Taiwan Day 4 – Taitung, Hualien
Breakfast at 早安美芝城-台東活力正氣店, Liji Badlands, Beinan Site, Peinan Cultural Park, TRA train to Hualien, Pine Garden, tea break at insanely cheap 公正包子, sunset chilling at Qixingtan, dinner at ultra huge 花蓮東大門夜市 Dongdamen Night Market
Breakfast at 早安美芝城-台東活力正氣店
In Taiwanese summer, the sun rises extremely early. We set off for a famous breakfast place 明奎早餐店 but found it super crowded, so we switched to this less crowded café across the street for a burger and Danish sandwich breakfast.
Must-go: 3.5/5 You should really try the Danish bread.
I was excited about the thought of seeing dead landforms, but the sheer shortness of the trail really took my breath away.
We spent less than 10 minutes here, disappointing. Was I missing something???
Note that if you’re driving from Taitung city, keep right at the bridge along 11乙 and then turn left to go under it (Google maps gets wonky here). Follow the proper paved road to the Liji Bridge.
Must-go: 2/5 only if you’re in the area and have a thing for bare naked rocks.
A good place to start is the Visitor Centre Exhibition Hall with adult tickets at NT30 each (show your National Museum of Prehistory tickets, there may be some discounts).
Walk around the rest of the park to see how the Paiwan lived and enjoy the greenery.
With a bit more cultural context, the Beinan Site will have a bit more meaning when you walk through it and you won’t have to wonder why it’s such a big deal.
We spent about 1-2 hours here.
Must-go: 4/5 because the museum is small but informative and you get to see actual graves. Plus the park is not crowded and you can enjoy the quietness of nature.
—TRA train to Hualien—
Not every motorcycle shop in Hualien will accept an international driving licence.
If you are willing to pay to hire a new motorcycle less than a year old, try 丁丁機車出租.
If not, try a motorcycle shop near here which advertises motorcycle rentals for NT200+/day (valid for Taiwanese licences, those with international licences pay NT400/day).
This place is a little bit overrated in my opinion, and just too crowded. There’s an NT50 entrance fee.
Check out the exhibits on the second floor and take pictures of the view from the boardwalk. There’s an air raid shelter you can explore, if there isn’t a queue to enter.
Must-go: 2.5/5 only if you have time. I deducted marks for the tacky gift shop and poor historical signs.
Tea break at insanely cheap 公正包子
This place is almost always full, but if you can spend 10 minutes waiting for a seat, you will not regret it.
And if you do get a seat, you are served much faster compared to the takeaway queue.
This shop has insanely cheap dumplings (NT30 for 10) and xiaolongbao 小笼包 (NT5 each with thick skin, unlike the Singapore version which has thin skin).
Our meal of 10 dumplings, 5 xiaolongbao 小笼包 and a red tea only cost NT75!!!
Sunset chilling at Qixingtan
Qixingtan is a good place to visit about 1-2 hours before sunset.
My favourite activity is to go to the ridge on the pebble beach just in front of the waves, and lie down on the slope facing the ocean, listening to the unique sound of the waves receding over pebbles.
There are a few food vans nearby if you feel peckish, and when the sun sets behind the mountain ridges, the sky turns a serene dark grey blue.
Must-go: 4.5/5 and turn off your handphones
Dinner at ultra huge 花蓮東大門夜市 Dongdamen Night Market
This is a night market on steroids. Just when you thought you reached the end, you turn and realise there’s another long stretch of stalls in front of you.
We had pork and seafood rice from this stall below (walk all the way in and all the way to the right), and it was quite a big serving for the price we paid.
The hot plate dishes which were sold at many stalls were twice as much.
Check out the fighter plane and rolling hill which are popular with kids. There are ample seats behind the food stalls, not to worry.
On your way to the Night Market, there may be a long jam of cars along Zhongshan Road.
Try driving down parallel roads instead, park slightly further away and walk to the Night Market.
Parking is difficult but try your best not to park illegally as we saw cops issuing parking fines even to motorcycles parked on zebra crossings.
There are is also an amusement park across the street from one of the night market entrances.
Must-go: 4/5 if you have the stomach for traffic and crowds
Hualien, like Taitung, is easy to get around on your own especially with your own transport and GPS/Google maps.
Don’t limit yourself to the city. There are many interesting sights even within a 1 hour drive radius.
Chat with the locals. They are proud of the fruits of their labour and continuing the family business, but worry about the future of their children.
Their impression of Singapore is generally good even if they’ve not visited us before.
They will help you practise having eye contact with a total stranger without feeling weird or alienated.
Also published on Medium.