We got to Hualien via a 2 h 30 min train ride from Taipei. It was a scenic ride down the east coast of Taiwan and we saw the agricultural plains of Yilan and the beautiful Pacific Ocean just out of the windows. Hualien is a small Taiwanese town without buses and the only way to get around the city is by taxi or private transport. I must say that the taxi drivers here drive really quickly and rather recklessly. Party because many crossroads are not regulated by traffic lights. Many Taiwanese people escape to Hualien during the weekends to enjoy the nature as well as fresh air. Consequent of the influx of local tourists, there are over 1000 “home-stays” (民宿) in the city center. We stayed in one of them – Hualieni-Inn which is located on the 11th floor in this white building in the picture. It took us a while to locate the place because we were used to staying in places with a proper lobby. Nonetheless, it was a great, well-furnished place with ample facilities and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.
Similar to what we did in Taipei, we hired a taxi which took us around Hualien and finally to Cingjing. Hualien is rather famous for its nature and one of the sites is the Cingshui Cliff. It was breathtaking and peaceful – I could spend an afternoon just sitting there and listening to the sounds of the sea. I really want to live a life close to nature.
After visiting Cingshui Cliff, we went to the Taroko Gorge which is probably one of my favourite places in Taiwan. The river was so blue and clear, the rocks were so huge and the gorge was so gorgeous. Some of the roads were unfortunately closed due to road repairs so we could not visit the famous pavilion. Nonetheless, we still made numerous stops to admire some rock features and beautiful bridges. Apparently, the rock feature holding the pavilion in this picture resembles a frog.
We also visited a Night Market in Hualien and apart from the usual delicacies, one of the more famous stores in the Night Market is the fruit juice stall. I guess their reputation is well-deserved as the fruit juices were all freshly prepared. The papaya milk juice and yam milk were especially popular.
We also went to watch a free Aboriginal Dance Show which introduced some of the different Aboriginal dances in Taiwan. It was also quite an interactive session as the dancers got some of the audience on stage and taught them a couple of dance moves. The dancers are aboriginal youths who live in Hualien and they are interested to keep the culture and tradition alive. The children especially seem to like the dance moves which are simple, easy to follow and highly rhythmic. This reminds me of the “Language, Culture and Native Peoples” course that I did in my first semester in the university. When tradition becomes a show and is performed on stage, the native tradition loses its original meaning. Native dances are more than just a performance – they usually are carried out as a way to express emotions during rites of passage and days of mourning. In essence, such performances that seek to glorify and “preserve” the traditions unfortunately kill their meaning in the process of doing so.