I love surprises, especially the ones I don’t expect. Taiwan is one of these surprises. If I wouldn’t live in Hong Kong I would have never considered to visit Taiwan any time soon. Before flying to Taiwan, I hadn’t heard much about it except for Taipei and it’s good cuisine. One reason I wasn’t much aware of Taiwan is that it’s not really on the list of trendy destinations like Vietnam or Japan. Not many people go and visit Taiwan and consequently not much is written or talked about it. The second reason is that travels to Taiwan are often limited to short trips to Taipei. So even if your heard good things about Taiwan they are most likely to be only about Taipei.
But let’s get back to surprises. I expected Taiwan to be similar to China with a tendency towards Japan. To be exact I thought that Taiwan would look and feel like China with a hint of Japanese modernity. However what I found was neither China nor Japan.
I was amazed to experience a very calm and relaxed country. Taiwan is one big green island and the air feels clean and fresh. People are generally very friendly and openminded and go out of their way to help and make you feel comfortable. The food is delicious, the landscape is breathtaking and its cultural heritage rich and diverse.
End of September we spent a little more than 4 days in Taiwan. We arrived at Taipei airport at night, and the next morning, we took the train to the seaside city of Hualien. Hualien is a small town at Taiwan’s east cost and a good starting point for trips to Taroko Gorge, one of Taiwan’s most popular National Parks. And another of Taiwan’s many surprises. I fell in love with this beautiful place and its marble cliffs, forested canyons and many hanging bridges.
Taroko Gorge – A Day in Taiwan’s National Park
How to get there:
Basically there are three different options how to explore Taroko Gorge if you stay in Hualien over night:
1.) Book a tour with a travel agent. There are two tour operators highly recommended on Tripadvisor, Eye Travel Taiwan and Hualien Outdoor Day Tours. Reviews of customers advise to book in advance as tours are filled up quickly.
2.) Rent a scooter or car and explore the park on your own. Hualien is a 30-40 min drive to the park’s entrance which houses an information point. Here you’ll find competent and friendly staff that provides you with maps and all other relevant information about hiking trails, food and scenic spots.
3.) Get a taxi driver for a day. That’s what we did. We asked our hotel if they could recommend a company with English-speaking taxi drives that would drive us around the national park. This option is suitable for everyone who doesn’t want to travel in a big group. We booked our driver the evening before which was not a problem and we paid NT$ 3000 for the whole day (8 hours.)
What to see:
Luckily our driver spoke excellent English and in his previous job had worked in a hotel at the National Park. So he knew all the beautiful hikes and scenic spots. Here are my personal highlight of Taroko Groge that should not be missed: