We spent the first day getting up really early in the morning to catch an 8 o'clock train from Kaohsiung to Hualien. It took about four and a half hours to get to Hualien. When we got there, we headed straight for Taroko Gorge National Park. It was lightly raining the first day and we were only able to finish about half the national park in half a day. So, we decided to finish the rest of the National Park the next day and head to the beach for the rest of the evening. You can find some amazing beach jumping pictures at the end of this blog entry.
View of Taroko Gorge from a bridge
On the second day, we got up around 8 o'clock to go hiking in Taroko National Park. we came across a beautiful bridge with lots of different looking lion heads. You can see the pictures in this photo album-- Taiwan Photo Set 43: Hualien Trip Day 2. After that, we went hiking along another trail and came across beautiful landscapes. There were clouds that floated amidst the mountains that made you feel so cool and calm. It was breathtaking and a worthwhile experience for anybody visiting Taiwan.
View of the gorge along one of the trails
There were many hiking trails in Taroko National Park and the trails were not too difficult either so you could enjoy the scenery and not be entirely focused on where next to put your feet. The views were spectacular as you'll find out in these photo albums:
Taiwan Photo Set 42: Hualien Trip Day 1
Taiwan Photo Set 43: Hualien Trip Day 2
Taiwan Photo Set 44: Hualien Trip Day 3
Scenic view from climbing to the pagoda
After hiking on many trails in Taroko Gorge National Park and visiting the Buddhist shrines and pagodas nestled in the mountains, we headed for Guan Shan and Taidong for the last two parts of our trip.
Biking in Guan Shan
When we got to Guan Shan by train, we used some bikes at the hotel we were staying at to bike around the town. It was nearing sunset so I got some beautiful pictures of the landscape. You may be wondering how I managed to take pictures on my bike. Well, I rode a two person bike and I was on the back so I didn't have to steer, but merely peddle.
When we finished the bike ride, it was merely the end of Day 2. we still had a whole Day 3 ahead of us.
Enjoying ice cream in Taidong, Taiwan
For Day 3, we headed to Taidong, Taiwan to visit a ranch where you can feed cows, ride horses, and eat/drink fresh yogurt or yogurt ice cream/milk. It was quite an adventure and it was a very relaxing way to finish our 3 day trip to eastern Taiwan.
Thank you Joyce for taking us on such a delightful trip! We had a really fun time and can't wait until our next adventure. This was a great final trip in Taiwan before I left for America.
Jumping pictures from our trip to the beach on the first day to Hualien
The tea house from outside
When we finished eating dinner and watched the firework display, we headed to Jiu Fen, which used to be an old coal/gold mine and the surrounding area has different colored water shaped in a yin-yang. Unfortunately, it was already 9pm at that time so we were not able to see the different depths of water that cause the change in color at this place. However, we were able to go to Ah Mei Cha, a tea house that they used as the model for the tea house in the movie, Spirited Away. We stayed there until about 11pm and then headed back to Keelung.
At the Evergreen hotel after breakfast
The next day, we got up to go have breakfast at the Evergreen Hotel. You'll notice that this was not our first time staying in one of their hotels. Last time we went to Taipei to see Lang Lang play piano, we also stayed at the Evergreen hotel.
After breakfast, we went hiking on Wang Yo Gu mountain. Wang Yo Gu literally means "forget [your] worr[ies'] valley." Whoever named the mountain wanted you to know that when you stand on the mountain, you will forget everything unpleasant. It was a nice hike, but it was really hot.
After our hike, one of the taxi drivers told us to go to another mountain for a hike. So, after lunch we asked another taxi driver to take us there. It turns out, it was the same mountain, but instead of hiking to the top, you drive to the top! It was a good laugh. We decided to go back to Chia-Ling's office to rest and later hike on a trail around her university. The last hike in Keelung, I got tons of mosquito bites!
You can find more pictures HERE.
It was a great trip and I really thank my host family for taking me. It was really nice to see my other co-teacher who will be leaving for England in a few weeks to defend her PhD dissertation (It's her second PhD). Congratulations, Chia-Ling & good luck!
Some of us in the hot springs
At Ruesuei, we stayed at a hot springs hotel where they had three outdoor springs at different temperatures--cold, warm, and hot. It was very soothing. Ruesuei is known for its "rustic" hot springs, as my guidebook tells me, so I'm glad we got to experience that. The hotel is nestled at the top of a mountain so it was quiet and secluded.
The next day, we got up early to go rafting in another part of Ruesuei. The rafting company we chose had rather old gear (old lifejackets, old rafting boats, old spongy helmets), but they saved us at least NT$300. We rafted for five hours, going over 23 rapids, and over a distance of 25 kilometers. A few of us fell out of the raft a couple of times, but nobody got hurt. We also had some pretty excellent water battles with neighboring rafts, where we used water buckets to throw water at each other. Of course, we're not supposed to do that, but it was still pretty fun because it turned into a battle between the Taiwanese and Americans; the Taiwanese would yell "Welcome to Taiwan!!" And then they would throw some water at us while we would yell back "No honor! You just said 'Peace'!!" It was a good time. This rafting trip would not have been possible without Gered & Rebekah, two of our Fulbright ETAs, organizing it, so a big shout out to both of you! Thank you for organizing the trip!
Click to enlarge the above pictures
After a day of rafting, we went to Tai-Dong in the evening by train. There, we stayed a night at the aboriginal culture hotel. We didn't do too much exploring in Tai-Dong because we arrived so late. The next morning, we went to Green Island (Ludao), an island off of Taiwan.
At the 'Little Great Wall' on Green Island (Ludao)
We took the ferry to go to Green Island and unfortunately, I threw up multiple times. I don't usually get seasick, but this ride was 40 minutes long and I already had a slight headache in the morning. So, the combination of those factors culminated in a not-so-pleasant experience. Anyway, I digress. When we finally arrived on Green Island, we realized that we couldn't take a tour with the glass-bottomed boat like we originally planned because it wasn't running on that day, which happened to be a Sunday. At that point, we had to decide if we wanted to ride golf carts around Green Island, which is only 6 sq miles, or 16 sq kilometers around, or rent a car for about $30 for three hours. We chose the latter.
Green Island was formed after a volcanic explosion. It is famous for many things including oddly shaped volcanic rocks, a prison for political dissidents (or that's what I hear), and lush green mountains. We saw all of that and much more in the span of three hours. We were very efficient with our two rented cars.
All in all, it was an excellent trip and I'm glad I got to see eastern Taiwan. You should check out more pictures in Taiwan Photo Set 35!
We stopped by a coffee shop on the way to Wan Shou Shan. The entire shop was nestled in the forest; you can see a picture of it to the left.
It was a great trip and we hope to go hiking up monkey mountain before I leave Taiwan in July.
At Alishan, we also saw lots of gigantic trees. The picture to the left is a red cypress about 2,000 years old! When we went to Alishan, the weather was fantastic, clear skies and very warm. We hiked the trails up the mountain and then came back down on the train. Most people took the train up, but the line was too long at the bottom of the mountain so we decided to just walk up.
Be sure to check out photos here! There are lots of jumping photos of me and my host family.
You can find more pictures from today in this album: Taiwan Photo Set 30.
When we got to Taipei, we walked around a lot because we got there super early. The outdoor concert started at 7pm; we got there at 6pm. It was also lightly raining in Taipei and it was much colder than Kaohsiung. The wind chill is not as awful as Iowa winter weather, but it was colder than the 70 degree weather in Kaohsiung. I borrowed Chia-Ling's coat because I didn't bring any real winter clothes because I thought this tiny little island wouldn't be cold. Well, I sure was proven wrong when I got a cold last month during the weather change. Anyway, thank you Chia-Ling for letting me borrow your coat; it kept me very warm =D.
When the concert started at 7pm, it was pretty cool because Kate, Chao-Wei, and I got pretty good spots considering we were so early. There were many famous singers at the concert, but I don't really remember their names. However, I did see S.H.E. sing several songs, this guy from Tainan who wore cool glasses (see pictures below), and I really wanted to see MayDay (Wu Yue Tian) sing, but they were last. We left our good spot in front of the concert early because we wanted to be near the MRT to beat the mad rush home after the fireworks. I was really grateful that did that because we got to where we were staying at 1:30am and not 2 or 3 am.
The Famous Singers at the Outdoor Concert (at least up until we left for a closer location near the MRT)...
Click to enlarge the pictures
The next day, I was very tired, but I had an excellent breakfast to start the New Year. Check it out:
We met up with some of Chao-Wei's friends in Taipei and we had lunch at Din Tai Feng. After lunch, we headed to the biggest night market in Taipei, Shi Lin Yie Shi. Lots of fun! You can see lots of photos in Taiwan Photo Set 27.
At the end of the concert, Lang Lang did TWO encores!! The audience was so surprised and we couldn't stop clapping. During the second encore, Scarlet and my host dad left to stand in line to get Lang Lang's signature. So, when Tai-Shia (my host mom) and I came out of the concert, Scarlet was already in line and I just took the place of my host dad. When we were waiting to get the signature, I realized I had nothing but a scrappy piece of paper for Lang Lang to sign. When I approached the signing table, Lang Lang looked at me funny and asked me what this was in Chinese and I told him I didn't have anything else. He looked at me funny again and signed it. When I got out of line with Scarlet, we were some of the first people he signed, I snapped a few pictures of Lang Lang, then got back in line. Why you ask? Because my host mom bought me a program booklet for Lang Lang to sign properly. This time, though, I was at the very end and I had to kindly ask the security guards to even let me back in line. So, I got Lang Lang's signature TWICE! The picture above is Lang Lang's signature in the program booklet. The scrappy piece of paper just didn't make the cut =D.
When we got back to the Evergreen Hotel after the Lang Lang concert, Scarlet decided that we would visit the Evergreen Maritime Museum the next day. What a good decision that was because when we went to the museum we learned so much about ships, their history, and their operation. The museum director even gave us a personal tour of the museum! (See picture below).
After that, all of us (Chia-Ling and my host family) went to Yang Ming Shan (Yang Ming Mountain) to hike. It was breathtaking and you can find pictures here in Taiwan Photo Set 26.
You'll find in the same photo album that I like to jump and take pictures a lot, especially if there's a bridge. Check out Scarlet and I jumping, teehee. Click to enlarge the photos.