The dramatic landscape of the east cost of Taiwan has been a major attraction for many visitors. Here, Amy McPherson tells of her short but beautiful trip to an area where not many tourists venture…fishing villages, some special Spiritual caves and more.
Few visitors to Taiwan venture beyond the larger cities, as the country is still quite an unknown destination to many western tourists. While Taipei is exciting and eventful, we found ourselves drawn to the natural beauties we see so often in the local brochures that we simply just had to go. The dramatic landscape of the east coast of Taiwan has been the major attraction for many of the local visitors, along with the still existent indigenous culture in the many townships along the way. A trip down the east coast can enrich anyone’s visit to Taiwan, seeing the country from a completely different perspective.
From Taipei’s main train station, we hopped on the Taroko Express train to the city of Hualien. Famous for its soup dumplings and sticky rice cakes, we stocked up on these snacks before hopping on a bus heading into the famous Taroko Gorge. We spent the day exploring the many walking tracks awestruck by the marble cliffs and the majestic scenery; spending the night in the township of Tiensiang and waking up to the sound of nearby waterfalls and the chirp of local bird call.
Our own Taxi driver turned tour guide
We probably could have traveled by the excellent train network that connects Taiwan from north to south and east to west. However, with only limited time available, and with some of our desired sights out of the way from major public transport, we decided to hire a taxi to tour through the east coast, from Taroko Gorge back into Hualien, then down south to the hot spring town of Chihpen.
Our driver and acting tour guide diligently took us to all the major tourist sites. I particularly enjoyed visiting the Caves of the Eight Immortals and the Platform of the Three Immortals. Spirituality seems to be an important part of the Taiwanese life. Some may call it superstition, but watching faithful locals concentrating at the altar of the Goddess of Mercy at the Caves, praying for items from good exam results to having a baby son, drenching themselves in the dripping holy water and walking out looking happy and relaxed – sometimes I wonder if it’s all just a matter of self-therapy, a tool to make us feel satisfied and happy.
We had the advantage of having a driver tour guide who lives in a town on the coast. Besides the tourist attractions, he felt it was in our best interest to experience some of the local way of life. Between each tourist attraction, we stopped at fishing villages and watched local women and children gather sea grass to be dried and sold as a good stock base for soup, and we browsed the markets and shared some of the best cuisines I’ve had outside Taipei. As the day goes by and it was clearly getting too late, we reluctantly asked him to take us to our final destination and thanked him for a wonderful day.
Our overnight destination was the town of Chihpen south east of the island. It was developed by the Japanese to be a hot spring resort and it is now relying on hot spring tourism as their main source of income. Our room had a bath piped with natural hot spring, which was a welcome break from a day of walking, and we dined on delicious street food for dinner. We felt that we may have rushed our day exploring east Taiwan, and we may not have seen everything this beautiful stretch of coast had to offer. However, it can only mean one thing: we’ll just have to come back again soon!
Do you have any unusual stories of tiny towns or villages where tourists are a seldom sight? Have you been to the back country somewhere in the world, in awe of the beauty that few have gotten to see? Tell us where you have gone and why it is a special place!