A Tour of Taroko National Park

A few weekends ago I explored Hualien City, the county seat of Hualien, with my friend Josh (who by the way is super talented and responsible for all of the pictures of myself that I included in this article.)

I wanted to show him one of Taiwan’s most scenic areas so naturally we ventured to Taroko National Park!

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This was a slightly ambitious one day trip, however from Taipei we were able to make it to the park and enjoy the sights all before it got dark. To maximize your time you just need to be sure to get up early the day of and do some research prior to arriving in Hualien City.

There are two methods of getting to Taroko National Park, the first being by combo ticket and the second by taking a direct train. The two are close in cost, with the direct train being the faster and more comfortable option. For more information on transportation between the two cities, consult this expertly written blog.

Josh and I decided before hand that we were going to rent scooters in order to travel at our own pace and have the freedom to chose exactly what areas of the National Park we wanted to explore. Once we arrived at the train station in Hualien City we were approached by the owner of a scooter rental shop and he quickly escorted us to his nearby shop. It cost $500 NTD (or $22 CAD) to rent them for the day and of course they came with helmets #safetyfirst

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If you don’t feel comfortable driving a scooter there are also buses that will take you there and you can learn more about how to catch it here under the <About the shuttle bus in Taroko> heading.

We were feeling adventurous that day so we found our way there using our good friend Google Maps, however my new favourite app Maps.me is also really good for directions and accuracy! Once you are out of the core city it is essentially a straight shot and the whole ride will take you approximately 40 minutes.

On the way to the park the views of the mountains were beautiful but once we reached an area just outside the park, the beauty we were immersed rose to a jaw dropping level.

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We proceeded to the Visitor Centre and got some helpful information from a very friendly park enthusiast. I recommend doing this just to take a break, go to the washroom, or buy a snack and some water.

We then took a left out of the Visitor Centre, went straight for 500 metres and eventually took a right following the signs for Taroko Gorge. We quickly noticed that everyone is required to wear helmets in the park due to the potential of rock slides, luckily we already had ours.

We road along the impressive Taroko Gorge until we arrived at the Swallow Grotto. The potholes found in the cliffs were especially impressive, not to mention the built in springs.

There is a trail you can walk that is about half a kilometre starting from the beginning of the Swallow Grotto, it’s called the Yanzikou Trail and it offers an up close and personal view of this impressive rock formation.

Since we rented scooters, we continued to ride along until we got to Cimu bridge where we stopped to take in the awe-inspiring architecture complimented by the surrounding astounding landscape.

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The rushing grey water that flows throughout these marble mountains is most likely this colour from the rocks and sediment below it, but there are places in the stream where marble rock is exposed and clear blue water is visible. This combination really is stunning in person and despite being completely natural, looks as if it was painted to be that way.

Next we found a waterfall that we got to observe from a nearby (somewhat nervewracking) suspension bridge. It was pretty wonderful to witness this raw and powerful display of nature.

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Below is a map highlighting the major scenic spots within the Taroko Gorge. You can find out more details on the Taroko National Park website including various tour suggestions.

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Personally, Taroko National Park served as a large reminder of how small we as humans really are. Everywhere you look at in this park, from any angle, you are surrounded by mountains and gorges up to 3,000 metres in elevation. The park is literal eye candy, a dazzling visual experience if you will. The greenery, the waterfalls, the shrines, and statues are all sensational and I guarantee you will say the word “WOW” at least five times during your time there. It is trips like these that emphasize how beautiful this world is and how important it is that we enjoy our world’s wonders in a respectful way.

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A Pokara Kind of Paradise

Because I only have a couple months in Taiwan, I have been making the most of my time in this beautiful country. This means traveling and trying new activities, almost every weekend (life is really tough for me right now, I know).

After a day of relaxing by the beach and exploring the province of Yilan I spent one peaceful night, sleeping under the stars, at Pokara Resort.

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Located in a rural area amongst rice fields, this place truly feels like an oasis. When I walked into the lobby I instantly felt relaxed, and it wasn’t just from the air conditioning, but rather a combination of the calming music playing and the friendly staff waiting to greet me.

I found the lobby beautifully decorated, with elaborate vases and comfortable couches to sit on while the staff processed my passport and checked me into my room.

As I checked in around 4:30 PM there was a selection of tea, coffee, fruit, and treats waiting for me, because I arrived perfectly on time for the afternoon tea hours.

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The interior design at Pokara Resort is extremely well done. Besides the lobby, I especially loved the look of my room. I had a very unique hotel stay experience because my room was actually an outdoor cabin, which I paid a little extra for, but found it to be totally worth it.

The surrounding scenery is gorgeous and the room is equally as stunning! With wooden walls, and flower accents, a nice area to sit by the window, this was definitely no regular hotel room. The room came with all the comforts of a usual indoor hotel room but it’s unique setting really set it apart for me, I had never experienced a room like this before! Another bonus was the extra privacy it provided.

To get to the outdoor cabins you walk through a lovely garden area with comfortable chairs and tables to sit at. One is actually made out of marble and would be great for playing a round of afternoon Euchre, if you’re into card games.

Because the resort was in a rural area I had no problems with sleeping at night. There was no noise coming from the streets, just the faint sound of crickets at night and birds in the morning. It was nice to feel the morning sun and take a quick walk through the garden before eating breakfast.

img_6339Leading me to my next topic of breakfast. To some, this might not be so important, but to a food lover such as I, a hotel with good food is a prerequisite. At Pokara Resort I was definitely pleased with their morning food offering!

Besides scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and toast with their homemade garlic butter (essentially garlic bread minus the cheese) they also have some true Taiwanese dishes that I thoroughly enjoyed. These range from Taiwanese braised pork rice, boiled sweet potato leaves, and rice porridge, if you’re into foreign cuisine you won’t wanna miss out. They also had fresh tea and most importantly to me, a coffee machine that used fresh beans to make the delicious (and necessary) beverage.

Pokara Resort offers free bicycle rentals to their guests and I really appreciated this feature as I biked to the nearby beach! These vessels gave me a more authentic experience as they allowed me to explore the nearby town and countryside on my own time.

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Besides this, the staff service really blew me away. They spoke limited English but tried their best to communicate, using Google translate so that I could understand what they were trying to tell me. They were extremely friendly, helped me with my luggage and even wrote out the names of local restaurants in English for me. They effort was extraordinary and they also escorted me by shuttle to the bus station on the morning of my check out!

If you find yourself in the North of Taiwan, you should make the province of Yilan a priority to get to, but more importantly, staying at Pokara Resort should be at the top of your list: http://www.pokara.com.tw/en/index.php