My First impression of Taiwan was her stunning beauty. Although an island just about 14 thousand square miles, Taiwan has nine National Parks!
I visited Taroko National Park (太鲁阁国家公园) last November, it was a perfect time to avoid the island’s hot and humid summer. Taroko, a word for the Truku aboriginal tribe, Gorge is the main attraction of the national park, however there are other attractions in the park and surrounding Hualien City. So plan for at least two days, and be prepared to be blown away for there is nothing like it!
The park is free. Most of the hiking trails are flat and paved, suitable to all physical conditions. Here is a short list of my must-sees and tips.
I recommend making Qingshui Cliff your first stop. The morning is usually less crowded, and the lighting before 10 am is at its best.
Shakadang Trail has the most amazing blue stream running alongside the trail, with marbles, big and small, popping and scattered in the creek. The best view is at the end of the trail.
The next one is Swallow Grotto Trail. It is mandatory to wear a helmet to walk the trail because there is an issue of landslide and falling rocks. Haha, I had the same thought–a plastic helmet vs falling boulders?! But a rule is a rule.
Lushui Trail is a bit more strenuous than the previous two. There is some climbing, here and there, and part of the trail is dirt road. The words ‘Lushui’ mean ‘green water’. When we were on the trail, a gloomy cloud covered the sky, started drizzle. As you could see from the photo, the water was not green at all.
The most iconic view in the Taroko Gorge is probably the Eternal Spring Shrine. It was built to commemorate the lives lost during the construction of road through the Gorge. No one is allowed to enter the Shrine any more.
Looking for a quick stop for lunch inside the park? Look no farther than Tianxiang, a cute and colorful town inside the park. There are a couple of restaurants there with a reasonable price tag. Since Hualien area is famous for rice, so I ordered purple rice steamed in a bamboo tube. To keep the bamboo theme going, I also had a broth made from the tender part of bamboo shoots.
Temples, marble gazebos, bridges and suspension bridges, the park has all, and many more.
A few words of cautions: we took Taiwan Railroad from Taipei to Hualien City. The speed train tickets are usually hard to get for the individual travelers since travel agents often stock most tickets. So remember to buy tickets ahead of time; an alternative route is to take the bus which takes 4-5 hours, double the time of the train. If you fancy Taiwan’s local food like me, make sure to have dinner at Hualien’s night market, 自强夜市. There are variety of local food, fruits and vegetables to choose from, I had the grilled squid (it was delicious!) and oyster as the island was famous for fresh seafood.
Also I highly recommend to hire a taxi for the day. For $100 (New Taiwan $3,000) or less, you can hire a private driver for 8 hours. Don’t pick up any from the train station, wait until you check in your hotel, the hotel staff can arrange one for you. We were very satisfied with the service of our driver. He was not only our driver, but also our tour guide plus photographer, and he went the extra mile to please us. Simply decent down-to-earth people.
So with the spectacular natural beauty, stunning gorges, hiking trails, shrine, temples, waterfalls and bridges, Taroko is not to be missed if you are in the area!