Head to Hualien Bus Station next door to the train station and purchase an all day “hop on hop off” pass for the bus to Taroka National Park for $250NTS or $8.00USD or even better, I would totally rent a motorbike for the day if you know how to drive one. I didn’t think about that option until it was too late. I took the bus and headed straight for the trail which boasts turquoise waters, long winding yet narrow gorges, steep terrain, the mysterious Rock of the Indian Chief, caves, tunnels, marble cliffs and fast flying and singing swallows – Yanzikou Trail and also referred to as Swallow Grotto. Taroka Gorge is big and beautiful no doubt; however, anyone going there needs to obtain a permit for, among others, the Jhuilu Old Trail so you can cross the green bridge shown in the photos at the bus drop off point at Yanzikou and go to the other places where only permitted folks can go. I suspect there is more splendor hidden away from the tourists and on the other side of those cliffs that I didn’t get to see because I didn’t know about the requisite permitting process. Don’t make my mistake. Go to http://mom.cpami.gov.tw/ for an online application. On a side note, there is a really incredible breeze emanating from the tunnels, caves and gorge so don’t worry about the heat if you are coming during summertime and if you can get away from the tourists (and you can as it’s not Thailand or Mainland China), you can hear the swallows singing in the valley which is where the name Swallow Grotto came from!
As for the second half of the day, I really loved it. It was a hike to the Eternal Spring Shrine, the Changuang Temple, the Bell Tower and this amazing suspension bridge.
There was rain – the kind that feels like little baby snowflakes right at the beginning of a snow storm – as you hike up high into the foggy mountains. I loved it – particularly looking down at the Liwu River from the Bell Tower and particularly for the 20 minutes or so that I was up there all alone. I felt a sense of peace wash over me as if the spirits of this divine place were passing on the wisdom of their ages through the breeze and the fog and the sprinkles from the sky.
Be sure and toll the bell six times while there and make a legendary wish in this legendary place sometimes referred to as One Thread of Heaven and if you come, you will see why.
Wish I had the time to end the day at Hualien Wenshan Hot Spring which I’m told is a hidden gem as the pool comes from a shallow cave and would have been a memorable close to the afternoon hike but like everything else it was too difficult to find so I settled for the best desert I’ve ever had – no joke – a Mango Ice Slushy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the top sold right there at the Taroka Visitor Center. Do not miss out on that! I will dream about that Mango Ice for the rest of my life I’m sure of it.
That’s all for now from Taroka Gorge – a must see while in Taiwan – but get that permit first in order to really enjoy it!