Hua Lien - Taiwan Day 3 Part 1

This is day 3 part 1 of my Taipei Trip. Click here to return to the main Taipei Travelogue

For day 3, my family went to Hualien with the main intention of visiting the Taroko Gorge and our experience will be covered in this post!

With time to spare when we returned to Taipei, we went onto Shilin to indulge in the street food which will be covered in the following post.

Prior to the trip, we made reservations with Tiffany, extremely famous on Tripadvisor for her day trip services from Hualien. She is probably the most down to the Earth person you will ever meet. Some may find her alittle pushy as her ranting were complains and money related. Otherwise, she's friendly, knowledgeable and eager to help you get your picture taken! Love the way how she asks the people to move aside so that we can get a nice family photo. I strongly recommend her services, book her way in advance! Take note that she requires a deposit of 30% of the trip, the rest will be paid on the day itself.

She has a facebook link which you can visit over here. Otherwise you can always contact her by phone or email, the latter preferred:
Tiffany Chang
Phone: 0912-522118
Tiffany will be able to provide you with a lot of information, such as which train to book as listed below. Click here to search and book trains to Hualien. (Don't worry, it's not a referral link)
Train type: Tze Chiang Taipei → Hualien
204( departure time of Taipei 06:30 - arrival time of Hualien 09:21 )
206( 07:20 - 09:25 )
272( 07:30 - 10:42 )
208( 08:00 - 10:22 )
274( 08:20 - 10:52 )
Train type: Chu Kuang Taipei → Hualien
72( 06:50 - 09:42 ) Monday, Friday-Sunday.
74( 07:10 - 09:54 )

Train to Hualien

We woke up early in the morning and skipped breakfast for our train to Hua Lien. If you intend to travel to Hua Line, do remember to buy your tickets in advance as the trains tend to fill up quickly.

Train Platform, Taipei Main Station

We booked our tickets late and did not mange to sercure the Taroko Express (太魯閣號)/Tza Chiang Limited Express which takes only 2 hours and 10 minutes. Thus, we settled on the second best option which took 2 hours and 50 minutes. To save sometime on travelling, book your tickets 2 weeks before the date of travel. Print out the e-ticket and go to the railway station to collect the magnetic ticket (shown below) from the ticket counter.  If it is a day trip, be sure to book a return journey ticket to save 10%.
Magnetic Ticket
The train that was crawling me to Hualien. :/
Train to Hualien
The interior wasn't that bad. We had lots of leg room! Slept throughout the trip as we woke up at 6am.

Interior of the Hualien Train
We arrived at Hualien Train Station at 10:02am and met Tiffany who was holding a piece of paper with my name on it at the front exit of Hualien Station.

Hualien Station

Seven Star Bay, 七星潭

Many visitors who visit Hualien will visit Taroko Gorge. However, few have been to the Seven Star Bay where stones found on the beach have unusual colours and designs.  The Seven Star Lake was once named after a serie of small lakes situated where Hualien Arport is now. The Japanese filled the lakes as part of a modernization drive in 1936. Occasionally, you can watch millitary planes taking off from the nearby air-base.
Tiffany's Taxi
This was our first stop of our day trip. Check out the pebble beach facing the magnificent clear blue water of the Pacific Ocean. 
Seven Star Bay
Seven Star Bay is probably the place to meditate as you are soothed by the sound of ocean waves washing over the pebbles. Look at the pebbles!

清水斷崖 Cingshuei Cliff

The second stop was Chingshuei Cliff. Situated between Heren and Chongde on the Su-Hua highway. This is the only coastal road in Taroko National Park. Streching more than 21km, it rises vertically from the Pacific Ocean with an average heigh of over 800m. That being said, it has been picked by the Taiwan government to be one of Taiwan's "Eight Wonders". It is often called the corridor in the sky. 
Cingshuei Cliff
We made several stops along the way to enjoy the nice sea breeze.
Cingshuei Cliff
As you are taken around the Taroko National park, you will pass many tunnels. The short tunnels are mostly carved out of the mountain by dynamite while longer tunnels (shown below) are only made possible in the recent years with the development of tunnelling machines.
One of the many tunnels

燕子口 Swallow Grotto

At Swallow Grotto, this is where you can view Liwu River gorge. This is where the river runs the fastest. It is said that the marble formations are most visible compared to other trails which explains why many visitors put this one the "to-do" list. It would have been much more beautiful if travelling on a sunny day. The river's water has turned a murky colour due to the rain. Click here to google for more images to see the Taroko Gorge at its best!
Swallow Grotto
That being said, the Swallow Grotto trail runs 1372m and takes an average of 50 minutes.. The old highway is now a pedestrian path and leads almost directly above the river! Tiffany, dropped us off the entrance of the gorge and met us at the other end of the trail. What a way to cut down on walking :P The little holes on the giant rock walls are where House Swifts and Pacific Swallows usually nest. Hence, the name Swallow Grotto.
The holes on the walls of the gorge
The potholes along the trail were created by water that have been forced into the same spot over time by the Liwu River, from above ground and from underground. Look at how steep the walls are. The trail is well maintained with railings to prevent one from falling!
Swallow Grotto, Long way down?
At the end of the trail, closer to Jinheng Bridge, the famous rock formation "Chieftain's profile rock" can be seen.
Chieftain's profile rock, Swallow Grotto
At the end of the trail, there is a mini gift shop which sold aborigine items and some refreshments.

慈母桥 Tzu Mu Bridge

Another famous stop after the Tunnel of Nine Turns which remains closed is the Cimu Bridge (Motherly Devotion Bridge). The rock beneth the bridge is suppose to look like a frog with black schist at the top and white marble at the bottom. A pavilion was built as a crown for the frong. Built by late President Chiang Kai-shek, in memory of his mother, Mrs. Wang.
The Frog Looking rock, Tzu Mu Bridge
This is also where the Laoxi River flowing through the marble valley merge into Liwu River. The cliffs has two different rock layers as seen by the white marble below and black layer of schist on top.
The junction where Laoxi River meet Liwu River.
Earlier on, I mentioned about the nice blue, turquoise colour water. Here is a pool of water which was isolated from the rest of the river. The turquoise colour Is said to be given by minerals from the marble which has dissolved in the water.

天祥 Tianxang

We stopped at Tianxang for lunch and it is one of the two rest stops along the Central Cross-Island (The order being Bulowan, a tribal village of Taroko aborigines). The restaurant that Tiffany recommended offered set lunch where you can order several dishes or ala carte. The meal wasn't the best tasting but enough to keep you going. Thus, the reason why I didn't remember to take a picture of the restaurant.
Some idea on the type of food you can purchase when you are at Tianxang.
Stew Pork Rice
Pork Chop Set
Beef Rice Set
Across the Pudu Bridge from Tianxiang is the Xiangde temple. The temple was completed in 1968.
Pudu Bridge
Climbing up the flight of stairs at the end of Pudu Bridge would lead you to Tianfeng Pagoda. Climbing the tower offers a bird's eye view over the Tianxiang terraces and gorge.
Tianfeng Pagoda
The spiralling stairs up!
Spiralling Stairs, Tianfeng Pagoda
The view from the top of the pagoda!
View from the top of Tianfeng Pagoda
The Xiangde temple is a Buddish Linzizong temple. Many believers come from all over the island to worship Buddha ort practice moral teachings here.

合流岳王亭吊桥 Holiu Suspension Bridge

The suspension bridge leads to the Lushui-Heliu (2km Trail). This trail takes approximately 45 minutes one way. Unfortunately, signs regarding the limitations of the bridge are written in English and Mandarin. There were Korean tourists around and they are unable to read the sign which says only 8 people at any time. There were probably 16 people on the bridge when I visited. Probably, its time to get some Korean and Japanese Signboard. :P
Entrance to the Bridge
Crossing the Bridge

Entrance to Central Cross-Island Highway and Taroko National Park

Our last stop, is the mandatory shot of the entrance of Taroko National Park. As we entered the park from Qingshui Cliffs, we did not enter the place from the front. Everyone would take turns to stand on the road to get their pictures taken!
One of the carved out tunnels
The main entrance to Taroko National Park.
Entrance to Taroko National Park
The Taroko National Park is a large national park! There are places that I have visited due to time constrains such as the Eternal Spring Shrine, Buluowan, Tunnel of Nine Turns (Closed) and Baiyang Waterfall Trail. You could spend a night at Hualien or even in the Park at Silks Place Taroko (Tianxiang). 
Things you need to know:
-You may want to rent a taxi to explore Taroko National Park. However, if you want an English speaking taxi driver, you may want to book Tiffany. 
-If you like beautiful sceneries, this is a must on your "to-do" list! Great for those who had enough of the mundane city life.
-Book your train tickets in advance. Click here for the link.
The total distance travelled was 31.8km and the trip will take at least 6-8 hours. Be sure to allocate more time if you are visiting more places!

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Map for Hualien Tour:

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About Haoming Koo

Koo Haoming. Founder of The Fat Chemist. Currently an undergrad at the National University of Singapore with a burning passion for science! Inspired to start a blog after reading the book, "Napoleon's Buttons, How 17 Molecules Changed History". The book fills the gap between Chemistry and History. Adapting the style of the book, posts written by me highlight the chemistry in the food we eat.
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