Weekend excursion to Hualien Part 1

Last month I and Selina made an unforgettable trip to Hualien over the weekend. As if the joy of visiting breathtaking landscape of Taiwan east coast was too much to redeem my spirits I have been heaped with truck load of work ever since I came back. So its no brainer to guess why I haven’t had time to write about it. While I still lay buried under a pile of work I have managed to get my writing hand out in open and string together some words and pictures from the Hualien excursion for you.

Our journey to Hualien started from Jhubei when Sun was still hours away from appearing on the east coast. As our train smoothed its way towards Hualien and the Sun rose in the east I savored taking in sights of fascinating eastern Taiwan country side bathing in early morning sunshine. There were countless green rice paddies stretching till the foothills of Taiwan central mountains on my right and romping towards the sea on my left. No signs of beetle nut farms though. As we pulled away from Yilan county mountains that stood farther until now started closing in on us. and soon I could no longer see the mountain tops from my window seat. I actually ended up photographing only parts of mountains which turned out to be shaky and blurry images of a gigantic wall of rocks blanketed with a green cover of trees.

Mountains moved back a little bit as the train approached Hualien city. We quickly gathered ourselves up and got off the train. We needed to take an underpass on our way out. What I saw in the underpass was a pleasant surprise. This underpass hosts numerous picture boards showing images of tourist places to visit in Hualien, Hiking trails, lakes, ocean park, hot water springs and what not. These boards also included useful information such as distances of each of them from the train station,time needed to get there, approx time required to check out the place or take a hike and so on. I’m a lazy bum when it comes to travel planning so I had no idea which place we were going to visit except of course Taroko George so we spent about 30 mins watching those pictures and reading the details trying to finalize which places we should set upon for our small visit.

Underpass at Hualien Train Station
Hualien train station underpass

Overwhelmed and still undecided we got out of the station. We grabbed some tourist brochures from the information counters and had a quick breakfast at 7-11 inside the train station before getting on another train for a 20 mins ride to Sincheng.

Since it is just few kms away from Tarako George we decided to stay in a small town called Sincheng. After taking some much needed rest we took off to Hualien city on a rented bike. Closer to the city we had a fabulous lunch at a sushi restaurant. On the way to Hualien city we saw a Dong Hwa University sign and pictures from the brochures popped up in front of my eyes. Since we were so close we thought of giving it a shot.

East Rift Vally
While riding to Dong Hwa University campus we came upon many gorgeous landscapes and this was one of the stop-and-take-a-picture moment.

Dong Hwa University campus didn’t turn out to be that close in the end. To be specific we rode about 40 km starting from Sincheng. But I am glad we went there. Firstly I enjoyed riding to Dong Hwa and secondly it brought back memories of my college days. The campus is impressive and scenic as it is situated between coastal mountain range and the central mountain range. We actually ended up spending our afternoon there.

Front View
Administration Building of Dong Hwa University

Back View
Back view of the administration building. I love the way they have used those rocks instead of clearing out the whole space

It was Saturday so understandably the campus was pretty quiet. We sat besides the lake trying to take in the emptiness that brooded over the place and in the mean time also endeavored for some childish pebble throws in the lake. The sky was gloomy most of the time but dark clouds gathered to make some random shapes and then disappeared once in a while.

Still water, early saturday quiteness and Selina
Still water, early Saturday quietness and Selina

Weekend pleasures
Couple of families also turned out on the campus for outdoor weekend fun

I could hear some muffled noises coming from one of the distant buildings. Soon they got louder and I could hear distinct notes of piano, rhythmic drumming beats and tuning of a flute. It looked like they were coming from a recreation hall/building across the lake. We walked along the lake shore to take a peek. Couple of students had occupied one of the empty tables set below the porch like extension of recreation hall. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with our presence so decided against entering the hall where students were practicing their performance for some function, posters of which were hung outside the hall. In addition to those posters, we came upon an exhibition that was housed in the empty passage between two arms of the recreation building. Migrant workers and their life on this small island was the main focus of this exhibition. Judging from the state of several posters, it looked like the outdoor exhibition was over or wasn’t maintained any more. Nevertheless it presented fantastic photo ops.

Exibition at dong Hwa University
Exhibition with Recreation hall in the background facing the lake.

Exibition at dong Hwa University
Posters lined along the wall

Exibition at dong Hwa University
A curious onlooker carefully observing the poster

Around 4 pm it started to drizzle in patches. We thought it would go away but it refused to do so and instead only grew with each passing minute. We had no rain gear on us and hence unwillingly or so decided to get away before it could get any worse. Since it was already late in the afternoon in addition to the gloomy weather we postponed our plan to visit Taroko George to the next day. On our way to Dong Hwa I was fascinated by the East Rift valley view and was interested to have a closer look hence we scanned the tourist brochures for nearby tourist locations and learned that Liyu lake was our best chance to get closer to the valley on fast track.

On the way to Liyu Lake
These are the times when a courageous attempt may turn out to be a stupid one. Cars were whizzing past every other minute and just behind where I stood in the middle of the road was a blind turn, so any car could have come zipping around the corner and thumped me on its way to Liyu lake. But ahoy it was my day ;)

Ride to Liyu lake was long but we enjoyed every bit of it. For first few kms the sprinkles followed us in a furious attempt to drench us but soon they ran out of steam making our rest of the ride quite pleasant. We even caught some sunshine on our way to Liyu Lake that helped us run dry quickly. After we left Hualien highway we rode along the river banks till the valley and then crossed over the river bridge. Immediately after the bridge we found ourselves riding in the opposite direction from where we came only this time we were on the other side of the river. Approximately after our odometer hit 35 km mark we came upon this serene Liyu lake hidden among the mountains.

Liyu Lake
This is where we spent our evening and the view

We bought coffee from the nearby store and for the rest evening sat on the steps along the banks watching people paddling duck shaped boats around the lake and fishing in the shallow waters. Although the place was buzzing with weekend visitors the vastness of surroundings muffled the noises. Lots of people carried their camping gears meaning there are camping grounds nearby the lake for the interested people.

It had started to get dark around 6:30 so we got back on our bike and headed back to Hualien city. On our way back we met up with Selina’s cousin and her friends from work. They showed us around the city and also took us to the newly built Hualien harbor wharf. The place was pitch dark and I pretty much forgot rest of things apart from watching ships coming in from sea,docking and un-docking(?) at the harbor. Later they also took us to QiXingTan lake. I also pretty much forgot rest of the things apart from catching fireflies/lightning bugs and collecting exceptionally smooth pebbles with strange patterns [thats what fun sounds like when you are alone with three girls] Nevertheless I enjoyed watching moon bashed view of QiXingTan (Seven Star Lake) and I hope I can make it there again to see it in the day time.
Around 1 am we returned to our hotel in Sincheng. The ride back felt rather long [Question: why the return journeys always feels longer than they actually are?] Of course the stray dogs kept us entertained in the mean time.

Please check my Flickr Set for more pictures from Hualien excursion and stay tuned for the Hualien Part II.

Published: June 16 2008

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