Both Lara and I have been looking forward to visiting Taiwan, more particularly the marble-rich mountain of Taroko Gorge. Who wouldn’t look forward to visiting the Taroko Gorge beautifully sculpted by nature as well as its serene springs?
Well, sometimes, not everything will turn out the way you planned. But, this doesn’t mean you’ll just have to curl up and hide behind your bed sheet. Then, wait for the rain to stop.
Even our trip to East of Taiwan meant minus Taroko Gorge, I and my friend still found a memorable experience. The East of Taiwan has a lot of things to share with us like a creative market, a night market and a historical site. Continue reading below to know what else Hualien has to offer:
Our Air Asia Flight was supposed to leave by 11:15 PM and was expected to arrive in Taipei by 1:25 AM. Since our flight was delayed, we ended up arriving at 2:30 AM and finishing the immigration procedure by 3 AM.
Because we needed to wait for the counter to open where we can pick up our reserved pocket wifi, we slept in the airport. Where to sleep in the airport?
Outside the immigration section, there were benches. The green ones are comfier and they have a socket next to each. It felt like each one had their individual space, unfortunately, it was almost full when we got there.
Thanks to my Asian genes and height, I didn’t need a lot of space. I was able to fit myself into 2 chairs. Lara laughed at how comfy I looked.
The “Unite Traveler” counter, located just outside the baggage reclaim area, opens at 5:30 AM, where we claimed our reserved pocket wifi. Actually, they are open from 5:30 AM until 1:00 AM. You must have this in mind when booking a flight so reclaiming your pocket wifi would be a lot easier.
Having a pocket wifi is a big help for me. Aside from having to work online, having an internet ready allows me to easily browse travel information when we had trouble getting around and reading directions.
The pocket wifi we reserved through KKday is worth it. It is really fast and super cheap. For Php 134 per day, I already got this unlimited 4G Pocket Wifi. We paid using a credit card. While we had the pocket wifi in our possession, they placed a temporary authorized hold on our credit card. It was their guarantee that the pocket wifi will be returned and not damaged.
Money exchange just outside immigration has competitive rates. As much as possible, I prefer not changing money in the airport. But this time, it gave us competitive rates. They do charge NT$ 30 (Php 50.80) as a service fee though.
Going to Taroko Gorge via Taipei Main Station
When taking a bus going to Taipei Main Station, you can take the bus 1819. You can buy a bus ticket for around NT$ 125 (Php 211.36).
In our case, we were thinking that we have a long trip ahead. We booked a hassle-free pick-up service by KKday from Taoyuan International Airport to anywhere in Taipei. We asked to be dropped off at the Taipei Main Station. The pick-up service costs around Php 1307. The car was spacious and comfy. It’s only for 3 to 4 pax. Lara and I were able to take a nap comfortably in the car.
How to Get to Taroko Gorge from Taipei
The most practical way to reach Taroko Gorge is through Train. An express train from Taipei Main Station going to Hualien may take around two hours while an ordinary train coming may take three to four hours. An express train ride may cost around NT$ 440 (Php 745.00) and an ordinary train fare may only cost more or less NT$ 340 (Php 575.68).
You’ll also have two drop-off options. You can opt to be dropped off at the Hualien Station or Xincheng Station. Xincheng Station is only a few minutes away from Taroko Gorge and near the beach but only have few establishments. Xincheng Station is only a small station where only a few train stops by.
Hualien Station, on the other hand, is a bigger station where most of the train stop by. Hualien Station in Hualien Town Proper is an hour drive south of Taroko Gorge. It means the train will only pass by Taroko Gorge and you’ll just have to take another bus ride back to Taroko Gorge.
Hualien Station is located in the Hualien Town Proper. It is where most of the Tourist Shuttle Buses start their Taroko Gorge adventure. The place is bigger and can provide you everything you’ll need. It also has cheaper accommodations compared to the area near the Xincheng Station. So, it is a good jumping off point going to Taroko Gorge.
Also, in Hualien Station, you can have a broader contingency plan, especially in case the weather is not getting along with your plan.
What we did:
Booking a train ticket online seemed a bit tricky. We checked the train ticket for Xincheng Station but it seemed that it was already fully booked.
Anyway, we didn’t have much trouble getting a ticket on the spot. We asked information and we were directed to the Kamala Bus Counter 22. Here, we got our combo ticket which cost us around NT$ 220 (Php 372.50) each. Basically, combo ticket gave us a pass for a bus ride going to Ludong Station and then a ride on a local train going to Hualien station.
If you want a faster train, you can exchange it in the counter. In our experience, we didn’t know it was allowed so we had to put up with the slow train.
We left Taipei City Bus station at 7:17 AM. We had over 1 hour wait time in Ludong Station. We got there at 8:20 AM but the local train we rode going to Hualien left at 9:47 AM. We got to Hualien at 11:30 AM.
When we got to Hualien, we were told that Taroko Gorge was temporarily closed. It was raining hard. The day before we got there, they said that big rocks were literally falling (yeah, it happens) so they closed the park.
Taroko Gorge is a land and rock slide prone-area. As much as we wanted to see the raw beauty of Taroko Gorge, we had to consider our safety first. But, just because our trip to Taroko Gorge didn’t push through, didn’t mean our east Taiwan adventure has ended.
I loved that Lara has been just as optimistic as I was. We hit our phones and searched what else we could do.
What we ended up doing
We had our lunch at a Wanton noodle house near our accommodation. It was really good noodles suggested by the receptionist.
We had a good chat with the staff in the noodle house. They learned that we were from the Philippines. Good thing they know basic English. We requested if they can call a cab for us. The husband of one of the staff is a taxi driver whom she delightfully called for us.
Aaron, our taxi driver, was very interesting. He knows basic English too. He had good music in his car. He didn’t mind that Lara and I ended up singing. In fact, he even handed us a microphone. He dropped us in Pine Garden where we had a great view of the sea. We paid an entrance fee of NT$ 50 (Php 84.66) per person.
Pine Garden is the highest place in Hualien so it is where you can get one of the best views of the coast of eastern Taiwan. Pine Garden used to be surrounded by Pine tree forest and was used as a military office of the Japanese during the colonial period.
Going back to the time of our trip, Lara and I were still both optimistic. Despite the pouring rain, we walked the long stretch, enjoying the view. Pictures don’t do justice because, in reality, rain was pouring down like crazy. In fact, we were the only two girls still out refusing to let the rain dampen our spirits. We found ourselves 30 minutes later with sufficient stops in the Pine Garden Museum.
We were just soaked so we took cover in the shop. We roamed the museum a bit but at that point, we were like — okay, time to go back and get dressed before we get sick.
We called Aaron again. We were lucky we got his number. We waited for him for about 20 minutes. The rain was pouring like crazy. He picked us up and drop us off at our accommodation. His service was free of charge. He said that it was because he made us wait for quite so long. Besides, he was going to pick up his wife anyway.
We had another joy ride with music in his car. He was so kind. We were very thankful for him.
Dong Da Men Night Market:
Night Market in Taiwan is part of their culture. It started only as small gatherings near Temples. And, it only grew since the food stalls and stalls selling clothes, and different accessories joined. Read also Raohe Night Market.
When in Hualien, people look forward to getting in the Hualien Ziqiang Night Market. However, this night market was relocated and joined the Rainbow Night Market and Dong Da Men Night Market at No. 50, Zhongshan Road. This Night Market is bigger and better. It offers Taiwan’s specials as well as those coming from China.
During our visit to the new Dong Da Men Night Market, the rain was still pouring. The following were the only food that we were able to try out:
- Xiaolongbao (4pcs) and dumplings (10 pcs) all for NT$ 50 (Php 84.59).
- Salted Chicken Nuggets (NT$ 40) (Php 67.72).
- Pigs blood – dish similar to our dinuguan but it was slightly crunchy; I didn’t like it too much
- Boba Milk Tea NT$ 50 (Php 84.65).
- Oysters NT$ 130 (220.10) for 6 pcs.
Other things we found are Bei Gang Spring Roll filled with meat and vegetables, cute fried sweet potato balls, and moist and fragrant Fried Egg Scallion Pancake.
Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park
Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park is a formerly wine-making factory establishment with warehouses. In 2015, it started to fully operate as a multi-purpose establishment that helps showcase artworks. In the western wing of the Park, you can expect to find rare and interesting goods. In the eastern wing, you can find art exhibits. The central area is where the live band and art performances are held. In the central area is also where the Wine Museum is located.
All in all, we had such a long, tiring, rainy, soaking wet day one in Taiwan. We definitely made good experiences conversing with the locals. What I loved most was letting our spirits learn how to keep going and how not to let any situation dampen our holidays. As well as learning to adjust and making the most out of time on good things.
For your Hualien adventure with a help of a tour guide, you may check out this kkday product.