Where to go in Hualien
Days 850 – 854
As Jac only had ten days in Taiwan, we wanted her to see some countryside. A trip to Hualien was our choice – It took us a bit of practice to get the pronunciation right; no not "Who-Alien", think David Walliams without the "s" and you're nearly there.
On the east coast of Taiwan, Hualien has everything; on the east - sandy and stone beaches, on the west - towering green mountains, to the north – dramatic marble gorges. And in the centre, Temple, temples and more temples and some excellent restaurants. We were looking forward to this short stay.
Taoist Temples and Celebrations
When we reached our accommodation, our hosts informed us that there would be a lot of noise nearby, something to do with a Taoist deity. A short while later, Tim popped out to buy some milk, and then there was a mighty noise like gunfire. We were relieved that our hosts had warned us.
Jac and I joined Tim to find a crowd of men lifting and bouncing up and down a brightly coloured palanquin. We guessed that one of the Chinese Gods was being moved from one temple to another.
It was one big chaotic party, with young men drinking who-knows-what from a large bowl, pretty beauty queens in skimpy outfits parading on the back of a trailer, some men dressed in elaborate costumes of Chinese Gods and more firecrackers exploding with fireworks just about showing up in the grey sky.
There seems as if a Temple is on nearly every corner; not surprising really when we hear that Taiwan has more than 15,000 temples.
Hualien's Chenghuang Temple is one that we suddenly came across, and it's lucky to exist still. When the Japanese invaded the island in the 1930s they destroyed many of the temples. This one was on the list. But someone wisely moved the statue of Jheng Cheng-Gong, who was of Japanese descent and revered by them, into Chenghuang Temple, saving it from being demolished.
What a place. This small Taoist Temple with stunning colourful architecture has so much detail both inside and out. Dragons, red lanterns, paper offerings, intricately carved panels and ceiling and at least 30 statues adorn the place, all beautifully decorated with hand-made costumes.
The other Temple that we visited was Futian Temple, recommended to us by a couple we met at Taroko Gorge (see later blog). It was a quick visit; we were on our way to the station, so asked our taxi driver to wait for us.
This place is not so much about the Temple, which was nice, nothing amazingly special. It's what's to the left of the Temple. Brilliant 3D art on a flight of stairs of golden carp. From the bottom of the stairs, the painting was magnificent. Descending, there are just lines of paint. I think Tim and Jac enjoyed the murals on the wall more.
Places to Eat
Jac often compliments us on restaurants and cafes we find. We use Google Maps, the place has to have a rating of at least 4.3, and we read the latest reviews, always crucial. Where we are staying now, I found one place with a score of 4.9 but with a review that said "Very average food. The Google rating is completely distorted because they offer a lucky draw ticket for a five-star review."
Our first night, Tim came up trumps. After passing by the racket of men still moving their deity, we found the quietness of Flower Space. What a quirky restaurant. Before we chose our meal, we wandered around to look at the displays; an eclectic mix of miniatures all made out of clay! There were mosaic murals on the walls, an abundance of plants, such a gorgeous setting.
And we are pleased to say that the vegan food lived up to the high standard of the décor. Our three trays of meals which we shared were all delicious; a similar style to Sister Liu. Well done, Tim, what a find!
On Sunday, Jac popped off to church while Tim and I walked along the beach for an hour to meet her afterwards. I'd found River Shop, and thought it would be right up Jac's street. (Idiom meaning: to be exactly the type of thing that someone knows about or likes to do). Yes, it absolutely was.
Jac headed straight into the shop, full of beautiful gifts and furniture, and was tempted to buy a few things. We discovered that the owner, A-We is a talented furniture maker and creates unique tables and cabinets with a practical and fun element about them. He showed us that by pushing various levers, bottle and glass holders would appear. In the café, there was a time-lapsed video of A-We making his works of art.
We were there so long that it was time for lunch. Again, the food was fabulous. Jac and I had the pumpkin soup, and it was the best I have ever tasted. We ended up being there for well over 3 hours, with A-We looking after us exceptionally well.
The third eatery we would recommend was Oops Café, another unusual place with some interesting decoration that fitted their "oops" theme. Tim went off to the toilet, opened the door to find a urinal right in front of him painted on the wall!
As well as the décor, the other attraction was the ugliest yet adorable English Bull Dog who seemed to pose for photos, and a naughty cat that was clawing the furniture!
This was another Google maps find. I did read a long review with just four stars saying that one of their meals didn't arrive for ages. The response from the owner was "If you don't give me five stars, my mother will beat me back"!
Our meal arrived on time, I am pleased to say. Jac, during her wandering around the place, was tempted by a caramel waffle on another table, so ordered one. Oh my! It was enormous and even allured Tim, who usually abstains from desserts, to have a few bites!
Hualien has nature all around it, squashed between the Pacific Ocean and the Hai'an Mountain Range, with several National Parks nearby.
Within the city, the locals are big at growing their own vegetables. We walked past many allotments and paddy fields, and someone had even left aubergines for people to help themselves.
A couple of times we strolled along the beach with Mexico 12,953 km straight ahead of us. In front of the city, the beach is pebbly, with huge rocks by the sea wall giving some protection from the typhoons, and great fun to jump over. The different colours are incredible, and we spent some time searching for our favourite stones and making towers.
And during our stay here in Hualien, we went on a one day tour to the magnificent #TarokoGorge, but that's for another blog…to be written!