Visiting Taiwan – East Coast

23 Aug

This is just my brief guide and there are lots more attractions to see on the east coast.  (Any suggestions for additions would be greatly appreciated)

The east coast of Taiwan is by far my favorite part of the island. All the way from Yilan in the North right the way down to Taidong in the South, there is so much to do and see.

There are two ways of getting to Yilan and the East Coast if you have your own transport. In a car you can travel through the Xueshan Tunnel, which has a total length of almost 13km making it one of the longest tunnel roads in the world. A much more scenic route (albeit upto an hour slower) is to take the number 9 road, through the picturesque tea-growing town of Pinglin. If you are on a motorbike (or a bicycle if you are fit enough) this road is superb, in a car you might want to bring motion sickness pills as the road winds in and out of the mountains all the way up to the coast.

I have driven this road countless times, but everytime I get to the Yilan side I still find myself in awe of the sight before me. Looking down from the mountains at the Lanyang plain, with the Pacific Ocean and Turtle Head Island just beyond can be a truly amazing sight on a clear day.

LanYang Plain

Lanyang Plain - Yilan County

Wushigang is a nice enough beach, but more famous for being one Taiwan’s premier surfing spots.  Don’t get your hopes up too much, though.  It is usually incredibly crowded and the majority of people haven’t got a clue what they are doing, but it still attracts plenty of better surfers for the lack of other options if nothing else.

Continuing down the coast is the simple irresistible Suhua Highway. This is the name for the stretch of coastal road that connects the counties of Yilan and Hualien. The road itself is just incredible as it is cut into the side of the huge mountains that drop steeply into the Pacific Ocean below. The road has a bit of a reputation for being dangerous and I have had a few precarious moments on it, but just take your time and ignore those speeding past you and try and keep your eyes on the road and off the breath-taking scenery.

DSC_0050

Suhua Highway - Hualian County

On the Hualien side of the Suhua Highway is the jewel of Taiwan’s National Park system – Taroko Gorge.
I first visited Taroko about seven years ago when I first arrived in Taiwan and it was probably the first place I had seen outside of Taipei and I was absolutely dazzled. I never imagined that Taiwan would have such stunning scenery. My friends and I hired scooters in Hualien (my first time) and drove up.

Mam and dad in taiwan 129

Taroko Gorge - Hualian County

There is so much to do in Taroko that a weekend simply isn’t enough. So what should you do there? The trail to Plum Garden/Bamboo Village (Meiyuan/zhucun) is a good hike that should take you most of the day. The Shakadang trail is a beautiful trail that follows a river up the gorge – it gets very popular at weekends, though. Recently the Jhulu trail has opened again and for those brave enough it makes for an hair-raising experience, walking along the one metre wide trail looking down the sheer cliffs at the valley below. Trails can often close because of bad weather so always check on the website before heading out.

Shakadang Trail

Shakadang Trail

When you are in the Hualien area you absolutely must try out river tracing. The rivers in this area are incredibly clear and on a hot summer’s day cannot be beaten. There are several operators in the area and I have had good experiences with the River King and can recommend the Golden Grotto and Shapodang trips that they do.

Hualien City itself is fairly forgettable. If you find yourself there on a rainy day the Songyuan Bieguan (Pine Garden) and Ciji University are worth a visit. The Nanbin Night Market is a nice place to stroll around at sunset and then try out some local snacks in the evening.

The counties of Hualien and Taidong are home to the islands Ami tribe of indigenous people and every summer, up and down the coast, there are a whole host of ceremonies related to their Harvest Festival. These range from small, low key village events all the way up to the grand United Ami Harvest Festival (3:05 onwards) held in Hualien’s Meilun district each year. Finding information about these festivals isn’t always easy so you can check here to see where the festivals will be taking place this year.

One of Hualien’s best kept secrets is the area called Mugumuyu Protected Area (trying saying that after a few glasses of millet wine). This is a protected ecological area and as such visitors are limited to 300 per day, so make sure to get there early. The scenery here is almost as good as in Taroko Gorge, but with hardly any tourists. You can get down to the river, too and there are plenty of ice cool swimming spots.

Mugumuyu

Mugumuyu Protected Ecological Area - Hualian County

Continuing South towards Taidong there are two roads to take – the faster Highway 9 that cuts through the East Coast Rift Valley and (my preferred route) Highway 11, which hugs the coastline all the way down to Taidong City.

The highlight of the rift valley route is the town of Ruishui, which is the start point for white-water rafting trips. Further South on Highway 9 you will come to the town of Chulu, unremarkable in itself – it is home to Chulu Ranch – popular with Taiwanese tourists, however I was brought up in rural England so seeing a few cows isn’t a big deal for me. Chulu is the gateway to Gaotai, previously famous as a tea planting area has now become the site for a much more action-packed pastime – paragliding.

Paragliding

Paragliding in Taidong

Also in the same area is the Bunun Tribe Cultural Park, which is an excellent place to spend a few hours learning about one of Taiwan’s largest indigenous tribes.  Make sure you are there for one of the music and dancing shows on weekends at 10:30am and 2pm.  If you call in advance they will also be able to provide you with a guide (in English).

Bunun Cultural Center

Bunun Cultural Center - Taidong County

There are plenty of places to stop and visit on the coastal Highway Eleven, too.  Sanxiantai, the Eight Fairies Caves and Shitiping to name but a few.  The highlight for me of driving down this road is all of it though, just being able to ride your motorbike down here with the Pacific ocean to one side and huge, sprawling mountains to the other.

I personally think Taidong City is great.  It seems to have a different feel to it compared to other places in Taiwan – much more laid-back and relaxed.  There aren’t any great attractions in the city, but it is worth spending a day here if you are passing through or visiting other attractions in the area.

Advertisements

One Response to “Visiting Taiwan – East Coast”

  1. mlart8 March 22, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    agree that you said becasue I graw up in taidong! it is smiple city but very relax place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: