Friday evening we took a High Speed Rail Train to Hualien City and checked into our hotel for the night. I got to feel my first earthquake ever in the shower. It was so small I thought I was just remembering what it felt like in the train.
Early the next morning we rented a scooter drove to Taroko gorge! It was raining since the day before so we wore ponchos and still got soaked. Here's the gate to the gorge:
Our first stop was the Eternal Springs Shrine, dedicated to the many people who lost their lives building the road through the gorge. It was really pretty (but small). A spring runs underneath it, and it's had to be rebuilt three times because of rockslides.
Then we headed to Bulowan, the aboriginal settlement in the gorge. It's all commercialized now, but the idea was still good.
The tribe is called Atayal and they're famous for their weaving techniques. We got to see an old woman weaving inside their museum. Out behind the lower village we went on the Swallow Grotto trail. It was gorgeous but tiring. Ick. I'm out of shape!
Next we stopped by the Nine Turns, supposedly the most beautiful part of the gorge. It's where the road goes in and out through a mountain. A section was closed off because of rockslides. Luckily we kept our scooter helmets on! ;)
In fact, there was a recent rockslide, from the looks of it. I stole a shard of rock as a souvenir!
Then we got to our destination: Tienxiang, the only town in the gorge. We stayed at the Grand Formosa Hotel (five stars!!!)
We tried for the Hsiang Te temple nearby because it had a pretty pagoda, but it was closed for the night. We checked out the famous Catholic hostel where Albert stayed a few times instead. Then we went for a swim, ate dinner, and got to see a performance of A-mei aboriginal dances. The guy group dances were hot to watch! They were very masculine and loud and looked like they were showing off hunting skills. The leader's dancing was really good, and he wasn't bad looking either. ;) They asked the audience to come up and learn a dance so we got up and I won a prize for the dance. ;) Then it was off to bed. I woke up the next morning to see a huge pile of sunflower seed shells on our porch!!! Haha!
Sunday was another early rise and we went back to the Catholic hostel to take pictures and hopefully meet the priest. Albert told me he was American and lived in Taiwan most of his life. I thought it would be really cool to meet him and see what he was like. It seemed like a really peaceful life living in the mountains like this with a small church to tend to. When we got there we saw three cats sitting on someone's scooter. It was very cute!
It was more of a chapel, than a church. It felt very peaceful, only three rows of pews...As we were leaving a man came out to talk and we found out the priest had died a few years ago, and that now a priest comes from out of town only once a week to give mass. It was very depressing to hear that. I almost wish I could have stayed and helped keep up the place...
We went to the Hsiang Te Temple next. One minute outside of Tienxiang. It's on a mini-mountain in the middle of the gorge. Two big buddhasavas (sp), a pagoda, and a temple. The gold Buddha is apparently at the highest altitude in the world.
Then we went on a couple of trails. First was Lushui trail. I pretty much snacked on sunflower seeds the whole way (I was starving!!!).
Then Baiyang trail... which was closed. So we went partway up the Meiyuan/Jhucun trail... at least up to the scary suspension bridge. You could seen through the planks to the bottom of the gorge. It was terrifying!!!!
Then we headed back to Hualien to grab some mochis (a popular dessert here) and start out return trip to Taipei. All in all, an awesome trip! I would definitely take my family there if they came to visit! ;) Hint hint.