Hualien and Taroko Gorge
Day three was a travel day. We packed up and headed to the train station for our five and a half hour ride to Hualien (“Hwah-lien”). The train was super easy to figure out, clean, spacious and freezing! I survived the cold front though and we grabbed a taxi to our hotel. It was a cute hole in the wall hotel. And if you didn’t think that was a thing, neither did I until we stayed at this place. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of it except for one wall hanging in their lobby area. The place was called “Bed and Beer” but had a second name, Xiang Pin Hotel. Weird, but crazy that our first hotel in Kaohsiung ALSO had two names…hmmm…
That evening, we arrived just in time to see the Dongdamen Night Market. We had heard and read that it was a huge and awesome market with great food so I was excited. I think because we went on a Monday night as it was just opening, it was nowhere near as exciting as it probably is on weekends. Regardless, we each got a cup of fried chicken and walked near the beach for a bit.
The next day, we got an early start and caught the 8:30 Tourist Shuttle Bus at the Hualien Station for Taroko Gorge!! An all day pass for one person was NT$250 ($8.50) which isn’t too bad. We rode the bus an hour and a half all the way to Tianxiang and started on the Baiyang Trail!
We had a very unique start on this trail as we had to go through a couple of cave tunnels that were pitch black! It was a bit scary but that’s also what made it so fun too.
The Baiyang Trail was by far my favorite of the excursions that day. It was an easy hike with gorgeous views of waterfalls, gigantic rocks and suspension bridges! At the end of the trail, we came to a cave that had a ton of ponchos laying out on the side. We thought we’d be okay with our rain jackets but other hikers told us we should definitely use the poncho and take off our shoes and socks. We obliged, and started in. In a single file line, Luke and I held hands through the cave along a ledge on the side for about 5 minutes all the way to the end. We were ankle deep in water and thank God we took the ponchos because we were drenched! Just before the end of the cave, there was a waterfall inside! I have no idea how it existed. There was no light nor were there any big holes coming through the top. The view out the back of the cave was anticlimactic since the gorgeous views were all over outside. But the waterfall definitely made it memorable!
After we trekked back, we jumped back on the bus to hit the next stop: Luishi Trail. This was where things started to get interesting. We started up the trail right across from the bus stop and about 30 minutes into it, we stop to check the map and realize we had long passed the viewpoint for the hike. We never saw it! So we decide to turn around and go almost back to the beginning to try and check it out one more time. We finally got to where we were supposed to turn and the trail seemed sketchy. Oh, have I mentioned there were signs EVERYWHERE to beware of mosquitos and venomous snakes?!?! Yeah. So we started through this iffy trail and about 30 seconds later see some orange paint on the ground and decide not to proceed. Sheesh. We ended up going all the way back to where we started, spent an hour and a half on this hike and didn’t get to see the viewpoint. So sad!
We hopped back on the next bus in hopes of seeing the Bulowan Trail next. Nope! Apparently the bus doesn’t stop there when going that direction. So we thought okay, we’ll just get off on the next one at the popular Changchun Shrine. The bus driver slowed down and we thought he was trying to find a place to pull over because it was so crowded. However, he never stopped or opened the door so we ended up missing that stop completely!!
We ended up getting off at the Visitor Center and fortunately were able to hike the Shakadang Trail. Even though at this point we were pushing for time, it was a nice scenic route that followed the water. We passed an adventurous bridge, saw the “big, red bridge”, and made it to the 5D Village before taking pictures and turning around.
We planned on walking to the Changchun Shrine from there and taking the bus from there back to the station, but we soon came to realize we would have to walk through another tunnel. And although all the other tunnels have either had no access for cars, or a walker-friendly pathway, this had neither and was barely big enough for cars to get through. We couldn’t risk it and had to then take the long way around to the shrine. At this point, I was skeptical we would make it and was starting to get frustrated. It began to rain lightly and we had to almost run up these stairs in hopes of making it. We had to get to the other side because that’s where the bus stop was. We saw a beautiful temple and walked through an awesome bell tower, but at this point, the rest of the trail to the shrine was closed off so we were at a loss. Fortunately, there were some extremely nice Taiwanese folks just in front of us who had taken a taxi. Thanks to Google Translate and some extrovertedness, we were able to bum a ride back to the park entrance in time to make the last bus. Whew! What a day it was.
Before we even went back to the hotel, we walked through the Dongdamen Night Market one more time and found some really good sandwiches, a chocolate on chocolate waffle, and a Thai Milk Tea! It was finally time to shower and rest up before our next travel day into the city of Taipei!