November 26-29, 2018
After a few days in Taipei, we took a bus and train (248 TWD pp) onwards to Taroko National Park. The combined ticket was the cheapest option to go there. But first, we spent two mostly lazy days in Hualien, which is the biggest town in the area, not far from the park.
From the brand new train station, we went by public bus (15 TWD) to the downtown where our hotel was located, just around the corner from the city’s main street Zhongshan Road. First, we explored the town itself. In general, there is not much to see. Both evenings we went to the night market, which is a good option if you want to dine outside. There are tens of stalls with a big selection of food and drinks. To our surprise, it’s not a budget option compare with eateries, but still, it is not expensive. Only portions could be bigger. Likewise in farmer’s markets, we know from the Czech Republic.
We also spent some time working in a lovely café, which is part of the Cultural centre. A nice walk up to the hill with a view of the city and coastline is not bad either.
The next day early morning we took a train and went three stops to Xincheng, the closest station from Taroko. From there bus goes 20 minutes to the Taroko National Park Visitor Centre. The other option is to go by bus directly from Hualien, but it’s pricier. There are one overpriced restaurant and a small exhibition about nature and wildlife. We recommend stopping at the front desk. A helpful guy gave us a map there and marked the trails, which are the best and primarily, which are currently open. A few were closed due to maintenance. The second reason was, he made a call to book us accommodation for the next day since they spoke only Chinese. From a lady at the desk, we even got two beautiful local made sets of chopsticks and spoons. All that due to park anniversary. It is our great reminder of this wonderful place.
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Not far from the headquarters a short Xiaozhuilu trail (600 m) starts followed by Shakadang trail (4100 m). The easy walk mostly along the Liwu River with beautiful views. A little bit crowdy at the beginning, but most of the visitors don’t go the whole way. On the way back we crossed a red suspension Shakadang bridge and followed a Changchun trail, which leads to the shrine with the same name. While returning to the visitor’s centre, don’t miss a short, but steep walk to the Changuang temple. Then cross adjacent rope bridge followed by a lot of stairs to the Bell Tower. There are great views. We were the only people there, leaving hoards in tourist buses behind.
On the next day we took our backpacks and accomplished the same way to Taroko, but this time up to Tianxiang village. There are a few eateries and 7-Eleven store. We asked for directions at the post office and climbed to our accommodation in Taroko Tianxiang Presbyterian protestant church. We usually don’t describe in detail our lodgings, but this was exceptional. Truly the best stay so far. The church is located on the hill with the views on the village and surrounded by mountains and nature. There is a pleasant shady garden with sitting area. They have a few dorms (400 NTS pp) with a shared bathroom. However, we definitely recommend asking for the rooms which are right in the church. Yes, we slept in the sacristy. But don’t worry, these days the place doesn’t fulfil its holy mission. If we knew this place beforehand, we would stay here more days rather than in Hualien.
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They let us leave our stuff at the property, though it was morning when we arrived. Firstly, we climbed up from the church through the forest, but there was nothing special. The path led us back to the village, where a Youth Centre is. Also an option for a stay. We had lunch in an eatery at the main square and followed the main road uphill, where Baiyang trail starts. It begins at the tunnel and follows the path in the forest, where it ended for us too quickly with a closed gate. Unfortunately, the main and most exciting part with a cave with water curtain was under maintenance. Bring a flashlight and maybe waterproof shoes. It was short, but at least we saw monkeys living in the trees.
Back in the village we took a bus and went a few stops to Lushui Heliu trail. It mostly leads through a forest, but the best part is on the edge of the rock. You will see the river below, winding road, some waterfalls and a great panorama of the entire valley. At the end of the trail, there is a pleasant campground with wooden platforms for tents and shaded by trees. Water and toilets available. In November totally empty. We returned by bus back to Tianxiang and finished our hiking day by hanging around Xiangde temple.
The night in our church stay was pleasant, and we woke up in the sunny morning. We should stay at least one more night. Taroko offers several other interesting hikes. Now we are thinking, why we didn’t.