To some of us Taiwan evokes more the city, Taipei, with a concept of modernity, than the country with its natural reality. That’s why Taroko National Park made such an impression on us. It’s Taiwan’s prime natural site and though it was a bit complex getting there it was for sure worth it. We planned our Taroko visit around New Year’s Eve holidays, so all trains were fully booked. Luckily with a help of a polite clerk we managed to buy a bus to Luodong and a local train to Hualien. The whole journey took us more than 4 hours, double what the usual train ride Taipei – Hualien takes. Fortunately, big windows ensure cool views.
As mentioned above we went in winter. It was foggy and drizzling, providing for a very dramatic atmosphere. It wasn’t cold though. With average temperatures of around 20 Degrees winter is perfect to visit Taiwan. Be sure to notice how nature changes. The trip takes you along the east coast through some of Taiwan’s most dramatic scenery. One moment you are in tunnel and then you are at the top of a mountain, overlooking endless abandoned beaches. Finally, you reach Hualien after the river meets the ocean.
To get from Hualien to Taroko National Park it’s best to take the organized buses everybody advertises. We chose a cheaper version, without understanding why everybody was saying we shouldn’t do it. It turned out to be a local bus, so it wasn’t clear where we had to get out. We missed our stop and had to take a private taxi to the park entrance since there were no other public buses till hours later. So, don’t be like us, listen to the locals, they are friendly and honest.
The road goes up beautiful green mountains with all sorts of trees and bushes. And that’s where it hits you: Taiwan is a blessed island. We humans inhabit it. The good thing is that the Taiwanese have taken good care of it. There is very secure wooden path with bridges at the edge of the cliff, perfect to admire the rocks and the forest. It’s a nice exercise, no worries; anyone can go up and down at leisure. There is even a harmonious temple above a cascade that enhances Taroko.
Most tourists that visit Taroko are Chinese and Taiwanese. It adds to the experience. We met polite friendly locals that were admiring nature, quite like us. Another positive thing is that it’s very inexpensive and not money oriented. Forget about massive stalls or shops or hideous coffee shops. The Taiwanese are not that cheap! The same happened when we visited Maokong Hill and were surprised at the offer of snacks and coffee.
We left Taroko National Park on another local train which was convenient since it stopped in Jiufen Mining Town, our following destination. We didn’t mind it being slow and packed with people, we were happy we made it to Taroko during such traffic chaos. Taiwan has the best of both worlds: gorgeous nature and cool cities!