Yes, I actually managed to get some time off to travel what the Portuguese called the Ilha Formosa. First stop: Hualien!
I wanted to make some couchsurfing connections here in Taiwan and chatted up some surfers. One of them, Hector from Spain had an excellent suggestion on where to stay in Hualien (花蓮市, Lotus Flower City?). So, my charming travel companion and I set off on a train for Hualien.
First off: the train ride. While entering the waiting area, our Taiwanese ticket guy surprised us by talking to us in German. We were super early, because finding the right place was (for a change) much easier than expected, so we passed the time eating sweets. When we boarded the train we were pleasantly surprised again. Will you look at all that leg room?
Granted, my legs are short, but I could not do that in a German train.
The hostel-to-be is called AurPlace and according to host Anthony not exactly in business yet, but he’s working on it. So far, there are enough rooms, beds, bathrooms, but not much luxury, but I’m not that demanding while traveling. Here are a few impressions.
Entrance room, bike storage:Bedroom:A much derseved close-up of the curtains:Terrace in the back:Stylish 70’s kitchen:Day 1 was spent walking around Hualien, having dinner with Hector and swapping travel stories over a Taiwan beer. He has been on the road for about 2 years and recommends going to Myanmar (add that to my ever-growing list).
Hector also introduced us to the incredible “Bolo Bao”, also called pineapple bun (albeit only for the shape, there is no pineapple in it) and I vow to bake some as soon as I get access to a decent oven. It’s a sweet bun with a crust of sugar cookie dough and you can put butter inside. Heaven in a baked good.
We also rented a scooter so we would all be set for Day 2 and Taroko Gorge. Let me tell you, these things are not built to be comfortable for 120 km of driving, but somehow we made it work. It was also cold with a capital “C” when we set out in the morning, hence the attempt to wear a mask. Which fogged up my glasses, so I had to take it off again. I’m never going to understand why they are so popular here, but this article can give you an overview.
Here is my handsome driver (who got some scooter lessons by William, thanks again!):Helmet selfie! Safety first!And here is the entrance to the gorgeous gorge: And here are the impressions we bought with our sore backsides:
We shared a vegetarian dish called Buddha’s Feast at Bulowan station before heading back into the city. We also ignored the nice tour guide’s advice on watching a film about the aboriginal people in the region (well, one of us did, and it wasn’t me) in favor of making a detour to Chishingtan beach on the way back:
And finally we returned to Hualien City to have dinner at a vegetarian Japanese restaurant called Green Land (Jianguo Street, just across from our hostel), where we had a gigantic amount of food, including very delicious Terriyaki tofu, lovely tempura, and a bowl of ramen that was “good for women” as I was informed. However, neither my stomach nor my uterus were all that impressed by the noodles.
Day 3 saw us driving down the east coast towards Fongbin and then inlands and back again. This time we did a whopping 140 km, but without the stunning views. There was really nothing much to see, despite the flyer from the visitor center saying otherwise.
When we set off for Taitung (台東縣) the next morning, we waited at the station for a while and were surprised to become the center of attention of another tourist group. They tried to chat me up in Chinese (still hopeless, but I could tell they were trying to be friendly) and even asked permission to take some photos of us.
My theory on this incident is that my companion looks sufficiently like Reinhold Messner and that they were absolute mountaineering enthusiasts. It was probably the most confusing point of our journey and I still can’t think of any reason why we were such a sight. As far as I could tell we were hardly the only Europeans in town. Or we just are that good-looking.