Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Taiwan 2012: 花莲 (Hualian)

My second trip this year (in April) was to Taiwan. I've been to Taiwan before, once, like I think, when I was 18? That's perhaps about six years ago, when I had just graduated from junior college and was waiting to go to university. It was my first ever overseas trip with my girl friends and I was super excited about it. Thinking about Taiwan does brings back fond memories (of how young I was...*sigh*).

This time round, I went Taiwan with my cousin. It's our second overseas trip together! Not counting the one and half years of our university days in Aussie. Ever since she's been back, she's been swamped with work (she works at KPMG - I think that's pretty self-explanatory) and I don't meet her as much as I would like to. So, our week long vacation together was thoroughly awesome. ;)

Ello Taiwan! 

Our first stop was Hua Lian (花莲), so after reaching the airport, we took a domestic flight to get there (we reasoned that it will save us some time and we can begin our Taroko Gorge tour immediately for the day). We had arranged with our homestay (民宿) for a day tour guide to bring us around the park, it is really quite easy to arrange, and I reckon there are a lot of cabbies who also function as tour guides.

Our friendly cab driver/tour guide picked us up and we headed to the famous Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園). On the way, we stopped by a traditional lunch box (便當) store to pick up a few bento for lunches as the tour guide mentioned that it was yummy, and will definitely be way cheaper than food purchased in the Taroko National Park itself.

I highly recommend this lunch box store! The name of the place is 悟饕池上飯包. The food was really tasty, and there was a good selection of side dishes per box. A sample of the menu offerings can be found here and doesn't the food look so appetizing? I wish I had a lunch box now...

The tour guide brought us around the park, read - he dropped us off at various points, and told us to walk our way through the sightseeing sites, and he picked us up along the way to drop us at the next point again.

It's going to be mostly pictures as this is a very popular sightseeing place to visit in Taiwan, and sightseeing pictures are self explanatory.

Bridge of 100 Lions

The water there was really a clear azure blue (I've forgotten, but I reckon this is the Shakadang River). Not much post-processing, this is really quite true to the actual colour in real life. Isn't it really gorgeous? Cabbie dude said that the reason why the water is this lovely shade is caused by traces of limestone in the water.

We had to wear safety helmets (!) halfway through the sightseeing. Cabbie dude got them from some kiosk at the side of the road and said that it is a must (though not all the people we saw were wearing 'em) to wear them due to the possibility of falling rocks around the area. We stopped for lunch half way and boy were we excited to tuck into our 便當. Doesn't the lunch boxes look oh-so-good? (okay, they look pretty average, but trust me when I say the taste was yums!)

Spidey's home

It is best to start your tour at the Taroko Gorge quite early in the day, so that you finish by evening time. That's when all the tourists really are swarming in. We saw busloads of Chinese tourists arriving when we were mostly finished with the place. *phew.

Cabbie dude then drove us to Qixingtan (七星潭) beach. There was a fish market that, and fish mongers were still busy at work while we dropped by around the evening hour.

The pretty pebbled stones on shore were really gorgeous, I was even contemplating bringing one home (especially the "heart shaped" one above) as a souvenir, but then they were pretty big and I reckon would take up space in my luggage. Ha! My black flats turned grey after the whole day walking. Just look at how dirty they are!

Random dude strolling by the shoreline

It was turning chilly by then, so we requested to go to the homestay next. After dropping our luggage in the room, and lounging around to rest for a bit, we decided to walk over to the central area for some dinner.

There were two 公正包子店 side by side. The shops' specialties were probably the xiaolongbaos and dumplings. We managed to try from both places, and we both agreed that we preferred the stall above to the one next to it. There were snaking queues for both places, and you could either takeaway or dine in. For the first stall, we bought take away, and bought some bubble tea next, where we sat at the counter eating  our food. The ones below in the plastic bags are the takeaway stash from the stall above. The sauce for their dumplings was much better than the neighbouring stall (we havn't poured in the sauce in the below shot, thus the dumplings look quite dry).

Second round of XLBs and buns from the neighbour stall

We awoke the next morning, ready to head off to Taipei city for the next part of our trip. Here's a peek at our homestay's balcony, which overlooks the sea.

Balcony view

We took another cab (cabs are quite cheap in Taiwan, so don't be afraid to take cabs, especially if you are travelling with others) to the train station, and asked to stop by a lunch box place to grab some lunch boxes. Then off to the train station we go!

It's my first time ever taking the train! Okay, and I don't mean as in metro, or subway or whatever. I mean it's the first time I'm taking the railway train (火车). If you get what I mean.

The train ride was pretty okay, it took about three hours or so (if I didn't remember wrongly) to travel by train from Hua Lian to Taipei city. We had our lunch boxes on the train, just look at how yummy my lunch box looked! Once again, a good variety of sie dishes. Super in love with the packed lunch boxes culture that Taiwan has. Why doesn't Singapore have something like that? I would love to buy 便當 sets! Then again, I can always make my own bento box. Ha!


  1. I`m so jealous of you! I really want to visit Taiwan one day! I love the food~

  2. do visit taiwan! amazing food galore there... ;)


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