The other week my too-good-to-be-true housemates and I leaped at the chance to go on our first road trip together to Taiwan’s East Coast during the Dragon Boat Festival three day weekend. For three incredible days we spent every waking moment together setting our eyes on magnificent (and, ah, rather underwhelming) sights, showing no resistance gorging delicious food at every opportunity and spending hours and hours on the road belting out classics tunes from the likes of Destiny’s Child et al.
In our modest rental car we drove straight from Hualian City to our first major stop, Taroko Gorge.Our initial plan to hike one the trails marked on the very vague trail map we had in our posession was met with a rather small obstacle- we couldn’t find the trail.
Now, before you judge us too harshly, we followed the route marked out by the map and also the signs along the way, but after going every which way, we had no choice but to admit the trail had us beat. Already drenched in sweat from the searingly hot sun, we packed ourselves in the car and headed to the main sight.
Setting my eyes on the Gorge, I was initially taken with the unique colour of the small stream which was engulfed by the daunting cliff wall. The most delicate grey, the water fluttered along, unaware that its calm hue was a spectacle drawing countless visitors from around Taiwan every day.
Following a significant protein injection from our jumbo sized lemon chicken set lunch, we weaved our car around the winding roads in the surrounding area. Tired of oogling the mesmerising coastline from the car window, we parked the car and peering over the cliff face, we drank in the sight of the vast, richly blue coast line. In the days that followed days I would battle to chose which of the coastal views was most memorable.
We had hours ahead until we reached our accommodation in the town ship of Yuli, so once again we returned to the road. The long stretches of time spent on the road slipped by, aided by a captivating backdrop of mountains, plains of green, and palm trees guiding our way.
Settling in at our accommodation at Ja Ja Home Stay we were impressed with how comfortable, clean and sweetly decorated the room was. Especially considering that it was one of the cheapest options in the area at around $TWD700/ $AU30/ $US25/ Y3000. I am very happy to stay in hostels, and often prefer it, but as the town was a bit out of the way non B&B and hotel options were sparse. The hamburger breakfast was a bit underwhelming, however we could hardly complain as they were kind enough to accomodate us as we rushed into the dining room bang on the 9am cut off.
Our dinner was a real highlight. Eager to make the most of the coastal area and eat fish, we stumbled upon a traditional Taiwanese restaurant. Unable to read the daunting menu afixed to the wall which comprised only of very complicated Chinese characters, the waiter promised us to fix us a selection of dishes for $600 ($AU24/ $US20/ Y2400). We eagerly agreed and we were quickly presented with dish after delicious dish.
They just kept coming and with end in sight we began to worry that we would have to pay $600 each. We could not fathom that there could be any way we’d be able to get so many dishes, especially seafood ones, for so little, even if we were in a country we had grown accustom to enjoying scrumptious and affordable meals. We all felt quite guilty when the bill arrived and it was indeed just $200 each. Only in Taiwan!
Feeling exponentially heavier by the second, we lugged ourselves to our final destination of the night An-Ton Hot Spring Hotel! I really recommend this hot spring, not least because it is where I was handed Taiwan’s rarely seen $200 bill (Click link to read about my discovery). It was like a theme park of hot spring baths, with both outdoor and indoor options. From mild to scorching hot (48 degrees Celsius!), we made sure to try them all out! Entry was $280, and came with water and a small towel.
Feeling luxuriously smooth following our hour and a half down time in the hot springs, we returned to our hotel, ready for another day on the road.
Stay tuned for Day 2 soon!