I wrote about how easy it was to hitchhike around Taiwan in a previous post, and also a bit about Taipei and Alishan earlier. This time I’m going to share a little more information on each of the towns/cities that my friend Matt and I stopped at as we circumnavigated Taiwan.
Hualien feels like a mid-size beach town. It’s really easy to get around on a scooter, and its most famous for the nearby Taroko Gorge. Matt and I stayed at WOW hostel (recommended by my friend Bond) for the first few nights and Big Bear hostel for a couple of nights after. On the first night in Hualien, Matt and I met up with a couple of people on the Couchsurfing Hangouts app. One of them was an expat living in Hualien, and he gave us some tips for Taroko Gorge.
His advice was to go to a scooter rental shop run by a bigger woman and bigger man, where we could rent a scooter for 500NTD/24hrs. This particular rental store was a few doors down from Wow Hostel (Standing at WOW looking towards the main train station, head towards your left, cross the first road and the shop is a few doors down on the left). I’m sure it’s not the only one, but this particular place is also known to be particularly lenient on the licensing requirements.
The other piece of advice we received was to visit the Hot Spring in Taroko Gorge. This hot spring is located about 2km beyond 7/11 up in Taroko. There is a tunnel with a yellow entry, the path down to the hot spring is to the right of the tunnel (park about 50m back from the tunnel entry).
We found that Hualien didn’t have any nightlife during the week, except for the great food at the nightmarket – these are excellent and ubiquitous in Taiwan. We also drove our scooters out to the most famous beach in Hualien the morning before we hitched South. As nice as it i, the pebbles and proximity to the port make it not so nice (depending on what beaches you’re used to!).
Dulan is most famous in Taiwan as a sleepy beachside surfing town. It’s only got a population of about 500 people, but the weekend we arrived coincided with Dulan Arts Festival, so it was actually pretty busy. In fact, our hostel had overbooked, and when we arrived they told us we can’t stay with them. We were pretty pissed off about this, but luckily a neighbouring hostel offered to give us beds on the floor at a discounted rate, so it all worked out in the end. There was a Taiwanese guy in the room who was actually heading to Melbourne in a few days for a working holiday which was a coincidence.
We spent about four days in Dulan swimming at the beach and hoping for some decent surf. Surfboard rental starts at 500NTD/day (beginner boards) and is around 750NTD/day for a shortboard. So with pretty average waves it didn’t seem worthwhile. Instead Matt and I took out the free hostel board for a morning but it was a piece of junk.
I didn’t originally plan on visiting Taitung, but had a friend there so I was talked into it, and I subsequently talked Matt into it. The main train station is actually quite a way out of Taitung town centre. But we didn’t realise that. So we booked a weird empty hostel right by the station. Luckily there was a cheap shuttle bus to the town centre that night but thats really all we saw of Taitung, which is why I have no photos!
Kenting is located right down the south end of Taiwan. It’s a small beach town made up of only a few main roads. Matt and I were staying at a hostel on the main street of the town. Despite staying for four nights, we didn’t actually do much here other than relax and hangout at the beach. There’s a night market every night, which is quite good, but shuts down at about 10pm, and most people seem to head back to their homes/hotels or home towns. We expected it to be a bit more lively but we were there from Monday to Thursday so perhaps on weekends it would be busier.
On our last day in Kenting, we walked to Sail Rock, about 25 minutes away. I read about Sail Rock online, that it was a place where you could jump off a cliff into the ocean, so we decided to head out there and give it a go. It was more difficult than we expected. We were in thongs (flip flops) of course, and had to scramble across 40 metres of razor sharp rocks to get to the base of Sail Rock. From there, it was difficult to see where to climb up, because we also had to make our way across a deep channel about 15 metres to the rock itself. So while I was trying to build up enough courage to continue further, Matt jumped in the channel and swam around to the side of the rock to check it out, and he confirmed we could climb up from there, but it was sharp and we’d need our thongs there as well.
So after he talked me into it, we both jumped in and swam around, scrambled up the cliff face to a ledge, and made the approx. 10m plunge. I filmed the jump which you can see in the video included in my last post here.
We didn’t do much sightseeing in Kaohsiung. In fact, my friend Max had told there was a really fun bar there called Brickyards, so that was the only plan we had arriving here, to check that out. We arrived on Thursday, and it was gay night at Brickyards. Nevertheless, we stuck our heads in, but it was very much gay night. So we vowed to return the following two nights as well to see what it’s like on a Friday and Saturday. Friday and Saturday were a lot of fun, but that’s a story/stories for another time.
The best thing we saw in our few days in Tainan was the ‘Anping Tree House’. It is an old house located in the old suburb of Anping that has been completely overgrown by Banyan trees. Apparently the house was completely impenetrable when it was rediscovered. Since that time, the trees have been cut back just enough to install walkways through the house so you can actually see how amazing it is. It reminds me of the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Taichung was the last stop on the circuit before returning to Taipei. We arrived quite late to our hotel – the old couple that gave us a ride from Tainan insisted on feeding us stinky tofu first – and were going to stay for two nights, but as it was Matt’s Birthday the next night we decided to stay one night and make our way back to Taipei early in the morning. So Taichung was actually nothing more than a rest stop for us.
Taipei (Round 2)
Back in Taipei, for a lot longer than expected. Things took an interesting turn and before I knew it I had been there for a further four weeks. In that time, I hung out with some really cool people, in particular Matt, Yoichi, Ryan and Yu En. I got a haircut, did a hitchhiking day trip with Ryan to Yilan beach and Wufengchi Falls, ate a lot of dumplings (Ba Fang) and played a lot of darts.
Also I visited the Hot Springs two more times, Jiufen old town in pouring rain, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial and many other parts of Taipei, including Maokong. In the end, I made a last minute booking to fly to Vietnam on Christmas Eve to start the second year of my travels on fresh ground.