Taiwan Day 5 – Hualien
Breakfast at 山東豆漿大王, long walk and river swimming at Mukumugi 慕谷慕魚生態廊道, lunch at Liyu Lake, slow trek at Ch’in-nan Recreation Area, dessert at 豐春冰菓店, watching children catch clams at Lichuan Fisheries, boat-watching at 向日廣場, ocean viewing at Hualienhuanbao Park, sunset at Qixingtan, cake at Honey Bee Town, dinner at 7-11
Breakfast at 山東豆漿大王
It was going to be a very long day.
If you notice, after a while Taiwanese breakfasts look similar, but still very yummy.
My one regret is not taking along my favourite Sinsin Garlic Chili sauce as I can’t really get used to the local less-spicy saltier chilli sauce.
Mukumugi 慕谷慕魚生態廊道 (must go!)
Credit goes to my husband for discovering this spot and applying for the permit online in advance.
Mukumugi is a beautiful valley where clear blue water gushes down in a river with large boulders, rocks and pebbles creating mini pools you can take a dip in.
The water is cold and so clear that you can see the patterns of the rocks underneath. Dragonflies stone out on rocks in the sun and you see the occasional fish and even a hermit crab.
It takes you about 1.5 hours to walk in and find a good, quiet spot to swim, and another 1.5 hours out.
In total, we spent 4 hours here, including a half hour swim and a short snack at a local cafe.
Only 600 people are allowed to visit Mukumugi each day to avoid overcrowding.
You can apply for a permit online in advance which we did (bring along the printout), or go to the local police station early to apply on the spot.
Because the roads are very narrow and the slope from the road to the river can be steep, the local authorities do not allow outsiders to drive in.
Instead you have to park near the bridge ??? and walk about 1.5 hours to the upper part of the river to swim.
After you park, walk up the hill to the Hualien County Police Bureau‘s yellow/orange building and show your printed online permit (or take an application form from the counter and fill it on the spot) to obtain a red stamp from the police officer.
Walk in about half an hour (keep to the road parallel to the river) to a smaller police check-point near a road barrier and give your printout to the officer there.
There are drink and food stalls along the way so you won’t go hungry. Bring a torchlight or use your phone torchlight function at the first long tunnel.
Don’t walk too close to the road edge and be aware of incoming vehicles (yes the locals can drive in).
Along the way you’ll come to a triple fork. Take the centre road.
Don’t be hasty to go down the first flight of steps you see to access the river. The water is very tempting I know. If you see a group of people who have gotten a spot first, move on. Try not to intrude on their privacy.
Walk further up till you can find your own quiet spot. We walked past the “2km from 清水” sign and were rewarded with a personal pool to ourselves for half an hour.
It helps if you (from your personal pool) politely look at latecomers standing at the road, who are contemplating joining you, to persuade them to move along to find their own spot. Or maybe they thought I was giving them the death stare. Anyway it worked.
There are no toilets except those near the roadside stalls, so you can try changing behind a towel after your swim or just walk in your swimsuit till you reach a toilet.
We grabbed a bamboo rice and banana leaf rice snack at one of the roadside stalls on the way out.
A friendly aboriginal lady who works at the stall treated us to some homemade rice wine, which reminded us of moscato.
The walk out is more tiring than the walk in. Drink lots of water. Enjoy the exercise and bonding. Your kids should be at least 4-5 years old and can climb up and down steep steps.
Must-go: 4.5/5 because we had a really good time. Go early and be prepared for a long walk.
We ordered lunch from a restaurant 潭大陸小吃館 at Liyu Lake. The dark green vegetables are called “A 菜”.
The lake itself is beautiful, but I wouldn’t rent a bicycle to ride around it because it was just way too hot.
Must-go: 3/5 only if you’re around the area.
Ch’in-nan Recreation Area
This park is dedicated to the history of the logging industry in the area. Entrance fee is NT40/adult and if you park outside at the gravel carpark before the guardhouse, it’s free. The walk to the visitor centre is only 100m from the outside carpark.
There’re old locomotives and a railway line you can take photos of with your kids, a visitor centre and a short 18 minute historical film you can watch at certain timings (we caught the 2pm show).
The paths around the area are cobbled, with steps along the way and not pram-friendly. I’d wait till the kids are at least 4-5 years old before taking them here.
If you are in good shape for a hike, follow the signs to the railway path, or even the riverside path. There’s a map at the visitor centre to refer to.
Must-go: 3/5 if you like history and treks.
Dessert at 豐春冰菓店
At this dessert place, go up to the counter and take a queue number from a post-it pad pre-written with numbers. Wait for your number to be called and give your order. You can add 2 toppings, and it only costs NT50!
Lichuan Fisheries (Shoufeng)
Unless you plan to catch clams and eat here, there’s nothing much to do. But if you’re looking for a fun place to let your children play and catch clams, this is a good spot.
Must-go: 4/5 only if you have kids and plan to catch clams, 1/5 if you don’t.
Boat-watching at 向日廣場
There was nothing much to do here except take pictures of the sky, the whale, and the quiet harbour.
Ocean watching at Hualienhuanbao Park
This is more of a pitstop if you’re cycling to Qixingtan. There is nothing here except the ocean view and gravel.
Sunset watching at Qixingtan
I usually don’t visit the same spot twice, but we had nothing else to do in the 1 hour before we had to return the motorcycle, so we went to Qixingtan again. I bought 3 Taiwanese sausages for NT100 and enjoyed them while watching the sky turn dark.
Cake at Honey Bee Town
Located near the Hualien train station, Honey Bee Town sells honey sweets, honey croutons and my favourite, honey cake that comes in original and green tea flavours.
As we couldn’t buy back an entire cake (it needs refrigeration), we brought a green tea cube cake NT95 to eat there.
Dinner at 7-11
This is one of my favourite parts of Taiwan. At every convenience store, you can get a good selection of ready meals, microwave on the spot and eat at the dining area at the store (except at smaller stores inside train stations).
Hualien is a good spot to base yourself if you’re traveling up to Taroko, or down along the East Coast road.
The best parts about Hualien are its wide variety of nature trails, humongous night market, accessibility (only 2 hours from Taipei by TRA Puyuma train) and as always, the locals.
We had a funny conversation with a motorcycle shop staff who liked talking about the big fruits in Taiwan and Singapore “which are so big they could kill a person if dropped on him”, and enjoyed homemade rice wine next to the beautiful Mukumugi river.
Both times we stayed in Hualien in different guesthouses, we found our rooms tastefully decorated and even scented with floral essences, which we have not experienced anywhere else in Taiwan.
Spend at least 2-3 nights here if you plan to go to Taroko Gorge (1 day), Mukumugi + Liyu Lake + Shoufeng (1 day), Hualien bikeway + Qixingtan + Hualien city area (1 day).
Also published on Medium.