Around the Island

There are several places down in the south east I wanted to go to, so we planned to do it this weekend. Since the place we were heading is in the north end of Taidong county, we figured it would be quicker to approach from Hualien in the north. However, there were no train tickets available so we decided to drive.

On Friday evening we packed up our stuff then drove north towards Taipei, followed the road westward then turned south. About an hour and a half we had reached Suao in Yilan county so I thought we could be in Hualien city in an hour more then stay the night there. This was a miscalculation on my part, since the highway ended there and we had to take a small mountain road. Winding your way along steep cliffs on the dark is not fun let me tell you, and after nearly an hour of driving we had only done about twenty or thirty kilometers. It seemed the best course of action would be to get a hotel then continue in the morning.

We set off a little after ten the following morning, driving along the coastal road that winds itself along jungle clad cliffs that drop steeply into turquoise waters.  About an hour and a half of spectacular landscapes later we rolled into Hualien city and stopped by a small restaurant for lunch. According to google it was a noodle place, but t turned out (as indicated by the decor) that their specialty is seafood. We had some fantastic abalone with plenty of vinegar onion, chili and coriander.

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After lunch we drove on, the road quickly becoming straighter and less mountainous, as we drove along the floor of a valley, mountains in the distance and beautiful light green rice fields on both sides of the road. About two hours later we go to the small town that had been our goal. However, the blacksmith shop we had intended to visit was closed, apparently the owner happened to be gone this very weekend; bad planning on our part to not call ahead I guess.

The area is also fairly well known for it’s beautiful rice fields so we rented a tandem bike then spent a hour or so riding around on the various small roads among the fields.

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When we returned the bike it was already getting dark, so we got back in the car and drove another hour to the town of Zhiben which is famous for it’s hot springs. We found a hotel then spent the evening soaking in the warm water. Since we were now rather far south on the east coast we decided that the best way to go home would be to cross over to the west side then take the highway north, thus completing the circle of the island.

Anyway, on Sunday morning we took it pretty easy with a few detours on our way westward. First we headed up into the mountains to some famous fields of yellow lily-like flowers. We then then drove out to the coast again to the now disused Taimali train station, which is said to have the best view of any train station in Taiwan.

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By now it was already afternoon, and in these parts of the country most restaurants close around one o’clock, so we ended up eating lunch in a convenience store.  After lunch we crossed the southern tip of the island, getting some good views while driving through the mountains, then turning northward once we reached the west coast. Before heading home we made one last stop at an old Spanish church which is the most European looking church i’ve seen in this country.

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After that we soon reached the highway and shortly after it got dark. There was nothing left to do then to crank up the music and drive. And now we are finally back home after our unplanned circumnavigation of Isla Formosa.

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