Day #3 – Enroute to Hualien
I woke up as Mcgrumpy as we had to wake up quite early and head to the Taipei Main Station to catch an express train to the scenic city of Hualien. We bought the tickets from Puyuma Express which takes about 2-3 hours from Taipei to Hualien.
In our rush, we didn’t have time to stop for breakfast… thank god for the railway bento (台铁便当) that you can buy before boarding! If you’re looking for food options, definitely check these out cause they’re surprisingly tasty!
Our first impression of Hualien is that it’s definitely way more quiet than Taipei. Less crowds, less vehicles. Do you know there’s no public transport like buses in Hualien?
On our way to meet our Airbnb host (just 5 minutes away from the rail station), we saw stuff like old hospitals, old-school hotels, very old school arcades and such. It’s not so new and shiny, which is interesting for a change.
After checking in and chilling for a bit, we decided that our first day in Hualien will not be too adventurous as we’ve a full-day Taroko Gorge tour the next day. There were two places you have to try if you’re in Hualien!
(No. 102, Fuxing St, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970)
First up is Hualien’s famous 炸蛋葱油饼! The journey there was harder than Journey to the West in Monkey God. The boyfriend wanted to experience Hualien on foot, and he turned on the GPS and encouraged me to start walking. I was obviously not that keen, even less so when we found out we were walking in the wrong direction after 15 minutes! We finally found it in this hidden little alley after half an hour of walking.
There are two shops located very near to each other selling this same exact 炸蛋葱油饼, one with a very long queue and the other, not so much. We’re not fond of queuing so we just ordered from the shorter queue, and it was so yummy!
Now what exactly is 炸蛋葱油饼? I thought it was just 葱油饼 with a fried egg in it… but I was so wrong! If I’m not wrong, it’s coated with egg and deep fried. They coat it with sweet sauce or chilli which you can choose from, and you have an option of adding an extra egg. Can’t get over how good it is *salivates*
公正包子 (Gong Zheng Bao Zi)
(No.199-2 Zhongshan Road, Hualien City, Hualien)
The second famous place is Gong Zheng Bao Zi (公正包子). A little diner located at Zhongshan Road serving piping hot, hand-made dimsum that you should definitely try. Shop itself looks a little run-down, definitely not your Ding Tai Feng kinda quality, but the price is unbelievably cheap for the food we had which makes it so value for money and such a delight with locals and tourists.
We tried the Xiao Long Bao (35NT for 10), Steamed Buns (5NT each) and this noodle thingy which I can’t remember. 公正包子 is located in Hualien’s city center, so it’s convenient to start shopping around right after filling our tums.
I think we spent a lot of time looking for my shoes.. I wanted to get new balance shoes and so many Taiwan girls were wearing them with chic outfits! BUT no sizes for my big feet so we were told we’ll have better luck in Taipei City.
By walking aimlessly around town, we chanced upon an arts and culture store that sells amazing art crafts, a pop-up art fair, and even sat in at a presidential election ‘meet the people’ meeting (we had no idea what was happening)!
Day #4 Taroko Gorge Full Day Tour 太魯閣國家公園
We booked our Taroko Gorge Full Day Tour through our Airbnb host when we checked in. From my research, those who wish to go to Taroko can do so via 3 ways:
- Go with a tour group (Usually those who book travel agent packages, not FIT)
- Charter a private cab (Quite expensive, esp for just 2 pax)
- Take the public bus that runs from Hualien Station to Taroko (very long wait time due to scarcity of buses but cheap)
We had wanted to take the bus but our awesome host said we can join in with a group tour organised by a local agency at just 700NTD (S$30)per pax. We thought it was a good deal so went ahead with the booking.
It was a really rainy morning but the bus picked us up on time with most of the seats already filled. Our co-passengers were mostly from China but there were also other Singaporeans surprisingly.
Qingshui Cliff 清水断崖
This is a must visit! Designated as one of the Eight Wonders of Taiwan, Qingshui Cliff is the only place in Taroko National Park where you can see three distinct color tones that make up the Pacific Ocean.
How did Taroko Gorge come about?
Taroko Gorge is a rugged 19 km long marble-walled canyon 15 km north of Hualien on Taiwan’s east coast. It was created by tectonic forces and then carved by the action of the Liwu River.
Our guide shared that two indigenous tribes once occupied the Taroko Gorge and there was some kind of rivalry going on. The Atayal and Truki tribes still live in the area now, selling arts and crafts to visitors. The area has been mined for both marble and jade, and was exploited for its forest resources early in the 20th century. It became a Taiwan National Park in 1986.
Trails in Taroko Gorge
We visited most of the pit stops of the Taroko Gorge and that includes the Swallow Grotto Trail (燕子口布道), Shakadang (砂卡礑) and Buluowan (布落灣) and lastly, Seven Star Lake (七星潭). The trails are quite easy but can get pretty tiring if you don’t usually exercise. Our group had people as old as 50+ and they did the trails with no issues!
We had lunch at a diner in the gorge itself. There isn’t much dining options and they are a little pricier than usual so do bring your own food if on a budget!
The Chihsingtan Beach was so so so so cold it wasn’t even funny :( Think it’s best to wear a windbreaker there else you might really catch a nasty cold. The guide brought us to a local delicacy factory to buy some local produce at the end of the trip too! If you’re in Hualien, try their 金沙酥, which is like salted egg pastry. Very rich and melts right in the mouth. Regret not buying more! *cries*
The tour bus dropped us off in town, and we had the 炸蛋蔥油餅 yet again, cause it was just too good to resist. Ate a simple meal at a local diner for just $7 and decided to walk back to our apartment instead of taking the cab. On our way back, we discovered a grass jelly shop in someone’s home and went right in to warm up from the cold. Love adventures like these.
The trip to Taroko was definitely eye-opening. Nature always surprises us in one way or another doesn’t it? We should really protect the things nature bestowed upon us and make sure others get a chance to experience this beauty too. The town is also really quaint and laid back, something we’d appreciated, far from the maddening crowd. Back to Taipei for more adventures in the next few days.
Till next post, Jenn