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Entries tagged with “Taroko-Schlucht”.


Taiwan east coast in four days: Suggestions for itinerary, rental car, accomodation

Explore Taiwan! East coast including Taroko Gorge and the East Rift Valley in four days, starting from Taipei. How to get there, where to find an English-speaking rental car agency, where to stay.

Taiwan East Coast Trip

The blue Pacific, rugged coastlines, lush valleys, mud volcanoes, hot springs, artists‘ colonies and even live ostriches – for less than US$200 per person! It’s possible at Taiwan’s east coast.

Four of us recently set out to finally see the east coast of Taiwan. This is where we went, how we worked out transportation and accomodation, and what it cost us. It may not be the perfect itinerary for everybdy, but it worked out pretty well for us.

(Because a lot of places have more than one romanized spelling (Taitung vs. Taidong), I’ve included several versions in the text for all you Google aficinados out there.)

Planning the Taiwan east coast trip

With four people, some of them neither in possession of a driver’s license nor the will to do some serious biking, we settled on renting a car right away. However, we did not want to spend a lot of time and nerves driving from Taipei to Hualien (and probably back as well) via the Suhua highway, notorious for its winding road, steep cliffs and crazy gravel truck drivers.

So we figured out that it might be a good idea to:

  • take a train from Taipei all the way down to Taitung
  • rent a car there
  • leisurely drive up the Taiwan east coast to Hualien
  • return the car there and go back to Taipei by train again

Spoiler alert: It worked out. This was our route (click to enlarge):

Taiwan East Coast Trip Map

We figured that if we spend four days (three nights) for the whole trip, we would not have to rush too much. Setting off on a Wednesday and returning to Taipei on Saturday, we avoided the weekend tourist crowds.

Taiwan East Coast Pacific

Buying train tickets

Travelling by train in Taiwan is cheap, convenient and reliable. That goes for the standard TRA (Taiwan Railway Administration) trains as well as for the High Speed Rail. Just be sure to book your TRA tickets for the Taiwan east coast as early as possible, because there’s a lot of demand by locals as well as tourists (remember that inconvenient Suhua Highway?).

You can order two weeks in advance via the TRA website and pick them up the next day at any train station or convenience store, paying at the counter. Don’t wait until the day after tomorrow, or your reservation will be cancelled. If you immediately pay by credit card while on the website, you don’t have to worry about this and can pick up the tickets at the train station until 30 minutes before departure.

We booked these connections:

  • Wednesday: 8:00 a.m. Taipei, 12:40 p.m. Taitung, NT$742 p.P.
  • Saturday: 4:40 p.m. Hualien, 7:16 p.m. Taipei, NT$418 p.P.

Renting a car in Taiwan

Most international car rental agencies do not have a presence in Taiwan. The one exception seems to be Avis, but they were not up and running by the time of our trip.

There are a few local companies willing to rent to foreigners (who tend to only have funny international driver’s licenses, and who knows if those can be trusted), and (in case no one in your group speaks Chinese) offer English service.

Taiwanese rental car agencies: Easyrent, Car Plus, Formosa Car Rentals

For our trip, we specifically needed a company with agencies in both Taitung and Hualien that offers one-way rental. We found just such a company with Easyrent.

Another comparable company is Car Plus.

And in the comments, an employee mentioned Formosa Car Rentals.

We rented this Toyota Yaris for NT$5775 Wed-Sat, including insurance:

Rental Car Taiwan

We had to fill up the tank once during the trip, which set us back NT$1240.

Day 1: Taipei – Taitung (Taidong) – Dulan

After arriving in Taitung, we picked up our car at the rental agency right next to the station and set out north on the Highway No. 11, which is going directly along the Pacific coast all the way to Hualien.

Seafood in Fugang (富岡)

Shortly after leaving Hualien, we stopped for some terrific seafood at a the 美娥 (Mei-e) restaurant in the fishing village of Fugang, just on the right side of the highway. Think NTD 250 p.P. if you really indulge yourself with the finest sashimi, shrimps etc. Full and happy, we checked out the picturesque fishing boats in Fugang’s harbor.

Xiao Yehliu (小野柳)

Next stop was the scenic area of Xiaoyeliu (Little Yehliu), which like its bigger brother on the north coast features some of the weirdest rock formations you will ever come across, as well as beautifully rugged coastline. Explore away!

Xiaoyeliu Taiwan

Entry is free except for a parking fee of NT$40.

Water Running Uphill (水往上流)

Next stop was Water Running Upward, a nicely landscaped little park on a hillside with a ditch where the water is actually going uphill. You’ll have to walk all the way up until you can figure out how it works. There is no electric pump involved.

Another visitor took this video:

Entrance is free. This place is very popular with Chinese tour busses, so it’s probably best to arrive in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds.

Dulan (都蘭)

We spent the evening in Dulan, a town with a strongly Aboriginal vibe to it that has over the last few years involved into an artists colony and a place to listen to live music. The center of the action is the former sugar factory that has been turned into a cultural center. Since it was not Saturday, there was no concert and we just had some street food.

Dulan Sugar Factory

B&B: Wind Guesthouse (風格民宿)

We spent the night at the Wind guesthouse, a really special place. To get there, you’ll have to return to Water Running Upward and head into the hills.

The cottages at Wind are designed to be as eco-friendly as possible, but also stylish in a down-to-earth kind of way. There is no air condition; cooling is provided by a gentle breeze. The double-layer roof prevent the buildings from heating up too much.

Wind Guesthouse Taitung Taiwan

There is abundant plant life all around the cottages. At night, you have to find your way around outside with the help of flashlights that luckily are attached to the keychains. Staying here really makes you feel that you are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but nature.

Taipei Times report about Dulan and the Wind hostel

We spent NT$4000 to rent two cottages, but the four of us could also have easily fit into just one (NT$2000). One sleeping area is probably big enough for up to six people.

Day 2: Dulan – East Rift Valley (花東縱谷)

We started the day by checking out the Dulan Sugar Factory (都蘭糖廠) with its interesting mixture of decaying industrial remnants, Aboriginal art and little designer shops. There’s also a cafe where you might get breakfast.

Dulan Sugar Factory Taiwan 2

Continuing north on Highway 11, we felt like going down to the beach and wet our toes in the waters of the Pacific. Shortly after Duli (都歷), we found a path that crossed some rice paddies and led to a wonderfully deserted black pebble beach that we had all for ourselves.

Pacific Coast Taiwan Beach

Sanxiantai (三仙台)

Next stop was Sansiantai, the Terrace of the Three Immortals. With its picturesque arched bridges, this is definitely a prime photo location.

Sanxiantai Sanhsiantai Taiwan

A little further north, we left the coastal Highway 11 and took Road No. 30, heading westward into the mountains. Our destination was the East Rift Valley on the other side of this mountain range that separates Taiwan’s east coast into two distinct areas.

So when we arrived in Taiwan’s lush East Rift Valley…

Do you want to know more?

Click here to read the complete guide to the perfect Taiwan east coast trip.

There are two and a half days left for you to explore!

You will learn about…

  • The lake that’s more beautiful than Sun Moon Lake
  • A farm with delicious fresh milk… and live ostriches
  • An old Japanese lumberjack village hidden deep in the mountains
  • Taiwan’s mud volcanoes
  • An inexpensive hostel right really close to the entrance to Taroko Gorge (perfect for that early morning start)
  • The final travel budget (amazing how little you need to pay for a trip like this!)
  • …and much more.

Download my complete East Coast Travel Guide now!

I hope you’ll enjoy your trip as much as we did.

Taiwan is waiting!


A company organizing outdoor trips for English-speaking tourists in Taiwan

Taiwan’s real beauty is not be be found in the cities, but in the great outdoors and preferably off the beaten track. But many tourists wonder: How to get to those places, how to prepare and how to avoid getting lost?

Album: German TV Returns to Taiwan

Hualien Outdoors is a company specializing in trips and activities including hiking in Taroko Gorge and river rafting. On their website, you find this statement:

We don’t take people into the outdoors because we have to, we all have day jobs. We do it because we enjoy sharing Hualien with our guests. The feeling of sharing this place with someone is wonderful, and addicting.

 

The guys at Hualien Outdoors also post videos of these trips on their Youtube channel.

I interviewed Matt Hopkins, one of the company’s founders.

Matt Hualien Outdoors

Some time ago, I was busy preparing stuff for a German TV team coming over from Tokyo. We wanted to film some amazing Taiwan mountain scenery, and a friend put me in touch with Matt, as he was „the guy in the know.“

I contacted Matt, and he gave me some extremely useful advice on two places we ended up visiting:

  • Jhuilu (Zhuilu) Old Trail (錐麓古道), the showpiece of Taroko Gorge: A path less than a meter wide with a 500m vertical drop on one side.
  • Little Chi Lai (Qilai) Trail (小奇萊步道) at Mt. Hehuan (合歡山): A wonderful, easy trail that gives a good idea of the high alpine forest and views of Taiwan.

We talked about Matt coming along for the filming, but did not find a suitable time. So, in order to learn more about the idea behind Hualien Outdoors, I asked Matt some questions by e-mail.

Album: German TV Returns to Taiwan

Customized trips and two-day packages

What makes your services special?

„We are the only western style out tripping business on the East Coast of Taiwan, which is amazing considering the vast beauty of this area. We offer small, customized trips to places away from the hordes of tourists in tour buses that have descended on the Hualien and Taroko Gorge areas in recent years.

„We take guests to rivers where the water is safe enough to drink, temples hidden in the mountains and other off-the-beaten-path areas that other companies either don’t go to, or don’t know about. Trips are small and flexible, food is locally sourced and of the highest quality and trips are not based on a menu of ‚famous‘ places. Each group gets a different trip based on their preferences and expectations of a trip outdoors. We do trips for everyone from families with infants to world traveling adrenaline junkies and everyone in between.“

Why did you feel you were the right person to start this company?

„Having lived in Hualien exploring the mountains and rivers of the area for the past seven years, I found myself in the right place at the right time. I have run a bilingual outdoor school for local children for the past three years, and this business has evolved from that. So many friends were asking to go out into the mountains with us and the kids, I decided to expand the business from a school to an out tripping company in 2011. So far the experiment is going well! There is a small but very experienced group of people that help out part-time taking guests into the rivers and mountains of Hualien.“

Wilderness experiences in Taiwan

Who should get in touch with you, and who should not?

„Hualien Outdoors might not be the best choice for those people who want a simple trip to the most famous places in Taroko that can be easily reached from the road and do not need permits. There are many cheaper options for those types of trips: taxi, bus, tour bus etc. Those looking for a more unique, personalized and off-the-beaten-path wilderness experience, with a little more physical challenge, would most enjoy our trips. Especially if they love water sports. River tracing is a sport like no other!“

What were some weird or moving things that happened during your trips?

„Once, on a trip up to Zhuilu Old Trail, I had a guest who kept asking questions about the cliff walk. How long, how wide, how high up, things like that. Once we got to the cliff face itself he stopped, lifted up his shirt, and revealed a home-made harness. He proceeded to ‚clip into‘ the safety rope and do the cliff walk attached to the cliff face by a piece of webbing.

„General speaking though, most people know what they are getting into when they come on a trip us. They do their research. Even so, most river tracing trips there is usually someone who relaxes on a rock and says ‚this is the most beautiful place I have ever been‘. That is a great feeling to take people to places like that. Sharing this place with people can be very addictive.“

River tracing on Taiwan’s east coast

Are there places in Taiwan that you would you really like to take tourists to, but have not yet been able to?

„Taiwan has a distinct lack of western style tourist infrastructure in the mountains. In Taroko Gorge, for example, there are lots of places in the lower stretches for tour buses to disgorge their passengers, and a precious few trails that are great but need permits. Then there are some great trails in Hehuan Mountain at the top of the National Park, above 3000m. There is almost nothing in between. I would love to be about to take guests on hikes through the 1500-2500m valleys that cut through the park, but there is no infrastructure to do it at all.

„River tracing is a different story, thankfully, as there are dozens of drainage systems and rivers within an hours drive of Hualien. It really is a paradise for river tracers.“

How will things develop?

„Due to various reasons, the largest being no one knows how beautiful this area is, Hualien’s wilderness has remained relatively pristine and undeveloped. With the recent push by the Taiwanese government to increase the international profile of tourism in Taiwan, many westerners are coming to Taiwan but not finding many options for western style trips. We are trying to fill that gap.“

The company’s website: Hualien Outdoors

Dear readers: What are your favourite places off the beaten track in Taiwan?

I am a German reporter living and working in Taiwan. Read more English posts on this mostly German blog. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, or Google Plus.

English posts you might want to have a look at:

More about my Taiwan book


Eine Folge aus meiner Taiwan-Kolumne im heimatlichen Anzeigenblatt.

„Ganz schön verbaut hier!“ Das war mein allererster Eindruck von Taiwan, als ich vor bald vier Jahren landete. Überall Wohnhäuser, Straßen, Brücken und rund um Taipeh Satellitenstädte, die fließend ineinander übergehen. Menschenleere Landschaft wie in meiner norddeutschen Heimat, über die man einfach mal den Blick schweifen lassen kann, gibt es hier wohl nicht – dachte ich. Doch da hatte ich mich getäuscht.

Taiwan ist wirklich ein Land der Extreme. Kleiner als Niedersachsen, hat es etwa dreimal so viele Einwohner. Die drängeln sich zum allergrößten Teil in der westlichen Küstenebene, wo auch die Hauptstadt Taipeh liegt. Zwei Drittel der Insel aber sind kaum besiedelt, denn da ragt von der Nord- bis zur Südspitze ein Gebirge auf, vor dem die deutschen Alpen nur als Hügelkette durchgehen würden. Weil Taiwan an einer Plattengrenze liegt, haben sich hier die höchsten Berge Asiens östlich des Himalaya aufgetürmt, mit mehr als 200 Gipfeln über 3000 Meter. Der höchste überragt mit 3952 Metern noch den Fujiyama in Japan, heißt Jadeberg, und jeder Taiwaner hat sich fest vorgenommen, ihn einmal im Leben zu erklimmen. Da steht mir noch was bevor.

Bequemer zu erreichen ist eines von Taiwans spektakulärsten Naturwundern an der Nordostküste: Die Taroko-Schlucht. Wo ein Fluss über Jahrmillionen sein Bett gegraben hat, windet sich hier eine schmale Straße 20 Kilometer lang zwischen Marmor-Felswänden hindurch, die zu beiden Seiten hunderte Meter senkrecht in die Höhe steigen. Ein atemberaubener Anblick, vor dem jede Weitwinkel-Kamera versagt. Steinige Wanderwege führen in Seitentäler, Hängebrücken überspannen Abgründe, Wasserfälle stürzen in die Tiefe. Manche Wege sind gesperrt, weil die Natur sich durch Erdrutsche und Steinschläge zurückholt, was der Mensch ihr abgerungen hat.

Ursprünglich gab es hier keine Touristen, sondern nur Eingeborenenstämme, die auf uralten Trampelpfaden zur Jagd gingen oder von Dorf zu Dorf zogen. Manchmal kombinierten sie beides, denn Taiwans Ureinwohner waren berüchtigte Kopfjäger, wovon auch die frühen chinesischen Siedler sie nicht abbringen konnten. Erst die japanischen Kolonialherren bauten Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts Straßen in die Berge, um die Stämme unter Kontrolle zu bringen.

Nachdem 1949 die nationalchinesische Armee nach Taiwan geflüchtet war und zehntausende Soldaten beschäftigt werden mussten, ließ die Regierung sie die jetzige Straße ins Bergmassiv schlagen. Hoch an einer Felswand erinnert der „Schrein des ewigen Frühlings“ an hunderte Arbeiter, die bei den waghalsigen Sprengarbeiten ums Leben kamen.

Taiwans Ureinwohner jagen heute höchstens noch Wildschweine. Wie in Amerika oder Australien haben viele sich unter Aufgabe ihrer Traditionen in die moderne Gesellschaft integriert. Andere versuchen, in ihren angestammten Gebieten ihre Geschicke möglichst selbst zu bestimmen – so sehr im Einklang mit der Natur, wie es heute noch möglich ist. In der Taroko-Schlucht verkaufen sie Schnitzereien an Touristen, und Kinder führen abends im Hotel traditionelle Tänze und Kostüme vor – ein Projekt, um benachteiligten Familien zu helfen und um daran zu erinnern, dass Taiwans ursprüngliche Bewohner keine Chinesen sind.


 


Raus aus der Stadt

Im Moment gibt es von mir nur sporadisch Lebenszeichen, weil ich kurz vor Toresschluss endlich mehr von Taiwan sehen möchte als Taipeh. Natur zum Beispiel, denn von der gibt es hier reichlich und vom Feinsten. Taiwan ist zwar extrem dicht besiedelt, aber das konzentriert sich entlang der Westküste. Den größten Teil der Insel bedecken dicht bewaldete Berge. Ziemlich hohe Berge, 3000 Meter sind nichts besonderes. Auf Taiwan befindet sich auch der Jadeberg, mit 3952 Metern der höchste Berg Ostasiens (also östlich vom Himalaya). Und mehr als 50 Prozent der Insel sind bewaldet.

Das aber nur vorweg. Gestern und heute war ich jedenfalls in der Taroko-Schlucht. Das ist ein Nationalpark im Osten von Taiwan, mit Felswänden, die hunderte Meter hoch aufragen und zwischen denen man sich wirklich ziemlich klein vorkommt. Es gibt auch reißende Gebirgsflüsse, schweißtreibende Wanderwege über Stock und Stein, atemberaubende Bergpanoramen und dergleichen mehr. Und wie so oft, können Fotos ein Naturerlebnis nur ganz unzureichend wiedergeben. Ich habe deswegen einfach ein paar Bilder rausgesucht, auf denen auch Menschen zu sehen sind – damit die Größenverhältnisse deutlich werden. Viel Spaß beim Suchen!

Reisegruppen kommen auch reichlich hierher. Die meisten werden per Bus zu bestimmten Aussichtspunkten kutschiert, spazieren ein paar Schritte und fahren dann weiter.

Wahrscheinlich haben sie Angst vor so was:

Schade, Killerbienen habe ich keine gesehen. Aber dafür freilebende Affen in den Baumwipfeln!

Morgen geht die Reise weiter, zum Sonne-Mond-See. Klingt schon mal gut.