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Falling in love with Taiwan's east coast

·959 words

After moving down Taiwan’s west coast starting from Taichung through Tainan to Kending, we eventually arrived in Taitung, a smallish city on the lower east coast. We stayed in a lovely hotel that always hosts a bunch of young helpers that stay for a few weeks and work in return for accommodation. There is a big, cozy common area downstairs where 6 indoor cats roam around and everyone hangs out together. We felt at home very much and found Taitung to be so cute that we ended up staying more than a week. Feeling a bit exhausted from moving around and somewhat disappointed from the very commercial Kending area, the city offered the right combination of relaxed town atmosphere and diverse nature close by. Situated at the coast, right in front of Taiwan’s central mountain range and at the southern tip of the coastal mountain range, Taitung’s position is great for exploring diverse scenery. There is the coast route with water and mountain views, the inner plains route through fields sandwiched between central and coastal mountain range, the “Green” and “Orchid” islands a ferry-ride away, so much to discover!

A few times we explored the area up north by scooter, one day doing an excellent hike up Dulan mountain that offered views both towards the sea and the inland valley through the jungle canopy. Some days most of our time was spent in the hotel’s common area reading, drawing or chatting with the owner and helpers. One morning we all went to see the sunrise at the coast and had delicious water-fried dumplings (a very typical breakfast dish) afterwards. Another highlight were the many great vegetarian restaurants we found, 4 of them we visited more than once, tasting many plant-based dishes new to us. There are the variations on Chinese/Taiwanese classics like Wonton dumplings, minced-meat rice, but with tofu/mushroom-based meat replacements, there are the buffet restaurants with all kinds of vegetable dishes and of course there’s also good old fried rice with mushrooms. We tasted many vegetables new to us, unfortunately we did not do a good job at recording their names … Shiwen became a regular at her favorite milktea shop close to the hotel and Jannes had to get his daily fruit juice at one of the many places throughout town. We even found a spacious gym that made an exception to let us pay per visit. Overall we quickly felt pretty settled in Taitung, which made it hard to move on when we did eventually.

After a week we took the ferry to the “Green Island” which took about an hour through very rough sea and … 🤢 we both ended up puking just before arriving. Taking the whole afternoon to recover we finally rented a scooter to do a first investigation of the island which we would stay on for 2 nights. Besides its main attraction diving (which we did not do due to staying so short and wanting to take a proper course later in another southeast Asian country), there were 2 main attractions we enjoyed most: a former prison for political prisoners turned into a museum and natural salt water hot springs next to the sea, that we visited twice. We also met some great people at our hostel and went to watch sunset and sunrise together.

After 2 more nights at the same hotel in Taitung we moved to a small town a bit further north called Guanshan. Our main touristic objective there was going to the Lisong natural hot spring tucked away in a gorge up the mountains. Shiwen calls it her absolute favorite nature experience in Taiwan, not only were the surroundings at the spring beautiful, also the hike down felt adventurous and exciting with parts of proper climbing using the ropes that are installed at the steepest points. The ride up the mountains was also enjoyable albeit cold, going up and down we went through the dense clouds. Despite being a popular destination it luckily wasn’t busy at all, we met just a few other foreigners and a Taiwanese group that just left when we arrived. Another day we spent biking through the fields and to a neighboring town, after which we rewarded ourselves with a portion of stinky tofu which Guanshan is famous for. Our next destination was Guangfu, a very small town roughly in the center of the east coast, where we worked on Uncle Tien’s organic farm for a week, we’ll share our experience there in an upcoming blog post.

Finally, our last 3 nights in Taiwan were spent in the biggest city on the east coast, Hualian. Arguably the most famous attraction of Taiwan, the Taroko gorge, is just half an hour away from Hualian and marks the beginning of a path that crosses over the central mountains towards the west coast. One day we rented a scooter to go up and do the point-to-point trail Lüshui to Wenshan, which was an absolutely stunning hike of 3 hours. The scenery is ever-changing, at first a very steep ascent culminates in a peak that oversees the vast valley with towering mountains on all sides, the later parts dip into green forest with a touch of jungle feelings. At the end one crosses a bridge and reaches the beginning of a short path down to the water where a small hot spring waits besides the river. Both of us agreed that the trail is the most beautiful we have seen this time in Taiwan. Overall we have fallen in love with Taiwan’s east coast, the natural scenery is just such a wonderful mix of sea, mountains and valleys, the towns are cute and slow-paced, the people are incredibly friendly and talkative. We will be back for sure.