Taiwan

Hualien, Taiwan

If you ever wondered where ancient Chinese painters got their inspiration from, venture out to Hualien and you will be able to hazard a guess. 

I have never been to the countryside of China which I’m sure has more breathtaking views. But at Hualien itself, it was a sampler of the oriental landscape, and that itself was enough to satisfy my voyeurism… for now.

Before the trip, I looked up on the online reviews and they all highlighted that the must-go destination at Hualien is Taroko National Park. So we booked a full-day guided tour with a local taxi driver and we were picked up at our B&B at 9.30am.

Our first stop at the national park was Qixingtan!

Qixintan, which literally means '7 Star Lake'
Qixintan, which literally means ‘7 Star Lake’

Our guide told us that this place used to be a lake (thus the name) but after the Japanese came, they built an airport in the area and somehow the lake expanded into the sea and it is now a beach (?!). Haha at least that is what I got from my half-past-6 Chinese!

Anyway, don’t let the above picture fool you. The place was anything but peaceful that day. The winds were crazy-strong and I had water flying into my camera lenses! Grr…

Yup some of that sea spray got to my camera as well
Yup some of that sea spray got to my camera as well

In an utmost (un)biased way, I think Australia has the most beautiful beaches in the world (I hope to share with you all sometime!). But with the azure blue waters and grey pebbles, I was delightfully surprised by the beauty of Qixintan.

Our taxi driver told us that tourists love to pick the pebbles from this beach as a souvenir. And guess what?

Guess mum couldn't resist!
Guess mum couldn’t resist!

Our next stop, Qingshui Cliff!

Chingshui Cliff, or 'Clear Water Cliff'... aren't the waters clear enough?
Qingshui Cliff, or ‘Clear Water Cliff’… are the waters clear enough?

I love how alive this picture is – the grey, the blue and the green… how green are the trees?? You wouldn’t think that it’s winter!

We took a walk down to get to the beach.

Where the mountains meet the sea
Where the mountains meet the sea

After that, we took a walk down Shakadang trail.

Taking a walk round the mountain
Taking a walk round the mountain

You see the ‘slicing’ into the mountain? That’s the path that we walked. I wondered how much work went into making that trail!

View from Shakadang Trail
View from Shakadang Trail

Most of the view was blocked by the trees. I wished we could walk down but the pathways were blocked off.

After lunch, we took a random stop as our guide told us that the Mei Hua 梅花, or plum flowers were in blossom.

1 of my fave shots of the trip!
1 of my fave shots of the trip!

This picture encapsulates what I imagined to be in the typical Chinese painting – the flowers, the temple, the looming mountains, the mist creating a mystery around the orient. Beautiful!

After taking a few snaps, we did another walk – Lushui Trail, or ‘Green Water’ trail.

Where do these steps lead to?
Where do these steps lead to?

This walk was a little more exciting that the previous one, as it involved us walking near the edge of the cliff and even through a pitch-dark tunnel!

The wonderful creation of God
The wonderful creation of God

I love the hint of autumn in the above picture. I wonder how this place would look like in fall!

And our last stop for the day, Swallow’s Grotto (燕子口)!

Little holes in the mountain!
Little holes in the mountain!

So apparently there are many swallows in this area, thus the name. But I’m not quite sure how the holes in the mountains came about!

We took a walk under a mountain, having to don safety helmets and all (ooohhh how adventurous) and this was the view at the end!

Another beautiful picture of the Chinese landscape!
Another beautiful picture of the Chinese landscape!

Our guide pointed out to us that if you look closely at the rock facing the lake, you would see that it looks like a face of a Red Indian… do you see it?

Can you see the face?
Can you see the face?

After ALL of that walking, we gotta build up on our sustenance right? And since we were in Taiwan, we just had to try out the night market, and so our guide brought us to Ziqiang Night Market!

What's the hype with this grilled corn?
What’s the hype with this grilled corn?

You know how if a food place is crowded, it usually means that it’s good? Well, in this case, it didn’t work. This corn stall had an insanely long queue so I curiously joined in to find out what the hype was about.

And to my disappointment, it was just a sweet barbeque sauce on the corn! There was nothing special and it didn’t feel worth the queue. But oh well, at least I tried!

And in Taiwan, you gotta try the Smelly Tofu (臭豆腐) right?

Smelly Tofu!!!!!
Smelly Tofu!!!!!

I initially thought that this would be like durian – smelly but delicious (although these days I’m not a big fan of durian… the smell puts me off too much). But to my horror, smelly tofu not only smells bad, it tastes bad!!!! As my mum puts it, it tastes like something picked up from the drain. Argh!

Thankfully, we could wash the taste off with some Oyster Mee Sua (Oyster Vermicelli)… Mmmmm…

Love the chilli!
Love the chilli!

In Singapore, we have Oyster Omelette and in Taiwan, they have their version as well!

Orh Lua!
Orh Lua!

The Taiwanese version seems a little lighter than the Singaporean version – the starch was lighter and it had lots of leafy vegetables in it. The Singapore’s Fried Oyster has spring onion instead and is usually saltier. Both versions have their own merits!

And then we visited what seemed like the most popular stall in Ziqiang Night Market‘No. 1 BBQ Stall’ (no, I’m serious, this is the stall’s name).

The stall with the biggest stall sign in Ziqiang Night Market!
The stall with the biggest stall sign in Ziqiang Night Market!

The queue for this stall was wayyyyy longer than the corn stall and the guide did recommend this stall so we braved the crowd to try it out.

Sticks of food waiting to be bbq-ed!
Sticks of food waiting to be bbq-ed!

So how it works is that you pick the sticks of food and put them into your tray. At the end of the queue, the stallholder will charge you according to the number of sticks (some sticks are more expensive than others of course, depending on the ingredient) and they give you a queue number. While you wait, they barbeque your sticks of food.

As we had quite awhile to wait for the BBQ food, my mum & brother went off to get Coffin Bread (棺材板), another recommendation by the guide. It’s basically deep fried bread that has a hole in the middle, and fillings will be put into the hole, thus resembling a coffin! (but a really weird name still, I think)

After we gathered all of our food, we headed back to the B&B to eat them with the free cup noodles that the B&B provided – and that’s how you would do dinner in Taiwan! The BBQ sticks were just okay which made me wonder why they would call themselves ‘No. 1’. I guess I wasn’t a big fan of the BBQ marinade which was a little too sweet.

So to end off this post, I leave you with this ugly picture of our night market loot:

L-R: Coffin Bread, BBQ squid, chicken wing, beancurd
L-R: Coffin Bread, BBQ squid, chicken wing, beancurd

Do not be deceived by the ugliness – the Coffin Bread at Ziqiang Night Market turned out to be the best coffin bread that we had in our entire Taiwan trip. The filling we got was prawns & pineapple and it was such a yummy combination – the savoury sweetness of the fried bread and prawns, together with the sourness of the pineapple… yums!

And that was our day out to Taroko Gorge National Park and Ziqiang Night Market. Having done many bushwalks and road trips Down Under, it was refreshing to see nature from an Oriental perspective. Taiwan is well-known for its food, shopping and nightlife but if you would like to see the nature-side of Taiwan, it’s well worth a trip out to Hualien, and get a taste of the Chinese scenery!

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