Thoughts From Places: Hualian | Memosne

Thoughts From Places: Hualian

If you're ever abroad or living in a foreign place for an extended period of time you should definitely make the effort to go travel. Having lived in Taipei for a year, I'm embarrassed to say that I remained mostly sedentary in my exchange student existence. For me, the reasons why I always remained in Taipei were matters of finding the right people, having the time, or having the desire to go. They sound like excuses now, but I've come to realize that you have to travel with people you "jive" with or else friendships will be broken.

It's really funny how travel dynamics work out sometimes though. Sometimes a person that you hang out with a lot make the worst travel partners, but a person you hang out with for a max of two hours will make the best of travel partners. This isn't a rule set in stone, but don't close your mind to people that you "wouldn't" travel with. Honestly, the best part of traveling in a group is sharing your experiences with someone else. There are times when I love to be by myself and introspect on my personality and where I'm going with my life...but sometimes what you eat something ridiculous, like cow brains, you just gotta share that experience with somebody else. =P

Seven Star Beach Bike Trail
Most of these photos are just photos that I particularly enjoy, but there are some more on this flickr account if you feel like browsing. =)

Luckily, the right travel group found me. =) All these pictures are from a wonderful trip to Hualian city (花蓮市), in Hualian county on the eastern side of Taiwan. Hualian is especially famous for their mochi, Seven Star Beach (七星潭), Taroko Gorge (太魯閣), and the various aboriginal peoples that live around the area, more specifically the Ami, Atayal, and the Bunun. You can get to Hualian by train, plane, and bus. My friends and I took the express train to Hualian, the ride took about two hours and cost 440NT.

Surprisingly this wasn't very good
I would highly recommend going to the Visitor Information Center before you set off exploring the city, it's on the right hand side of the Hualian Train station. There you can get a lot of English language materials about the tourist sites in the area and as well as the very valuable "Youth Travel Discount". It's free! You fill out a little form with your basic information and the employees at the counter will give you a little keychain with the Taiwanese Youth logo and a booklet of tourist attractions, famous spots, famous food stalls, etc. You can then get discount at all the places within the book if you show your Youth Travel Keychain!

100 Lion Bridge
Hualian City has many, many, many hostels and hotels geared towards tourists hoping to partake in the natural beauty that surrounds Hualian. My traveling group and I stayed in JV's Youth Hostel and had very good experiences with it. =) The rooms are nice and spacious, they offer free wifi, and have a nice group lounge. The only thing that I would complain about is its location, after the two hour train ride to Hualian my friends and I had a difficult time finding out exactly where this hostel was. Even some locals were confused about its location! Make sure you have a map handy and a pre-printed address to help you in case you get lost.

Toroko Gorge Trail
If there is only one place you go to in your stay in Taipei, it should be Toroko Gorge. It's described as the "Grand Canyon" of Taipei. It has some of the most lovely hiking trails and scenery in Taiwan, but most of all it is a great place just to walk and chill...individually or with friends! Hualian is the closest spot you can go to with access to Toroko gorge, most people stay in Hualian overnight or go to Hualian very, very early in the morning for a day trip. 

Entrance to Toroko 
As for getting to Toroko gorge you have three choices: bus, scooter, or taxi. I really wanted to take a scooter, they're easily rentable from one of the numerous bike/scooter rental places. *ahem* Don't tell anyone you heard this from me, but many places are willing to rent out scooters to those who don't have "international" licenses. Seeing as I can't ride a bike very well, it seemed foolish to want to try to drive a motorized bike. The bus option was cheaper, although I can't remember how much, but you had to be very careful with the scheduling and "timing" of your hike. The buses came at odd hours and stopped pretty early. Ultimately, my friends and I opted to take a taxi tour that would stop at all the sights worth seeing in and around Hualian for $1000 NT.  

River Along the Gorge
On the tour we saw the Tunnel of Nine Turns(九曲洞), Eternal Spring Shrine(長春祠), Swallow Grotto(燕子口), the Bridge of 100 Lions, and some other "secrets" that the taxi driver took us to. Given that we spent a long time driving from place to place, the $1000 NT taxi was well worth it. 

Wave Breakers Along the Beach Trail
We told our driver to drop us off at Seven Star Beach so we could bike around and explore the area. Given the poor, rainy, cloudy weather in Taipei (I'd been complaining about it in almost all of my blog posts) I was super psyched to get to the sun and the beach in Hualian.

Seven Star Beach
Unfortunately, the beach was not a traditional Californian beach, but more of a pebbly rocky one. I would not bring a swimsuit or beach gear to play here, but I do strongly recommend renting a bike (about $300 NT) and biking along the shoreline. You'll get to see the wave breakers, cliffs over looking the beach, and a lot of beautiful scenery. This particular beach is quite a ways from Hualian city and we had to grab a taxi back to the "main drag."

Seven Star Beach Scenery
As for traveling around the Hualian City, I also highly recommend getting a scooter or a bicycle. You must be wondering what there is to do in the city. =P Honestly, the city is similar to many other cities within Taiwan. There's a bustling night market, shopping district and tourist district. What my friends and I particularly enjoyed was buying the famous mochi (there are a million stores around that all sell famous mochi), exploring the local night market, and heading off to the local to light paper lanterns (放天燈)and set off fireworks. Both are ridiculously cheap and easy to buy off of local vendors. Don't forget to haggle!

Fireworks <3

Overall, I had a really good time. We found a lot of new sights, sounds, and places to explore in and around Hualian and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. If you have any questions please feel free to comment below and I'll do my best to answer. =)

Thanks for coming! 


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