Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nature trip and sightseeing in Hualien

For this trip, we boarded at Taipei Main Station a train service marked as Taroko Express (Tze Chiang 1091). Fares were discounted 10%  if paying online for roundtrip so instead of TWD440 per person per way, we only paid TWD792 per person for roundtrip fare. I booked and paid the tickets online following the procedure shown here in this website and my mom and brother picked it up at the station on the same day they got into Taipei (ahead of us).
I intended to take the Taroko Express train as they tend to be newer than other trains. Also seats are reserved and the trip can be shorted by as much as an hour (from an original run of 3 hours to 2 hours), depending on schedule and stopovers. Our train departed as scheduled around 7:20AM and we expected it to arrive around 9:25AM in Hualien.
It was a scenic view all the way, passing through coastal and rural areas of Taiwan.
Ethan has been cooperative. He slept most of the time throughout the 2-hour trip.
The scene outside the window became more and more beautiful as we approached Hualien, our gateway to Taroko National Park.
Ethan woke up and began to play around just minutes before arriving at Hualien station.
Ethan and me
We arrived on-time at Hualien station. From there, we expected to be picked up by a tour guide/cabbie driver I have arranged tour with previously, Ms. Tiffany Chang (NTD3000 for the tour), who is highly recommended in a lot of forums and travel guides in the internet.
the train
walking towards the exit
Tiffany met us up at the exit area and led us her to her taxi cab so we can immediately start our tour.
For a quick bite, we stopped at a place selling pastries and mostly mochi. We sampled a few items of different flavors and bought some mochi to munch on the way.
Our first tour stop was at the Chingshui Cliff, a 21km stretch of coastal cliff averaging 800m above sea level. It is accessible by driving further past the Taroko National Park gate entrance for 20 more minutes or so. It is a nice place to stop, take photo and admire the beauty of nature.
complete family picture
We stayed for a few minutes and walked towards another side of the cliff. The scene is indeed very beautiful and I'm thankful to come here this time as we didn't go here 2 years back.
another family picture!
Tiffany drove a few hundred meters further to show us another viewpoint of the cliff
Simply marvelous! That's all I can say. The view is definitely breathtaking and awesome! If it weren't for the hot sun shining above us, we could have stayed longer!
We then went back and this time headed to Taroko National Park, famous for its wonderful sceneries and marble gorges. Our first stop inside the park is at the Shadakang Trail, reachable by climbing down a series of circling steps. I've been to this place before so I didn't do too much walking unlike before for the interest of time. I just captured photos of the beautiful scenes around me as I walk around a few hundred meters onwards and back.
Shadakang bridge
Then Tiffany led us to pick-up some helmets (free of charge). Apparently this is required when walking in some parts around the park where it is dangerous. You may hit your head against a rock overhead without knowing it and fall unconscious.
She parked her car somewhere before a tunnel and showed us a hanging bridge, apparently not being used much anymore. Looks scary as it was a long walk and knowing you will fall on the huge rocks underneath.
wonderful view
Then she asked us to walk for a couple hundred meters so we can have a good view of the gorges and swallow grottos as she drove past us waiting for us in the other end of the tunnel.
very tranquil and serene beauty!
These rocks are also famous among tourists as they seem to depict the shape of a face. Can you see the eyes, nose and mouth from this picture? Look closely!
We had lunch at an eatery inside the park (I think the name of the area is Lushui) as per suggestion of Tiffany since food in some areas may be too expensive and not fresh (microwaved). We allowed her to order for us and trusted her instincts and we're glad we did.
Ethan having fun with the soup spoon
steamed rice for everyone!
cabbage and vegetables
more vegetables
rice cakes
wonton soup
After having lunch, we took a few minutes rest in the area while some others explore the shops or nearby buildings like the post office.
Tianfeng Pagoda on top of the hill
family picture!
Tiffany then drove us around and made a stop at a suspension bridge.
the rocks beneath us
me, Ethan, my mom and Roshie
Then we made a stop at Cihmu bridge.
family picture
jump shot!
Tiffany and the family
Cihmu bridge
Our last stop inside the park is at the Eternal Spring Shrine, dedicated to personnel who gave up their lives in for the construction of a highway.
Ethan and me
the family
Eternal Spring Shrine
on top
It is a bit walk to reach the place, probably around 15 minutes or so leisurely. Fist we have to cross the bridge, enter a tunnel and walk at an area carved at the side of the stoned mountain.
inside the cave
approaching the shrine 
water flowing from the mountains
It was a nice sight to see and it was worth it when we finally reached the shrine. We took some time to take pictures and rest for awhile before walking back.
my mom and Ethan
Ethan, me and Roshie
Sad to say it was our last stop inside the park for that day. Before heading off, we stopped near the gate for some photos at some markers and entrances for the park.
Tiffany then brought us along the coast. I'm not sure of its name but it's probably part of the Qi Xing Tan area. There, we have a good unobstructed view of the ocean.
vendors selling sea urchin
We were thirsty at that time, we bought a few pearl milk tea from this vendor instead. We were not interested at the sea urchin above lol.
my pearl milk tea!
another family picture
Interesting to note that this said area is very near the airport, specifically the air force base in the city.
We were dropped at least 2 hours ahead of our train schedule at the station. We took the time to rest for a while and had our dinner before boarding the trains.
My brother and I scouted the area for some stuff as he was looking for chili paste to take home. Luckily there were shops nearby selling those and he was able to buy a few (big) jars.
Ethan playing along while waiting for the train
Ethan must be a hit here. Aside from tourists trying to take his pictures (and others even asking for our permission), people were giving him food. At one point tonight while waiting, he was looking at a kid eating bread that his parent actually had to go to a convenience store and buy one for Ethan. Beggar!
Our train service Tze Chiang 1096 departed again as scheduled at 8:30PM bound back for Taipei and arrived on time by 10:32PM. On the way, it was decided that we hit Shilin Night Market first before coming back to our hotel. Most of the stores however when we arrived around 11PM was already closing so we didn't get to see (or buy) much stuff.
sausage sandwich bought in Shilin Market
We headed back to the hotel, but before dozing off, Ethan had to have his dip at the bath tub.
It has been a long day for us, leaving the hotel early and coming very late in the evening. Although it has been a very tiring trip so far, it's well worth it, not to mention our toddler in tow bringing joy throughout the experience.

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