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Saturday, October 17, 2015

CarmenXTW: 花莲周末行 太鲁阁一日游 & 排队不断的自强夜市 Hualien County Day 2 at Taroko National Park & Queue-non-stop Night Market

It's Day 2 in Hualien and woke up early for our journey to the world of 武侠小说 Chinese Kungfu Novel haha
Took a tourist bus from Hualien train station (Info for bus) at 8am and the journey was 2.5 hours to the last station. We decided to start from the innermost station and went all the way out. Manage to spend the maximum amount of time and take the last bus back to Hualien city. Cycled to Ziqiang Night Market for queue-worthy treats. 

Taroko 太鲁阁 
I will mainly post photos of different parts of Taroko. Really love the beautiful nature here. The Taroko National Park is a scenic area with rocky mountainous landscape. Lots of massive steep cliffs, caves. The whole road trail is around 20km which winds up and down and there are bus stops along the trail. Each stations offers different scenery and there's also walking trails for a closer look into the natural landscape. 

I must say I was very impressed and excited when the bus first entered the National Park area. Look above, you see the high, massive and rocky mountains; Look down, wide, treacherous river where the water flows swiftly and beats hard on the massive rocks on the riverbed. You can even see the currents' strong swirl that forms a vortex. It's beautiful but at the same time I couldn't help but to think how vulnerable humans are in the face of nature. It did felt like I was drowned in the mountains.    

At the entrance part, where the valley is wider and the mountains are not as high. 

a. 天祥 Tianxiang
The last stop for the tourism bus, we had our brunch over there since there's a few restaurants. It looks abit like Alishan over here. It's a wide area with visitor centers and guesthouses. The mountains are much greener and plenty of trees around.  

Lunch with Drumstick Bento Rice -- TWD90

b. 绿水 Lushui
We walked from Tianxiang to Lushui, which took around 20 mins if Im not wrong. The weather was lovely, slightly chilly and with mild wind. Great for walks hehe.

Tunnels that we've passed on our way to lushui. 

Looks like Batman's Cave LOL

Look out for pretty waterfalls :D 

The rocky cliffs that look both sturdy and intimidating. 

There's a exhibition hall, and a souvenir shop plus cafe below. The customers can enjoy the view of mountains while sipping into their coffee. 

There's a walking trail in Lushui which we missed as we were trying to catch the bus. But turns out the bus was not on time at all!! Wasted more than an hour waiting. We could have finished the trail within that time. 

There's this geology exhibition hall 地质展示馆 that gives information about the formation of Taroko's landscape
Great for people who wonders how nature creates itself!

Just to give you an idea on how mighty high the mountains are

c. 燕子口 (Yanzikou) Swallow Grotto Trail 
It's quite a long distance from Lushui to Yanzikou and so we had to take the bus. This is a place that you shouldn't miss in Taroko. This is the part where the mountains come very close, forming a narrow valley with the river flowing rapidly. The close cliff walls looks very intimidating, can truly feel the 压迫感 haha... I was watching my steps cautiously.

A small patch of turquoise colored water that flowed from the top of the mountains

This is something that I could only see in Kungfu films in the past, witnessing such scene with my real eyes was just overwhelming. 

d. 布洛湾Buluowan 
Here's something crazy, there's actually a flight of stairs that connects Buluowan from Yanzikou. I guess we were just "lucky" as we met a group of hikers who were at the exit of the stairs. They told us to take the stairs instead of using the main road. The entrance of the stairs has a NO ENTRY sign, but we were YOLO enough to just enter without much thought. What's in front of us, 400m worth of stairs that climbs vertically up to 120m! Not to forget to mention that part of the stairs were damaged due to typhoon. It was stairs all the way UP and damnn it's physically and mentally torturing!! Can totally feel my calf muscles saturated with lactic acid and I was hyperventilating when we reach Buluowan. Thank God the air is great up there haha. 

Anyways, I'm glad that we made it up unscratched despite the steep staircase with large rocks in the way and broken handrails. Please do not follow what we did. It's actually quite dangerous. Buluowan is more like a observation deck, where you can take a rest and enjoy the cool breeze of the mountains. It's also a place for you to know more about the Taroko tribe. There's a exhibition hall and auditorium that showcases Taroko tribe's culture and traditions. 

Love the green carpet!! 

A hall that shows the Taroko tribe's living environment
One of the customs that bothered me was the face tattooing :(
Damn it looks very painful and woman have to tattoo almost half of their face. 

Chillax-ing with icecream and ice tea. 
Love the beautiful view of fogged up green mountains before us. 

See this sea of little flowers :D

e. 太鲁阁游客中心 Taroko National Park Visitor Center
Located near the park's entrance. It's a visitor center that act as a tourist gathering point and also for people to take a rest and sip some coffee haha. There's an exhibition hall if I'm not wrong. But we were already kinda late when we reach so we skipped the halls.    

The main gate of Taroko National Park

Had 山猪肉香肠 Wild boar Sausage (TWD100 for 3)! Love it, nothing like your usual frankfurters. It's very solid and chewy. 

That was all for Taroko National Park and I can't help but to feel we really had too little time to explore this huge area. 

Travel tips for Taroko National Park 
To be honest, One day was definitely not enough fr Taroko National Park, unless you are driving and have control over the time. We took the tourism bus that cost TWD250 for one day pass where you can hop on and off the bus for as many times as you want. Think it's worth it? But let me tell you we only been on the bus for 4 trips. The bus wasn't punctual as well. It either comes too early or too late. Anyways I guess we made a mistake to start our journey from the inside. Coz I missed out the Shakadang trail which is at the outer part. It's a very pretty trail where you get to go down to the turqoise colored stream and dip your feet in it! Not to mention I missed the Lushui trail as well :( And thanks to the typhoon, the trail at Tianxiang was closed as well. Missed the beautiful Shuilian Cave. :( Oh well, that gives me a reason to return right?

So I would suggest the following places to go in the following sequence:

Shakadang -bus- Buluowan -take the stairs down- Yanzikou -bus- Lushui -walk- Tianxiang

And do go early to make the most out of it coz the walking trails all take at least one hour to complete. 

自强夜市 Ziqiang Night Market
Back to Hualien city, went back to our hostel and the owner was kind enough to lend us the bikes without any charge! Cycled to Ziqiang Night Market which is the must-go place in Hualien city. Wasn't expecting much coz I suppose the night markets are pretty much the same. But this night market certainly created many "first time" or "most" memories for me.

1. Most queued night market
woahhhh the crowd at the night market really shocked me. See the photos below. I thought queuing for 天使鸡排 Angel's Chicken at Ruifeng was torturing enough but the lines here are much longer and it's not just one stall but more!! Some of the stalls even have queue times of 2.5 hours wtf!!! Totally mindblown. There were actually many food that I wanna try, but the queue time really frightened me. I would have starved to death if I waited haha.

2. Ate Most, Spent Most
well as you can see the night market is filled with delicious stalls that seem to be worth trying. Usually I would have shared with others, but I pretty much had one serving for each food to myself. Was totally stuffed and hence spend the most money as well. LOL

3. First time had a food that needs one hour to be ready!
The bbq corn (see below) was so crowded that, even after placing my order. I still have to wait for another one hour before I can taste it. It's just a Corn Cob for crying out loud LOL

4. First food to be on my dislike list 
I seldom dislike any food. They are either delicious, or just ok. Dislike will never cross my mind. Yes you will know which food it is as you read down. 

Fruit juices seem to be a big thing here! 
See the queue on both sides? 
We tried the 妙不可言果汁 on the right, which took around 45 mins if I'm not wrong. 

Taste awesome! and from what I know, it's an award winning juice shop LOL
Had Milkshakes in the flavor of Avocado, Taro and Banana
Each at TWD40 only! so cheapp 
And all of them taste great. My Taro Milk was taste abit too creamy at first, but the more you sip, the taro's aroma slowly unfolds and it didn't taste too heavy at all. 

2nd queue non stop stall: 蒋家棺材板 JiangJia Guancaiban 
Gonna give a thumbs up for this. This will be in my list of favorite Taiwan snacks
By the way the toast actually comes with a drink of either Red Tea or Milk Tea. 

Guancaiban is actually Deep fried toast with it's center.... Okay I just found out it's called a Bread Bowl LOL The Taiwan version uses deep fried square toast instead. 

奶香鸡肉 Cream Chicken -- TWD45
delicious! Compared to the one I had in Tainan, this one has much more crunchy veggie and diced chicken and has less gravy. It's like a warm sandwich with cream sauce. Goshhh so niceeee!!!

南瓜海鲜 Pumpkin Seafood -- TWD55
Love this even more, the gravy made from mushy and sweet pumpkin! And the crunchy filling with shrimp, squid and crunchy mixveg and cabbage. Love the texture!

Another queue non stop stall : 北港春捲 Beigang Springrolls

原味猪肉 Spring roll with pork filling -- TWD 40 each

To be honest I don't find it very special. But it taste good anyhow. 
Packed with crunchy veggies of different texture and pork strips. 
And there's a dash of grounded peanuts which makes it quite Malaysian-ish haha
Can't go wrong with this flavor!

4th queue non stop stall : Mr. Lin's BBQ Corn 林家烧番麦 
This is the one stall that dropped my jaw, before and after trying the food. 
The queue was like super long when I arrive and it took me around 30 minutes just to place the order. and they tell me I have to wait for another 50 minutes which actually was 1 hour in total. 
All dat wait and the constantly increasing crowd made me certain that this BBQ corn must be delicious. 

BBQ Corn -- approx TWD50 
The price is based on the weight of the corn. You may choose corn cobs of different sizes to your liking. Some of us manage to get a corn cob that is around TWD90! 
Okay about the taste, to my horror, it's nothing close to my liking! Actually most of us think the same way too LOL 
Maybe we're not use to corn being cooked like this. 
The corn was very mushy, unlike the usual corn in cups that we have back at home which are crunchy and juicy. The outer layer has a layer of glaze that was abit of salty, spicy and caramelized, together with the mushy corn, it taste kinda...weird LOL I guess it's really a matter of culture haha...we weren't use to this flavor at all. I guess good old butter and salt corn is the best haha

Other than these, there's actually plenty of food at Ziqiang night market. From seafood to steaks, chicken chops to taro balls... We were super stuffed after all those food and did some exercise at the nearby arcade LOL. So for those who wanna go to Ziqiang market, prepare to spend a lot of time, coz u will be queing, eating, and trying to walk off those fats haha.  

Extra: Souvenir goodies 曾记Mochi 
Gotta talk about this haha, on our day to depart from Hualien, we went into this Mochi shop near the train station. Being the tourist we are, we tried all sorts of the samples with no intention to buy LOL. But the staff at the shop was really kind and started chatting with us. After knowing that we are from Malaysia and exchanging abit of thoughts of our countries, the staff offered to give us freshly packed mochi Free of Charge! We really didn't buy anything and she just gave it to us. Well it might be a tactic to make us feel guilty but she gave us one new box of mochi instead of just the sample packets. Feel like a child haha, she totally made our day! Out of guilt I only bought one small mochi that cost TWD15  lol. Anyways, the mochi dat the staff gave us taste awesome!! Super soft and melts instantly in your mouth. and the red bean filling is sweet and fragrant!! You will see this store at different corners of Hualien, it's a famous brand for Mochi. So blessed to have free mochi haha. 

hehehe super delicious!!
all these worth TWD199!

And that wraps up for our trip at Hualien!!
Great sights, great food and even greater people! Really gonna miss all these when I'm back.

Traveling really makes you feel how small and vulnerable you are. 

Up next: Our tornado trip to Taipei for 8 hours  

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