Monday, January 27, 2014

Taiwan Part 1: Day 1~2 - Arrival + Hualien

Finally! Before I proceed with my travel plans, being hopeful here because I might start working in a month or two and that means less travel time. Let me finish all my Taiwan and Bali travel log.

This was what I wrote on my Facebook photo album on Taiwan, titled:
"Taiwan on a Shoestring"

And the brief and precise descriptions on our trip:

Travel date: 7 Nov-15 Nov 2013 (7 days). 
Total expense excluding flight: RM1600. 
Coverage: Hualien>Taitung>Kaoshiung>Taichung>Taipei. 
Transport: mostly by public bus, shuttle bus, railway train, bullet train, mrt, bicycle, 
once on ferry, twice on cable cars, countable on taxi and miles on our feet. 
Awesome country, especially if you're a geologist ;) 
missed out many places due to time constraint, will definitely be back^^

To save time I will cut down craps and go directly to our plans and itinerary. We definitely missed out many places because one, we were on budget; two, we went in a group of only 2 girls; three, we had very restricted time (we wanted to tour whole island but 7 days is not enough, make sure you have at least 10 days)

One thing to take note, most places are closed on Monday, so we tried to make our Monday to visit somewhere free (without entrance pass needed). And also emergency contact which must be saved into your phone: Toll-free inquiry 110 and Ambulance 119 (informed by our Taiwanese friend)

I will cover 2 days in a post so here is Day 1 & Day 2, check out next post for Day 3 & Day 4..and so on :)


Day 1 (7 November 2013, Thursday)

Taoyuan Airport > Taipei Main Station > Luodong Railway Station > Xincheng Station (Taroko)

  • After arriving Taiwan Taoyuan Airport around 2PM, we took an airport shuttle bus -125NT$,50mins- to Taipei Main Station, but walked another distance to the building with bus service. It is best to ask for directions from the locals. 
  • From Taipei Main Station, took a bus (Kamalan) -135NT$,1hour- to Luodong Railway Station (also need to walk from where the bus stopped). 
  • From Luodong Railway Station, took a train -107NT$,1hour20mins- to Xincheng (Taroko Station). 
  • From Xincheng, you can take taxi to the guesthouse. Please note that Xincheng station is quite a distance away from Hualien but is nearer to Taroko George. 

Taipei Main Station

We were lucky because we met very very friendly Taiwanese friends at Luodong Train Station. They were willing to even drive us to our hostel because we arrived really late, around 10.30PM after all the bus and train rides, plus getting lost finding the bus station. He said there are rarely taxi around that time and even if there is, it will be very expensive. Thus if you take this route, it will be better for you to arrive during daylight.

Our first night in Taiwan, we stayed at Hualien- Liwu Inn International Youth Hostel (reviewed here) which cost us 300NT$ per bed in a 4 person dorm. It is located right beside the bus stop to Taroko George but guess what we did? Check out day 2!! After we got a Phone prepaid -300NT$- with the help of our friend, we showered and slept.

Day 2 (8 November 2013, Friday)

Taroko George> Hualien (Chisingtan Beach> Random Food hunt > Ziqiang Night Market)

Initially when I planned for Taroko George, I was really confused on the route. I thought Taroko George is a stop and then all the others but I think all these Eternal Shrine, Tunnel of Nine Turns, Buluowan etc. are included as Taroko George. So here is a less confusing plan, if you have time, you will need one whole day to complete the whole Taroko George path. 

For Day 2, since we made new friends, they planed to take us around Hualien for half a day so our Taroko journey has to be only half a day trip.

There is a shuttle bus for tourist or you can also take Hualien Public bus, both of this bus passes by the hostel we stayed  (Hualien- Liwu Inn International Youth Hostel). 

立霧客棧國際青年旅舍 Hualien- Liwu Inn International Youth Hostel

The bus stop is right outside the hostel. We woke up very early to take the bus but notice no bus actually stopped for us. 

The bus stop for 台湾好行 tourism bus right in front of the hostel

After 30minutes, we saw a couple walked from our nearby hotel and decided to follow them. To our surprise, eventhough we had to climb a slight hill, it took us only 20minutes to arrive to the Park Headquarters, not including the time we stopped to take the breathtaking views. My advise, if you will be staying at Hualien- Liwu Inn International YH, skip the bus and walk to the HQ while enjoying the morning breeze.

When we arrived the HQ, the uncle on the information desk was surprise that these two little girls walked all the way up to the HQ. We told him what happened and he said we must wave to the bus to make it stop, which we didn't. We thought the bus will definitely stop at the bus stop (supposedly) so we were busy....taking photos :D

great view on our way to the HQ

If you are not using the bus, you can even stop (on your on time) to take photo!

And more photo!

Wonderful view of the signature bridge in Hualien
Taroko National Park! Weather was a breeze so had no trouble "hiking" up

The route of the shuttle buses:
Taroko Park Headquarters > Eternal Spring Shrine > Buluowan > Tunnel of Nine turns > Cimu Bridge > Helui Campground > Lushui > Tianxiang

(One day pass can be obtained only at Hualien Train Station, not Xincheng Train Station)

This is how the tourism bus looks like:

台湾好行 tourism bus

When we arrived at the HQ, we saw the couple again who walked up all the way like us. We waited for the shuttle bus together. 

The whole journey up to Tianxiang takes 30-40minutes, which was what we did. On our way up because we were squeezed till the end of the bus, we decided not to get down (we somehow can't exit) till we arrive Tianxiang. 

In the end we took so long time exploring Tianxiang, and the laziness kicked in because the weather was getting really hot. And the bus continued being super packed (like people have to seat at the emergency exit) and we were on the back seats on both ways. So, we decided to just make it an on-bus tour Lol. Plus, Tunnel of Nine turns was closed due to recent earthquake and rock falls, super unlucky.

If you have the time and patience, do stop by at all the stops. One of the stop has an aborigines village, I am not sure which maybe Buluowan or Lushui.

Taroko National Park HQ

From the HQ, you can get a flyer on Tourist Information for Taroko National Park. It includes the map of the whole park itself, getting there, the bus routes, emergency contact numbers, Campground sites information and park trails.

The park trails are divided into 2 types, the Scenic type and the Hiking type (time required and special features are also included in the flyer)

This was one awesome toufu! Sold by the monks there for charity,
a lil pricey (cause its meant for donation) but I read it was yummy so we tried, it is!

No, I am not the  觀音大士 (Guanyin) *lame

View of Tianxiang from the pagoda!

After Taroko tour (more of like Tianxiang tour), we went back to our hostel and this time we were smart enough to use the bus! Stopped right in front of our hostel. After we packed and checked out, our friend came and brought us for lunch and Hualien tour! For tour in Hualien you definitely need to hire a guide, or a taxi at least. Because there is no proper public transport to move around.

Friend brought us to buy the famous "檸檬冰" (directly translated as Lemon Ice)
It is like a Lemonade. Perfect for the sunny day!

Missing Hualien's fantastic view!

Our friend told us that Shihtiping has nothing really breathtaking so they decided to bring us to Chisingtan Beach. Being a geology (rock studies) student, first thing I notice was, rocks! More like pebbles but I was very amazed. Instead of a sandy beach like here in Malaysia, the beach was covered with pebbles and cobbles!

I was so excited I had to take a photo with my beloved rocks Lol

After Chisingtan Beach we went to a Fish museum! It is called 七星柴鱼博物院  "Chihsing Tan Katsuo". Our friends brought us here, nothing much to see but loads of Hualien local products sold here! We bought some and our friends bought a lot! :D

entrance is 40NT$ per person and if I am not mistaken, 20NT$ can be rebate to purchase items there

There were dead (modeled) fishes and also life fishes on display

After that it was food hunting time!! Because coincidentally our friends are also the food-hunting type (always looking for good food) so we had the chance to try the best of Hualien!

This is probably the best food we had during the whole Taiwan trip! Also because we were on our own at all the other cities so we just took (ate) what we were given (found).

I think this is called 蔥油餅 (directly translated as Onion Oil Biscuit) but it is more like a Deep fried pancake roll? Adding egg is a must, and you must tell that you only want the egg half cook, which makes it the best!

We tried other 蔥油餅 in Taipei and the style is different! Those in Taipei were so dry, we missed this one so much. Too bad we were so hungry I didn't manage to get the address, but the next time we go to Hualien, I will definitely call up this friend for another round.

Tapao (take away) some Taiwan pau and brought them to a dessert place!
 Even though it didn't actually go well but we had Taiwan small pau with this Taiwanese dessert 包心份圆, something like Snowflake here but of course Snowflake comes from Taiwan and the originals in Taiwan are still the best (obviously duh)

After dessert we went for more food!! This time is 扁食. Trust me, my Mandarin is terrible. Initally I thought it is some kinda dessert like Snowflake too! And it turned out to be dumplings/wonton. I have never heard people saying 扁食 until that time in Taiwan.


The symbol of Hualien! Friend said if you have not seen this, you have not been to Hualien~

After all those, we went to play some indoor baseball and did some souvenirs shopping to digest all the food~ Next stop was the night market! Taiwan is so famous for its night market, that we ate night market food everyday. On the last 2 days, I needed rice so badly we had to "hunt" them. One of my Malaysian friend said her Mum was feeling the same when they were in Taiwan, we needed rice/ carbs. No wonder the Taiwanese are so slim >__<

After eating, our friends dropped us at our 2nd night hostel! Luckily it is not very far away. It is  Hualien CYC International Youth Hostel -350NT$- (reviewed here) and what surprised us was it looked like a school! And our friend asked us how did we even managed to find such a place to stay, he was surprise on how cheap it is and how fun we can live with other young adults and share experiences. We exchanged contacts and after doing some budgeting and planning for the next day, we slept. Bed was awfully hard and probably our worst stay.

Stay tuned the continuation posts on Taiwan! :)

** Update: when you arrive Taoyuan International Airport, you will see a tourist information counter at the entrance. First thing, take all the pamphlets and flyers related to your tour. Also take note of the events going on in Taiwan, whether you want to join or avoid those places (crowds).

All kinds of pamplets, the High Speed Rail (HSR) schedule and maps of different regions of Taiwan!

After getting the pamphlets, make sure you register for Taiwan WiFi! Did you know that Taiwan became one of the first countries in the world to offer free Wi-Fi on a mass scale for free? Read on here! For foreigners/ tourists, you will need your passport to register, all can be done at the Information Counter at the airport.

If you are under 30 years old, you can also register for Youth Travel Card (check it out here) which will give you discounts on certain tourism sites! Also for some transports and accommodations. The card is free and you can get it on the spot. If you travel a lot using the metro/bus, do purchase the metro/bus card as well because it is cheaper using the card and buses have no-change policy.

Here is how the foreigner/international youth card looks like:

For Taiwanese youth, the card is blue in colour :)

For more info on my Taiwan itinerary please email

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