Places: Yuli (Hualien County)

Yuli is the next town heading south down Highway 9 from Ruisui (see my post about Ruisui here).  To be completely honest, there’s not much to do in Yuli township itself, however Yuli makes a fantastic base to explore the East Rift Valley.  Again, your own transportation is vital for travelling through this area. Here’s a list of some of the places you can go that are quite close to Yuli township:

  • Sixty Stone Mountain
    (I plan to go later this year, so there’ll be a post then 🙂 )
  • Walami Trail
    (You have the option of doing the trail in one, or two – staying in a cabin overnight – days)
  • Antong Hot Springs

I only spent 2 days in Yuli, and unfortunately it rained in the afternoon on both days.  That said, on the one full day I had there, I again hired a bike, and spent another day riding through the great countryside & up into the Eastern Mountains.  Again I hired the bike from the Giant bike shop in town.  The prices were the same as in Ruisui.

There is a bike path from right next to Yuli station, towards the Antong old train station.  The path continued further, though I’m not sure how much further it went.  The path is very flat, smooth, and actually runs along the old railway line between Yuli & Antong.  At the old Antong station, I turned off the track, and headed up along County Rd 30.  You can take this route over the mountains, and go down to the East Coast, however, my plan was simply to see how far I could get before the weather closed in or it got too late.  The path over the mountains is a challenge for a casual cyclist, so pack plenty of refreshments, and take plenty of stops on the way up.  There’s also a 2.6km tunnel that you pass through at the top.  On the way back down the mountain to Yuli, a stop at Antong Hot Springs is a must, to relieve your tired bones (or in my case, to simply get out of the rain!)

Some fellow cyclists riding off towards the Eastern Mountains.

Some fellow cyclists riding off towards the Eastern Mountains.

Where to Stay

There’s only one place I could possibly recommend to stay in Yuli.  Wisdom Garden Homestay.  This family run homestay (you’ll find it in the Lonely Planet too) is just outside of Yuli township itself, but is a beautiful, peaceful place to relax & refresh after a day of exploring.  The Hsu family, who run the homestay, will treat you to some of the best Taiwanese hospitality you will experience, and will fill you with the most delicious breakfasts you will have in your time in Taiwan.  The homestay is family friendly, and your kids will love running around in the lovely front garden & playing with the family dog, while you put your feet up & enjoy the scenery with a cup of tea.  Of a morning you can also watch Mrs Hsu create some amazing Chinese paintings in the main area of the house.  It’s really interesting to see the way she wields the brush and creates an artwork from an empty canvas.

Prices vary depending on the time of year you visit, but you can contact the family, and find more information about Wisdom Garden at this link.

And for a tip for something to eat in Yuli Township, here’s a good post about Yuli Noodles (makes me want to go back just to eat this!).

There's no place I'd rather be - the tranquil front garden at Wisdom Garden Homestay

There’s no place I’d rather be – the tranquil front garden at Wisdom Garden Homestay

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Sights: Taroko Gorge (Taxi Guide)

This is a very quick post – the last time I was in Taiwan (2011) I did visit Taroko Gorge.  I hired a taxi from Hualien city, and the taxi driver played the role of both tour guide, driver & language tutor 😉  I just thought I’d share the details with you all, in case anyone is interested in using this method to see Taroko Gorge (best part is that it allows you a deal of flexibility too).

Her name is Tiffany, she or her husband would be your guides for the day.  Tiffany speaks reasonable English, though I’m not sure about her husband.  They will take you on the following route:

  • (Pick up) Hualien train station or hotel
  • Cingshuei Cliff *(Extra charge)
  • Entrance of Taroko
  • National Park – Shakadang Trail – Eternal Spring Shrine – Swallow Grotto – Tunnel of Nine Turns – Tzu Mu Bridge – Holiu Suspension Bridge – Tienhsiang
  • Baiyang Waterfall Trail *(Extra charge)
  • Return to Hualien

The costs are as follows:

(Cost per car)

  • one person – two people – NT2200
  • three – four people – NT2500
  • five – six people – NT3000

※ Cingshuei Cliff –  NT500 / per car
※ Baiyang Waterfall Trail ( It’s a 2-hour hiking trail ) –  NT500 / per car

※ Taroko tour takes about 5 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Cingshuei Cliffs takes about 6 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Baiyang Waterfall Trail takes about 7 hours.
※ Taroko tour + Cingshuei Cliffs + Baiyang Waterfall Trail takes about 8 hours.
If the trip extends beyond the above times, an extra NT500 is charged per hour.
If you’re interested, you can contact Tiffany by email (tiffany_935lk@yahoo.com.tw) or telephone (+886 912 522118).

Places: Hualien City

Most people use Hualien city (in Eastern Taiwan), as a base for visiting Taroko National Park, Taiwan’s premier tourist sight.  But after you visit Taroko Gorge, and dodge tourist buses, there’s some good eating, and some okay sights to be had in Hualien city.

Shopping
Things in Hualien are cheaper than they are in Taipei, so if you have some room in your suitcase/backpack head down Zhongshan Rd towards Zhongzheng Rd (about 25 minutes walk from the station) and you’ll be in the main downtown/shopping district of Hualien city.  This makes for a good starting point to an evening.

Eating
Downtown – Gong Zheng Bao Zi (公正包子)
Keep going down Zhongshan Rd and you’ll see a big line.  Alternately, jump into a taxi &  just say you want to go to Gong Zheng Bao Zi, they’ll know the one 🙂  This place is famous for its Shui Jiao (水餃) and I have to admit they’re pretty damn good.  Get a table if you can (you don’t line up for that, but you might need to wait a little while still), or you can line up and get some to go.

Look for the sign!!

Look for the sign!!

Night Market – Tzi Qiang Night Market (自強夜市)
The main night market in Hualien city is actually a fair way out of the city centre (about 20 minutes walk from the station).  The night market is small, taking up only a block, so it does get very, very crowded (especially on holidays & weekends).  There are some very long lines for some stalls, but it’s worth the wait.  You can try the Hualien version of Coffin Bread (pictured below), get some really good seafood, some spicy BBQ corn, and then wash it all down with a fruit juice/smoothie.

Full of yummy goodness.

Full of yummy goodness.

Breakfast – King Tang Cafe
This place is on Zhongshan Rd, not too far from the station (about 10 minutes walking).  This place is a very nice place, with seats inside & outside (at the back) too.  Breakfast/brunch sets are available, along with a good selection of coffees & other snacks.  It makes for a good start to the day before heading out for the day.
Address: 431 Zhongshan Rd, Hualien City

Sights
To be honest, I didn’t really see much in Hualien City, I actually used it more as a base for exploring the countryside of Hualien County.  There are a few parks (Meilunshan Park looked very nice), there is also a nice little street through the centre of town along some old railway tracks.  Other than that, you can take a stroll along the seaside parks (starting from Nanbin Park in the south).

Places: Ruisui (Cycling)

Ruisui (also spelt Rueisuei), is a town in Hualien County, Eastern Taiwan.  It sits on Highway 9, and is a popular stop for cyclists who are making the trip from Hualien to Taitung.  However, if you don’t plan on making the whole trip from Hualien to Taitung, you can easily take the train to Ruisui, and rent a bicycle for a day.

There’s plenty of places around Ruisui that you can ride to – Ruisui Pastures, hot springs (at Ruisui, or even Antong if you’re up for a longer ride), or a ride to the Tropic of Capricorn marker.

For me, however, I decided to ride through the countryside, along County Road 193.  My intention was to ride to Fuyuan Butterfly Valley (entry NT$100) but I never ended up making it that far.  That said, I didn’t mind.  Riding out of Ruisui you have two options, taking the major Highway 9 (which has a dedicated bike/scooter lane, but does have a steady stream of traffic) or take one of the County Roads.  If you opt to take the County Roads, be sure to come well supplied, as there’s not many places where you can stop & pick up refreshments along the way.  The roads have very slight undulations, and aren’t a challenge for even a casual bicyclist.

Riding along the County Roads is an excellent way to see the true beauty of the Hualien countryside, and you’ll be sure to have folks along the way lean out of their cars, or houses & shout out “加油!” (jia you!  Come on!!).

If you do want to ride along Highway 9, a better option (which can take you to Fuyuan too!) is to take the Ruisui bike path.  The path starts close to the station, and for the most part runs parallel to Highway 9, and the train line.  It’s a very nice, flat path, and a good option if you just want a casual ride without straying too far into the unknown.

Extra Info:

  • Bike Rental: NT$350/day (Giant Bicycle shop – closes @ 5pm)
  • The Giant Bicycle shop doesn’t have a map.  You can pick one up from the Tourist Information next door.
  • Train from Hualien to Ruisui, frequent, travel time ~1hour 20minutes.