Taiwan’s Nature: The Untouched East Coast

There is no denying that when travelers head to Taiwan for long weekend getaways, they are easily seduced by the bright lights and vibrant atmosphere that the capital city of Taipei has to offer. With its modern skyscrapers, leading hotels of the world, palatial malls, cultural night markets and historical temples, many are under the impression that there is no need to venture any further to taste, see, hear and feel what Taiwan has to offer.

That’s where they are wrong. You will be surprised at how many adventure travel vacations Taiwan’s nature has offered to those willing to venture far from the madding crowds of Taipei. Perhaps one of the reasons why the East coast of Taiwan has remained relatively underdeveloped is because of how hard it is to access from the country’s densely populated west coast. Hours on the road or overpriced flights are the most common problems faced by city dwellers when trying to get to the East and many choose not to bother with the journey.

From indigenous tribes to black sand beaches, the East coast of Taiwan is significantly more laid back, underdeveloped, friendlier and more beautiful than its western counterpart. Although I could sit here and type up a blow by blow version of what I saw and did, I will instead graciously offer you the “Cliff Notes” version. Here is Part 1 of my recommendations.

Hualien

Hualien County occupies an eighth of the island’s land mass, making it the largest county in Taiwan. With the Pacific Ocean to the East and Taiwan’s mountain range to the West, Hualien is one of the nation’s favorite playgrounds. Perhaps one of its most famous tourism hotspots is Taroko National Park, an incredible behemoth of a park that houses the landmark Taroko Gorge, whose origins can be traced back more than 200 million years. Keep in mind that road closures happen pretty frequently during the rainy season as the narrow mountain roads are often blocked by dangerous land and rock slides.

Taiwan's Nature East Coast 1

Image Source: By Matrixboy84 via Wikimedia Commons

I recommend hiring a private driver or signing up for one of the many tours that will take you from the airport through the gorge, where you will emerge on the island’s East coast after a long, winding, and at times, frightening, journey. Your sense of adventure will pay off as you will be treated to amazing views of the mountains, its flora and if you are lucky, a glimpse or two of Taiwan’s incredible fauna.

Taiwan's Nature East Coast 2

Image Source: By TravelingOtter via Flickr

Another magnificent way to enjoy Hualien is by jumping on a bike and cycling through its many townships. You will come across rice paddies, lakes, bays, temples, caves, museums, and, of course, Taiwan’s brilliant mountain range and stunning ocean views.

Taiwan's Nature East Coast 3

Image Source: By Michael Rehfeldt via Flickr

Sanxiantai

Named Sanxiantai or “Platform of Three Immortals” after the three large boulders that give the island it’s interesting shape and size, this tiny yet breathtaking piece of rock lies just off the eastern coast of Taiwan. Literally. All it takes to access this island is a quick walk across a footbridge. However, this is no ordinary bridge. Although the island is undoubtedly beautiful, the bridge that links it to the mainland of Taiwan is the star of the show.

Taiwan's Nature East Coast 4

Aptly named Sanxiantai Dragon Bridge, it closely resembles a dragon and comes complete with eight arches shaped to look like the scaly back of this mythical creature. As you probably expected, walking the entire length of this bridge is not as easy as expected as the arches mean that you have to ascend and descend eight times before reaching the island. Although I easily completed the walk in flip flops, I noticed tourists armed with running shoes and giant fanny packs that I assume must be laden with granola bars and Taiwanese milk tea.

Before the completion of the bridge in 1987, the island could only be accessed during low tide, making it the perfect place to head to for peace of mind. Apparently way back in the day, deities had the same idea and heralded this island as a sacred place from which to meditate and connect with one’s spiritual side.

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There isn’t much to do on the island, besides a little trekking. The paths are clearly marked and assuming you are going at a snail’s pace and make frequent photo stops, the main trail shouldn’t take you more than an hour to complete.

Back on the “mainland”, whet your appetite for local food and souvenirs at the massive structure that houses shops and food stalls. Located right by the parking lot, you won’t miss it even if you tried.

For more tips on what to see and do when discovering Taiwan’s untouched east coast, stay tuned for Part 2.

Top Image Source: By Michael Rehfeldt via Flickr

Lianne Choo

Born in Singapore and raised in Malaysia to multi-racial parents, Lianne is a bonafide travel and food junkie. Having traveled extensively to over 30 countries, Lianne has lived in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Honolulu and Paris and now calls Taichung, Taiwan home. She speaks fluent English, Malay and French and is currently improving her conversational Mandarin skills. She prefers a life of free spirited travel and freelancing than one spent cooped up in an office. When she's not off on an adventure, you can find her whiling her time away with books, good movies and even better food.

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