Friday, October 23, 2009

Hualien (花蓮)

Hualien.... what a place.

Hualien is what I imagined Taiwan to be like before I left the US. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful place in Taiwan. Say what you will about Kending or Green Island, but I really think Hualien is the place to be.

Our vacation in Hualien was by far the most relaxing week that we've had all year, and although I am very happy that we ended up living in Taichung, if I could do it all over again, I think I would definitely have chosen to live in Hualien.

Hualien is sandwiched right between the ocean and the mountains, and offers easy access to both. Every time we hopped on the scooter, I found myself scrambling for the camera, trying to capture the roadside scenery - which, of course, is almost impossible.

Highway 11 is a beautiful drive south of Hualien, first winding through the mountains,

and then along the beautiful coastline

My absolute favorite place I've been to in the entire country is "Cow Mountain" (牛山) Beach. Cow Mountain is an isolated black sand beach about a 1/2 hour scooter drive south of Hualien. There used to be a nice paved road going down to the beach, but it was destroyed by a typhoon a while back, leaving this rugged path as the only way down.

Since it rained off and on all week, the drive down was a bit muddy and slippery, but it was definitely worth it. Besides one or two locals collecting drift wood from the beach, Nick and I were the only two people on the beach. It was serene.

And why, you may be asking your self, is it called Cow Mountain? Well, I believe it has something to do with the fact that there are actually cows on the beach. Actually, we didn't see any cows while we were there, but we definitely found evidence that this is a place frequented by our bovine friends:

(cow beach - cow pie)

Right next to the beach is a little restaurant that serves local food. The cuisine was mediocre, but the atmosphere was pretty chill. The place was filled with hand carved drift-wood furniture and all kinds of bizarre tchotchkes. Check out the awesome chairs we found at our table:

A drive down Highway 11 past Cow Mountain, continues to deliver fantastic vistas around every turn, and we had a fantastic afternoon exploring the coast.

But the beauty of Taiwan's east coast isn't isolated to the drive south of Hualien. A drive to the north of Taroko Gorge, also has awesome views of Taiwan's mountains

and the rugged coast line

the cliffs of Qingshui (清水)

I feel all warm and happy just thinking about Hualien. It is beautiful place with a laid back atmosphere that is often hard to come by.

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