tianxiang. I had a nosy about here and explored the White Robed Guanyin Statue, the 7-story high Tian Feng Pagoda, Giant Statute of the Bodhisattva, Xiangde Temple and a small little Catholic Church. Before getting cold and jumping on the bus back to Hualien. Taroko National Park would have been worth exploring a bit more as it such a pretty area. But ah well, can’t fit everything in. So to celebrate all the walking, I went to an American style place for a massive hot dog meal. The waitress and some other staff member informed me that I looked very sporty, was I a runner? Erm, well since I’m allergic to exercise I obviously told them I was a runner. I’ll take that as a compliment thanks.