We spent the second half of our trip to Taiwan in Taroko national park.
Our arrival to our B&B here was a little unexpected. To get there, it took us a couple of hours on the train South from Taipei, a journey on which we admired beautiful mountains and rural villages. It was therefore unexpected for us to arrive at a small village on the edge of the national park, which was dominated by a monstrous beast of a cement factory. It was an absolute eye sore, overshadowing all of the natural beauty in the area. The mountains in the background looked spectacular, but it was hard to admire them with the hideously visual factory clearly in view.
We tried to keep an open mind as we made our way to the B&B. The route took us through a very tired looking town. There were lots of owner-less dogs roaming around, and huge lorries pounding up the road towards the factory. On arrival at the B&B the factory was hidden from view by the owners house, and the cute little wooden hut we were staying in was revealed. The owner was very helpful, and arranged for us to pick up some mountain bikes as we were keen to explore the national park, and get away from that factory.
It was certainly a strange arrival, but we came to terms with the factory quickly, understanding that it must be essential for the local economy. We thought tourism would keep the place alive, but in fact it seemed like tourism had strangled this poor place. Back in the days of slower trains, people would stay in this town and explore the national park from there. However, then came the boom of the day trippers. Now, en mass, tourists train down from Taipei and load into large coaches at the train station, which then whisk them through the town to the national park. The town has become little more than a through road. It was therefore with mixed emotions and a new understanding that we decided to explore this area.
On our first day, we took our mountain bikes up the coast to the Qingshui Cliff. We happened upon a dramatic beach which omitted a haunting sound, as the large waves rolled in against a pebble beach. We found several wish stones (stones which have a singular line round the stone), and enjoyed the fresh air and natural drama. We had the beach to ourselves, as it seemed, yet again, that the tourists have long abandoned this spot (the empty abondoned hotels around the area tell a similar story). It was dramatic and calming though, so we enjoyed the views and soaked up some nature. We also tried to head to a coffee shop near the beach too, of course, but alas, it had been claimed by a lack of business.
In the evening, we took the train down to Hualien City and enjoyed another night market and some bright city lights! We really needed this city stop after a an unexpected day. We found it to be a nice city, with some pretty cafes and places to eat. There were also some obnoxious (I say this, it’s just my jealously, they were very young and full of energy) tourists about too, as it’s famed for cheap drinks and night clubs. So as it turned out, at the end of day one, we were pretty happy to be heading back to our dramatic little town. Little did we know that the beauty of Taroko was yet to reveal itself, and when it did, we would be blown away…