Taiwan: Taroko Gorge in Hualien (Part 1)

Travel Period : 30th Oct – 6th Nov 2012

{ Previous Post:  Taiwan: Explore Ximending }

Day 7 Morning to Afternoon Itinerary:

  • Taipei–>>
  • Hualien (Taroko Gorge) 

From Taipei to Hualien 

Checking out of the hotel and leaving our two big luggage with Shin Shih Hotel (they agreed to let us place them there and collect it when we leave Taiwan), we reached the Taipei Main Railway with just one bagful of clothes and our backpacks.

We had to take a very early TRA train (Taroko Express) at 7.20am to Hualien to maximise our time as we have only one whole day to tour Hualien. The arrival time would be 9.25am. The return tickets were booked in advance two weeks before we came to Taiwan and we had collected it on our first day here (Return Trip fee costs NT$1584 for two tickets). The morning train ride to Hualien is very popular and one usually have to book it way in advance to ensure seats. As the seats were in twos, we let Dar sat on one of our laps and only bought two tickets.

Prior to arrival, we had arranged with the owner of the Hualien Bay homestay to take our luggage back to the homestay. They recommended a taxi driver who is also a tour guide and Mr Li An Sheng (李安生) would take us right to Taroko Gorge and surrounding Hualien areas. We would only be back to the homestay to sleep late at night.

As we stepped out of the train station, we noticed the vast area with a countryside feel and many taxis waiting around.

Steam Engine in a Park

We spotted an old steam engine on display outside the Hualien Train Station and quickly walked to it. The place turned out to be a small ‘railway park’ with some old steam engine and cargo containers around. Dar has always been interested in trains so he was very excited and wanted to go up to the ‘driver’s seat’. Not sure whether that is allowed though but I guess a little while wouldn’t do much harm?

To Taroko Gorge (太鲁阁)

Soon, we reached the entrance to Taroko Gorge, part of the Taroko National Park and got down to take some pictures before we went ahead. The entrance of the Central Cross-Island Highway looks pretty with an ancient Chinese gate. Mr Li explained to us the things we were seeing and seemed very knowledgeable about the area. We spoke in Mandarin to him though. I enjoyed listening to him introducing the history of the area as he’s not like those chatty tour guides and would offer information appropriately. He also allowed us to take our own sweet time to explore and didn’t hurry us anywhere. When he saw us taking photographs, he would offer to take a group photo for us so we had plenty of family photos with good angles during this one day tour. All the photographs with the three of us in it were taken by him and I love them so much. (We have often encountered bad picture-taking with passer-by, so most of our family photo in this travel blog were taken by self-timer using gorillapod)

As we were very early, we didn’t encounter tour buses of tourists and were glad to enjoy the serenity of the place.

He drove us to another part along the highway where there was a dam. We admired the pretty blue waters of the Liwu River for a while. It was the first time we saw such a pretty blue so we were quite excited.

Taroko Gorge Bluish Waters
We could stand and stare…so calm and beautiful.

We then got into the cab again where he drove us to a higher point. There was a booth where he collected three helmets for us to wear. As Taroko Gorge is a natural place and prone to rainfall and erosion, there might be loose rocks that could drop on us. It was also just after a bad monsoon period and they had some landslides recently. He felt it was safer for us to wear protection when we walked along the paths.

We were then told to start walking on the path and he would meet us at the end when we finished this part of the Gorge.

After sitting in the car and train for so long, we were in a good mood for a walk. Dar walked happily with us, breathing in the fresh cold air and listening to the sound of the waters. The natural formation of the rocks was pretty and we kept admiring the huge rocks beneath us and the clear blue waters of the stream. We were the only ones walking so we had a good time strolling and enjoying. The trail was wide and quite safe with the divider separating us from the main road.

Warning signs for when some people want to take crazy pictures on the other side of the fence. (Yes, there are some who would do that).


Finally, we walked to the famous spot, ‘The Swallow Grotto’ (燕子口), where many tour buses would stop to allow tourists to take pictures. We specially beat the crowd to be there early Monday morning. We had read up that throngs of people usually arrive in the afternoon.

It was named this way because erosion in the mountains had caused some holes to appear in the sides of the cliff, making them a perfect nesting place for swifts and swallows. We didn’t see any though because they only appear during Spring or Summer season.

After that, we just kept walking along the path, enjoying the gorgeous views. On entering some tunnels, which was very dark, there was no footpaths so we just kept to the side of the road and took care to avoid vehicles. Here’s some pictures of our walk.

Looking through the pictures, one might be wondering what was so great about all these rock formations? Aren’t they all the same? Well, for people who love nature like us, the walk was quite an experience because of the huge natural environment, the fresh cool air and natural sounds. These can’t be experienced through just looking at the photographs itself. The huge boulders and mountain sides above and below us also made us look at them in awe.

Look, this is how huge they are compared to me!

At some point, the path became just a narrow strip beside the main road. The traffic wasn’t heavy so it was quite safe but it might be heavier later in the day when tour buses go through.

Soon, we reached the end of the ‘Swallow Grotto’ trail and saw the famous rock formation, ‘Rock of the Indian Chief’. Can you spot the Chieftain’s face? (Lower right, chin resting on the river bank, nose jutting out with the mountain side as his ‘helmet’)

Mr Li was waiting for us at the end of the trail and told us about Jinheng Bridge. The bridge was named after the Chief Engineer Jin Heng as a tribute. I was surprised at how the management valued the worker’s contributions and placed them in memory. There was also a shrine built for workers whom had died building the highway for Taroko Gorge which he would drive us to later.

Jiuqudong ( 九曲洞 )

After we walked through the Jinheng Bridge, the pedestrian pathway disappeared and we have to be careful to keep to the side of the road where vehicles were passing through. As we walked, we marveled at the construction of the tunnel and well-maintained road through these hard marble rocks. It is a famous part of the gorge because the cliffs opposite each other are very close.

Cimu Bridge (慈母桥)

We walked a little more before he drove us to another tourist spot, a huge red bridge called, Cimu Bridge (慈母桥). There was an interesting rock formation beneath the bridge and we could all make out the interesting shape, like a frog prince.

A pavilion was built on this frog rock, becoming the crown on the frog. This was built by late President Chiang Jing-guo, in memory of his mother, during construction of the road. Cimu pavilion area is on the east side of the bridge, built by late President Chiang Kai-shek, in memory of his mother, Mrs. Wang.

More information: Taroko National Park Website

We stood on the bridge and admired the surrounding marble stones. Pristine white and pretty.

We had walked for about an hour. It was time for lunch and our guide drove us to a place where there were a few restaurants.

Side- Story: Lunch 

While we were busy getting our things after getting out of the car, a staff from one of the restaurants, quickly came to persuade us to visit them. The carpark was still a distance away. We ignored her and she took Dar away from us and led him to the restaurant. By the time we realised Dar was gone and chased after him, we found him standing at the entrance, looking like he was about to cry because he was so worried we weren’t there. 

I wasn’t too happy about it (how could you take someone’s child away?!) but still went in to try their food, since we didn’t know which restaurant was good and there were lots of people inside. Actually the food was just okay and the staff serving us was quite rude when we asked what was the contents of a certain dish. However, we were tired from our walk and just wanted to eat and not make a fuss. If I’m in an angry mood that day, I would most likely have given them a piece of my mind…First, taking my kid away without my permission, Second – rude service attitude when you guys were the one who pulled us in to visit your restaurant (first restaurant on the street).

After lunch, Mr Li showed us a pagoda on top of the mountain which belongs to Xiangde Temple, a buddhist temple (top right structure in the picture below). As the temple requires believers to ascend through steps and not accessible by vehicles, it is a kind of pilgrimage trail.

We were tired so even though we were curious, we decided not to go all the way up. We walked up to a pavilion halfway to relax and take in the surrounding view instead.

Walking up to the rest area where there were tables and benches. We ate our ice-cream. Have you seen a child that refuses ice-cream? When I offered, he would back away.

{Continued in Part 2 – Taroko National Park- Bulowan (Taroko Tribe Museum), Changchun Shrine}

Our guide Mr Li An Sheng works with Hualien Bay Homestay owners to bring guests around.
His contact is 0912-092048. (not sure whether it has changed though since this was in 2012…)

  1. Karen Chang October 25, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Thank you for your sharing. Very informative.

    1. Cat October 27, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks Karen! Glad you found it informative

      I realised that I had forgotten to share abt our lunch in Tianxiang area…hmm…

  2. Sheena Ng December 19, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    How was the Homestay? Any pictures and price for the Homestay and tour? These places looks nice!

    1. Vin December 19, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Hi Sheena,

      You may find our review on Hualien Bay, our homestay at Hualien here (prices are best checked at its website; link provided in the post): http://www.travelsnapstories.com/2013/04/travel-taiwan-accommodation/

      As for our experiences at Hualien Bay, you will be able to find them starting from this post: http://www.travelsnapstories.com/2013/08/releasing-sky-lantern-in-hualien-bay/

      Hope these help! And yes, the place is great and we had a wonderful time there.

  3. Yvonne February 20, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Hi, thanks for the informative post!
    Sorry for writing this here, but I would like to ask anyone would like to carpool with me and one of my friend to Taroko Gorge from Hualian? The date is 1st of May 2014.
    My email is yc.vonchew@gmail.com

  4. Jeanne March 9, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Hi Cat,

    Thanks alot for sharing the details of your trip. It has been useful and informative to read. Im planning a trip to taroko gorge and would like to ask if you have the contact for your driver, Mr Li An Sheng (李安生) ?

    Appreciate if you can email me his contacts? Thanks in advance cat!

  5. Cat March 11, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Hi Jeanne,

    He doesn’t have an email contact. We also saw him on the day of the trip itself because he was recommended by the homestay owners.

    Older drivers in Taiwan do not have email. They are also not fluent in English. That’s why even though lots of people have been asking us about ‘providing an email contact’, we couldn’t.

    These older drivers have a wealth of experience and knowledge about the area we love. There are a few younger Taiwanese taxi drivers that do have emails but they might just be ‘drivers’ and not know much of a place.

  6. zhihaoteo April 19, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Hi Cat,

    Can I check how much does it cost for the driver to tour you around Hualian.

    Thanks! 😀

  7. Ivy chan October 31, 2014 at 5:29 am

    Hi Cat
    how do you book your train ticket to Hualien one month in advance . I am going Hualian on 02 Jan 15 and my friend says only can book 2 weeks in advance only. can you advise me how to book the ticket,
    Thanks in advance

    1. Vin November 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      Hi Ivy,
      It’s like your friend has said; the ticket could only be booked 2 weeks in advance.

  8. sunglee December 30, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    hi, would you mind sharing your itinerary ??

    thanks for sharing!

  9. Neil May 10, 2015 at 4:27 pm


    Thank you for your post and I enjoyed it very much. I have a question as this is our 2nd time to Taiwan (we spent the first time in Taipei exclusively) and would like appreciate it very much if you could recommend a laidback itinerary for 2 persons for 6 days 5 nights. Perhaps a good tour guide/cab driver who you have had good experiences with?

    Much thanks in advance.

  10. Selina September 17, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    HI There, very nicely written , may I if it’s enough to spend 1 day there in taroko?

    1. Cat September 18, 2015 at 7:32 am

      Hi, yes. It’s enough for a day trip if you start early in the morning. By evening, we had visited all the places, including lunch time.

  11. Mel September 27, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience in hualien with us! I am visiting taipei this coming dec and would be visiting hualien also. May i know how much did it cost for the one-day cab tour?

    1. Cat September 27, 2015 at 11:22 pm

      It’s NT2200 for one day Taroko, around hualien(Qi Xing Tan) and Hualien night market.

  12. Patricia November 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for such a detailed commentary. I’m glad that you and your family had a great time in Hualien.

    I’m wondering if you could share Mr Li An Sheng’s contact with me? He sounds like an experienced guide, and his rates are reasonable. There will just be two of us; we’ll be in Hualien from 28/11 – 01/12.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Vin November 20, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Hi Patricia,

      You are welcomed! Hualien was indeed a highlight of our memorable trip!

      Mr Li did not have an email contact, as it was recommended directly by the Homestay owners. You will have to contact through them then.

      Hope this helps.

Comments are closed.