On my trip last weekend I visited Hualien in the east coast of Taiwan. I must say it is a really gorgeous place. I am not sure that there is a best time to visit Hualien because, I managed to land there, a couple of days before a huge typhoon was about to hit Taiwan. But as a blessing in disguise, the two days had the best possible weather excepting occasional showers. Hualien is a relatively big county. The only place that is anywhere close to urban setting is hualien city, which is where the train station is. We rented scooters at a shop near the train station. Being a very popular tourist destination, renting scooters or hotel accomodations are a little expensive compared to other parts of Taiwan. But reasonable.
We picked up the scooters from the rental and drove straight to Taroko gorge, where we were planning on staying for the night. The drive through Taroko gorge is pretty narrow, but very beautiful.
There is a thrill when riding the scooter which does not offer you the safety of a car, but on the other hand gives an unobstructed view. This was my first time travelling the mountains on a scooter. After the initial jitters, I managed to pull out my camera and sort of tie it around my right hand and used my let hand to hold on to the scooter tightly. I realized that for a typical intermediate level SLR, one needs only one hand, to really adjust the settings and scan the pictures. Practically everything is within the reach of the one hand (unless ofcourse you want to zoom). Great job camera designers. After a first few attempts, I started getting a hang of how to frame a picture without actually looking through the view finder. Don’t ask me how, just try it a few times and the brain just learns it.
Our first night we bunked at a place which used to be a church, with a house behind it. located, practially in the middle of nowhere.
It offered a gorgeous view, but I must say, had a lot of mosquitoes going around. I guess that was because of the evening showers. Anyway, dropping off our luggage, we managed to visit a few places and snap some more pictures, before rain came pelting down. This was about five in the evening. after travelling around and visiting a few places.
The next day was equally beautiful, well, atleast initially. When it started pouring cats and dogs as soon as we neared a 7-11 for breakfast. After a while, two of us decided to head back and grab all the our luggage from the house and return to Hualien city. Although I did not have my camera then, I can only say that the experience of riding a scooter at 60km/hr through the mountains with rain pouring down was simply awesome. Until, ofcourse, we were returning and I had four bags clinging to me. That was tiring, but I would not trade the feeling for anything else. Fortunately, rain stopped when we started our way toward Hualien city.
Where the view changed from a muggy and cloudy to a gorgeous sunny day.
We visited the beach near hualien city. Which I believe is a treat in itself. Unfortunately, because of the approaching Typhoon, it was in lockdown. Incidentally, the Taiwan military or Airforce base is right along the beach. One can hear the roar of the fighter jets taking off and see them as they go up into the sky. Actually, the military base seems to extend a very very large part of Hualien city. Almost the entire drive from somewhere close to the station to the beach, we were driving along the base’s tall fence lines.
That night we were going to bunk at a carpenter’s house who build a guest house on top of his studio. A very kind, fun loving, hard-working and eccentric bachelor (according to his friends). He moved from Miaoli which is located in the other side or the mountain range separating east and west Taiwan. Almost 25 years back, he visited Hualien and setup his shop here.
His new project is to build a rotating house, which he has been researching and planning for about 10 years now. And working on it all alone. The guy is an inspiration. We had a chance to visit his project site. Where he spends all his free time now and plans to move there when he decides to retire.
The view in front of the planned house.
The location he picked is close enough to the city and at the same time away from the maddening crowd of tourists. Its surrounded by feilds all over. I wish him best on his journey to achieve his goal.
He treated us for dinner at a nice veggie buffet and we had a long night sharing stories in Taiwanese (ofcourse I don’t know Taiwanese at all and Mandarine that well). But it was a relaxing rainy night.
The next day early morning, I got out to find a 7-11 to get a morning dose of tea. As I was walking back, I saw the most breath-taking sites. A rainbow formed right across the mountain range. This is my first time to see it from so far away on the mountains. I can only thank God, to fulfill another one of my unsaid stupid wishes :).
After finishing our breakfast, we headed to see the Hualien port. Which we were expecting was being pelted by some rough sea. To see the waves rise and fall in lieu of the on coming Typhoon. We could not stay for long since, it started pouring heavily now, and our train to back home was in a couple of hours.
All in all, I had an amazing time in Hualien. Would have loved to spend more time there. One thing is for sure, a two day trip to Hualien is just not enough. One needs the better part of the week to ten days to really see places. And yes, scooter is I feel the best way to travel. However, it is also a little dangerous, since, most of the places in Hualien are in the mountains. The twists and turns can get tricky. Those apart, thanks to my friends, for having the patience to tag me along. It was a trip I thought was worth recording in more than just pictures.