The East Coast of Taiwan is known as it’s more mountainous area, with their being very little other than national park as you move away from the coastline. We were visiting two places during our quick visit, the first the popular tourist destination of Hualien to see Taroko Gorge and secondly a little town called Yuli that was added rather last minute to our itinerary after reading about the town online.
The city of Hualien is the biggest on the East Coast and has all the amenities you’d expect of a small city. The town centre was bustling both the evenings we were there with a small fair to celebrate the year of the monkey and a hugely crowded night market. We managed to check into a large dorm room, most places were booked up and got a place on a day trip around the gorge and other various sites the for the following day.
The tour wasn’t quite as spectacular as I’d hoped, the gorge was cool, but after a year of apparently very low rainfall, there wasn’t a lot of water rushing through it. We also very much a Chinese tour group, being bussed between sites then getting our 30 minutes at each allocated location. This is when I really missed not having my driver’s license as I just wanted to whizz around in-between where we wanted to go and not be time constraints. The warmth of the bus was also very good and putting you into a doze in-between your sites so I was in a bit of a haze all day.
Made me realise how very much I am a traveller who would much rather be semi lost all day exploring a location than taken regimentally from place to place with no hassle.
We departed very early the next day to Yuli, having booked a super last minute homestay on the outskirts of town. I was a bit nervous that the place wouldn’t be expecting us, or there would be some sort of problem, having had one reservation cancelled already as the hostel had put the room up as a mistake. With Yuli being a pretty small town the amount of difficulty we had finding a place during the holidays was crazy and it’s been the most I’ve ever paid in Asia for a place to stay, but it turned out to be worth it.
We arrived still pre 10am after our short cab ride from the train station, to a small Asian woman trotting down the driveway saying are you Mr Toby. Phew, hurdle one crossed, we were expected! “You can pop your bags in the lobby for the day and do you want bikes to use?” Said bikes turned out to be fairly new, if a tad small mountain bikes – more than I could have ever hoped for!
So pre 10am we set off for a day of adventure, culminating in about 60km of cycling and 10km of walking – with Julia only getting mad once halfway up a grueling 5km uphill ride – an achievement!
We cycled out across an old train line converted to a cycle way crossing a tectonic plate boundary and ending at a cool converted station that is now a bicycle rest stop. From here we winged it across the shallow fields of wet-land crop growing to the base of the climb into Yusan national park. It certainly was a steep hard climb up, with many a tourist taking their photos as they whizzed past in their cars. The trail at the top along the valley and across some long cable bridges was awesome with the views out worth the climb up. It was a relaxing roll down the hill, back into town for some well deserved noodles.
To end the day we cycled out the other way to a hot spring resort for some hot water to relax the aching muscles. It was awesome, but the 10km cycle after to get us home not so much!
So it was a brief couple of stops along the East, I’d have loved to spend an extra day at both locations and have had the time to ferry out to an island, but was very happy with what we did, especially Yuli, a place I’d highly recommend to people with its more back country feel with it being so small.
Our train took us 4 hours to go down along the coast to the Southern end of Taiwan before crossing over and heading back up North to the old capital of Tannin. We were undisturbed in our unreserved seats making for a very pleasant journey.