January 24, 2015

Taiwan's East Coast Road Trip

I have been living abroad for 8 years in total. While in Taiwan I've stayed for 1.5 yrs now. Among different trip modes in different country, I always love road trip the most. It is my favorite way to explore a new destination. With the flexibility of the open road, the adaptability to go where you need, when you need, and the opportunity to unearth towns and encounters not unlisted places in any manual trip books - well, what's not to love?

Unlike western coast of Taiwan which I have been to (or at least have passed by) 70% of it, the eastern coast of Taiwan remains mystery to me. Never reach out farther than Hualien city. So that's why when my friend asked me for Taiwan's east coast road trip, I was like fuck yeah I am in.

DAY 1

We begun our trip on Jan 18 (Sunday) leaving in late afternoon from Zhongli city, Taoyuan county. The weather was a bit shady as opposed to the previously crystal clear sky morning early that day. For this trip I decided to pack garments less. Additionally I purchased some Indonesian snacks (Biskuit Marie Regal and Kacang Garuda) for my hommies, just in case we happened to get lost by one means or another on the way. Yi Xuan drove the car carefully through highway 3 and highway 5. It took us 2 hrs to reach Yilan country before we arrived our first destination: Shunwen's family house. Located in the heart of Yilan, his parents welcomed us with 594051321 types of dinner courses. It was so festive as if their son was having a birthday bash or something. Dinning table was hella jammed. The warmth of Yu's family really touched my heart since it is seldom for me to be hosted by Taiwanese family here. I also understand where and how Shunwen got his dope cooking skills from, it's from his mom. Everytime she finished serving one dish, she will come again one minute later with another yummy-mummy-tummy dishes. Literally it's like rain drops of food parade. My favorite dish? Vermicelli noodle with onion and scrambled eggs. I liked how she cooked it dry but not over-done. Gawd, that brought the house down!!! So tasty, slurp!

Kudos to Shunwen's mother for cooking these foods! No one beat a mother's cook.

One hour later we headed to Hualien County which would be our first stop of the day. To be clear, the road from Yilan to Hualien is nasty. Very nasty. With many curvaceous and sharp edge of turns, this  highway 9 simply reminds me a lot to Bukit Barisan in West Sumatra, Indonesia which I always consider as a deadlock driving pathway. Normally I don't get car sick easily. But since we rolled out just right after the epic and big dinner time, I raised the white flag. Echo and I were passed out.

We arrived the lodging quite late, around 10.30pm-ish. The home stay is a quite decent four-story building with close vicinity to the beach. Each has one or two rooms. What I like about the room is its spacious bathroom, as if you can put a pingpong table within. It also has balcony in each room. Too bad the sky was cloudy, none of the stars were seen.

DAY 2

We woke up very early the next day. While waiting for shower, I visited the beach first under the charm of coastal breeze. A very typical morning in Hualien. There were not much people seen on the beach. We quickly logged out, got ourself breakfast, and meet up with the NCU undergrads at one of hotels in downtown. They were about to start their second day of regional Taiwan geology field-work. Since our next destination is on the same direction as theirs, four of us decided to joined the first outcrop. 

To the left: Backbone Range. To the right: Coastal Range. Middle: Siougulan River.

Spying on the fieldtrip group. Why do I look wasted here?

Situated in at Siougulan River, near the northern tip of Longitudinal Valley (LV), it took us ~2hrs to reach the first site. We listened a bit to the free-lecture given by two professors (one is my advisor) who led the field trip. The gorgeous view comprises a huge incision governed by the river adjacent to Central Range. The erosion was believed to develop along the major strike where a splay thrust fault prevail and cut two of the major formations here: Baliwan Fm and Tuluanshan Fm. Multi-sets of terrace aggradations indicating the paleo-environment and dynamics of Siougulan River

We left the group 30 minutes after and headed south along the LV (highway 9). The view here was absolutely stunning. Floored by million of rapeseed flowers, all I can see was unlimited yellow scenery along the road. We happened to stop at one of the Tropic of Cancer monument. There are (at least) three more of similar monuments in Taiwan. Funny thing is they had the horoscope astrology in wrong dates. The dates are all a month behind, so my horoscope would be Taurus instead of Aries. Hzzzttt -_____-' 

Tapestry of rapeseed flower

Tropic of Cancer monument

About 15 minutes later we arrived at a place which I have been wanting to visit, 歐亞板塊與菲律賓海板塊交界處 a.k.a the plate junction between Eurasian Plate versus Phillipine Sea Plate. Wowowowowow I was in ecstasy! Hats off to Taiwanese government for having this 'plate boundary' mark on an abandoned railway road. Just like McD says, I'm lovin it! Shortly, we visited Yuli township for quick lunch and break. Dangggg this town is very empty. Even during our short stop to Yushan Visitor Center, a dog was seen lying on the road freely, chillin' and do nothing as our car approaches. This dog gave us the just-bcoz-I-ain't-moving-don't-you-ever-think-to-pass-me-by look before finally moves. Geez.

At the plate junction

Our later stop was Dapo elementary school, in Chihshang township, Taitung county. This school has fault slipmeters being installed at few area of its park. Curious why the government hasn't removed this school considering the Chihshang fault (named after the city) is obviously active? Still in this city we also stopped by a local tea shop and bakery. The town is known for its rice-flour cake and bread. I ordered the banana cake and mulberry tea. Yumyum! Never tried a rice flour based banana cake before. The texture is certainly fluffier than what I usually bake. As the sun was getting to set, we bought riceboxes as our dinner in the next hotel.

Rice flour banana cake with mulberry tea

We ended our long day drive at a hotel named 南橫台東段‧天龍溫泉飯店 a.k.a Chief SPA Hotel. This hotel is quite popular among domestic or international tourists. Years ago the hotel is famous for its hotspring and tantalizing views. However, in 2009, Morakot typhoon knocked down Taiwan island, inducing landslides and road alterations cause the Nanbu Cross-Island Highway to be permanently closed. Even some of the landslide scarps are still can be seen from the hotel - yikes! The hotel itself is an eight-story building where our room was on 3rd floor. We decided to jump into the hotspring pool straight after dinner. It was 6 degree and raining though. Brrrr! There were no strangers joining us, so it was like having our own private pool - ha! The hotel also hosted DIY mochi session which taste a bit different compared to Hualien's mochi. Another cool thing about this hotel is  has karaoke room. Yez darling, the hotel offers karaoke for singer wannabe like me or Yi Xuan or Echo. Too bad Shunwen was too shy to even mumble one lyric. Next time we'll drag his ass down to sing for sure!!!

Our beloved hotel has hotspring and karaoke room. Oh what a wonderful world.

DAY 3

Initially we planned to kick of the day by joining the hotel's morning tour and explore its vicinity. However the morning was foggy and drizzle. Shunwen and I decided to have second round hotspring instead. For the first 15 minutes the pool was empty before group of people joined us. Its surrounded view was marvellous. All I see were damn high marblelicious cliffs camouflaged with plush of trees. Birds and monkeys are often seen wandering around the area. Thank God this hotel provided salad for breakfast, something which I always love to eat. After full, we decided to enjoy quick walk along Wulu River, 海端鄉. We checked out the hotel around 10.30am. Clearly the view in morning is much better than evening. I could see how big and wide Wulu river is as we approached river mouth. 

Random morning trip along Wulu river

Since we were heading back north, we decided to take the coastal highway 11 instead of cutting through LV again. We visited a recently-famous-due-to-EVA-ad village, 伯朗大道 (see video here, skip to 2:18). The three minutes ad portrays a scene where the actor is sitting under banyan tree with concrete teapot saying 'I SEE YOU' and background of beautiful rapeseed flowers. That scene was taken in this village. In 2014, the tree was smacked over by a typhoon causing the local government to revive the tree and semi paved it with cantilevers.

Imposing the original EVA ad - lol.

Forty-five minutes later we had our lunch in a sea food restaurant (八仙洞明來餐廳) owned by a NCU graduates. The signature dish of this restaurant is stir fry mackerel with tomato sauce.  One thing missing here is young coconut for beverage. Ohhh, how much I missed 'es degan' so bad, huhu. Sandwiched by Bashian cave and Pacific Ocean, its strategic location is the main allure for people to visit. Our already-graduated lab mates, 潘遵友 a.k.a PanPan, also joined our lunch. We chatted for a while about life and whatnot. He is about to leave for Ph.D study in Oz this February. Anxious and jittery were clearly seen from his dimmed eyes. Yet I know he will do just fine down there. He is a badass geologist. Jia you PanPan ~

Signature dish: stir fry mackerel with tomato sauce

PanPan is in da houz yo!

Puuuhhreeetttyy beach ~

We arrived in Hualien city in early evening. Our accommodation here is a Japanese theme style hotel named 花蓮國軍英雄館. Taiwan (esp Northen and Eastern Taiwan) was once pre-occupied by Japan. Therefore there are many cool looking building from that Japan era, just like this lodging. What I liked is it separates bathroom and toilet, which means one doesn't need to wait too long for different urgencies. The hotel also has this open style restaurant for breakfast and dinner on 1st floor, equipped with karaoke machine as well. Touché.

Lodging of the day!

I was in cloud nine to know that one of the most famous Japanese food vendors in downtown Hualien called 花本家 was our dinner destination that night. I always love Japanese food and sushi is like my top ten favourite food of all time. I ordered udon which has the size as big as my chopstick. Helluva noodle. We also ordered sashimi. Thank God these people also love raw fish food as much as I do. Weird thing is this restaurant played KPOP songs instead of JPOP songs, lol. Of course, as KPOP listeners, Echo and I just don't give a damn. We enjoyed them anyway lol.

I did not know why we decided to visit the Hualien's night market 自強夜市 after having a super full dinner? But anyhow we did. Tbh, I never consider this night market as a real night market since it's too small in my humble opinion. Also some vendors were closed during weekdays. But we ended up buying juices. I had tall sized cup of strawberry yakult juice for 50 NTD. 

Juices madness ~

DAY 4
Four of us woke up late. Like really late. Actually it was not too late though. Shunwen and woke up at 5.30-ish, but then sleep again - ha. After having a quick breakfast, we left the hotel and heading for food souvenir's central in downtown Hualien. First we went to this 101 kinds of traditional and typical Hualien's snack place. Good thing is they offered different kind of sweets. I picked the stone looking wafer, cheese crackers, and coffee flavour of a swirly looking buttery whatever-you-called-it dry bread. Then, we stopped by this mochi central which offered like 439481 types of mochi, including green tea mochi and strawberry mochi. Yay! My favourites are here! We also visited a nearby abandoned Japanese shrine (新城神社) which is now turned into church.
A used-to-be-a-Japanese-temple church

The trunk on final day: full of stuff!

From here the trip became a bit hustle, since Yilan would be our next haven. It means we're going to drive that nasty-and-makes-me-to-vomit highway 9 again. Oh no! But due to better weather and less traffic, the ride was smooth. We, once again, visited Shunwen's family house. His mother, again, welcomed us with many kinds of sweets and foods. Shunwen's parents babysitted two toddlers and a child, which all of them are adorable. Around 5.30pm excused ourself and went to one of the most famous all you can eat restaurant in Yilan county, 久千代海鮮百匯. OMG this place is the bomb. The food variety is off the chain. Although it is dominated by seafood, but customers may also find non-seafood dishes as well. I took many plates. When I say many, it was more than 7 - ha! Each was a  mounded food. I started the dinner with sushi and fried eel. Then I tried the steamed crab, sweet and sour crab, fried shrimp, fried tempura, freshly baked oyster, seafood pudding, seafood salad, stir fry vegetable, cakes, cokes, sweets, friend salmon, steamed tilapia, and fruits. It was epic. The four of us were barely able to move after dinner. So full!

Stemed crab versus sweet and sour crab 

Round 1

People are queueing for corn zuppa soup. Note: girl with blue shirt is Echo lol.

Baked mussel

One hour later, we dropped Shunwen and Echo in Taipei. Forty minutes later, through highway 1 Yi Xuan dropped me at apartment. It has been a wonderful short trip with my hommies. I never experienced any difficulties every time I am having road trip with Taiwanese, just like when I went to Penghu Island last time. This time we also visited 'secret' places which I am NOT allowed to write the story here since it was a bit 'illegal'. And yes, I picked up few Chinese words by listening to their nonstop 4 days almost-no-English chat (except when chat with me). Ohhh don't forget the gossip we talked about during trip. Again, I am not allowed to write it here. Perhaps I should write it in my other social media? Lol just kidding.

Tantalizing view of Taiwan's Eastern Coast

Total journey of 780 km! Even googlemaps says it is drivable within 15 hrs. Yeah, as if we gonna do that -_-

So, if you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears. It feels good to go back to reality with a recharged mindset.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:34 PM

    Jadi travel blogger skarang? mantap

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post! There is much I could feel just from reading this.. :-D

    ReplyDelete