TAIPEI (The China Post) — If the busy intersections of the city are beginning to take their toll on you and you are looking to retreat into Taiwan nature, Taroko National Park should be at the top of your list.
Less than an hour by bus from Hualien — and only two hours by train from Taipei — a day trip or overnight visit is more than feasible.
What makes your visit to Taroko different from hiking around the outskirts of Taipei is the Taroko tribe—one of the 14 indigenous tribes of Taiwan.
The tribe’s presence across Hualien County is not immediately noticed, but if you look closely you can see their footprints across the region.
This can be anything from an inconspicuous side-trail with a sign that says “no trespassing, private tribal lands” or a handful of stalls of Taroko crafts and goods for sale along the Shakadang trail.
There are also a handful of restaurants that serve indigenous cuisine, all hoping to be designated as serving the best 原住⺠香腸 (indigenous sausage) in the area.
Perhaps the main reason to visit Taroko National Park is the Taroko Gorge and hiking trails. There are more than thirty trails stretching across the 92,000 hectares of the national park of varying difficulty.
In particular, the beginner-level Baiyang trail lets you walk for kilometers along the bottom of the gorge while you look up at the cliff of mountainous rock on either side of you with a river below your feet.
It is completed in under two hours, and you get to stumble upon the Baiyang waterfall and Water Curtain Cave. Truly stunning.
At the base of several trails, the recreation area, and a few restaurants lies the Xiangde Buddhist Temple.
Extremely peaceful and quiet, it lies across a beautiful yellow bridge atop a small hill giving you generous views of the surrounding greenery.
Upon your visit, you may even be asked to assist monks in their daily tasks at the temple. I was asked to bring a basket of freshly picked plums to the tea shop at the very bottom of the temple.
Being able to enjoy the ambiance and actually participate in the community was an incredible experience.
Before you board your bus or train home, the perfect place to stop for dinner is the DongDaMen night market in Hualien.
Spacious, clean, and filled with a diverse range of food stalls, you can eat your fill for under NT$200. However, the one street designated to indigenous food stalls might be the place to be before you leave the Taroko Tribe and head back home.