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Friday, October 16, 2015

CarmenXTW: 花莲周末行 骑自行车看看吃吃 Hualien Day 1 Cycling Tour of Food and Fun

Another week of getaway once again and I suppose it's the craziest so far. Utilizing every hour of weekend we had. Traveled with my Old CP partners who are studying in Tainan. It was rare for them to have Friday off and I'm glad they decided to spend the weekend with me, CP-ship ftw! 

Took a morning train to Hualien on Friday morning and Gawd knows what time I woke up just to make sure I will reach the train station in time. It was raining in the morning, feeling something worse might happen so I decided to head out around 5 as I wasn't sure if the tunnel to the mrt station was opened or not. Thank God it's open, that saves up 15 minutes of walking :) Took the first mrt train and reached Kaohsiung station early. Feeling tired after all the walking in the rain but it's time to get excited!

 Took a train from Kaohsiung to Hualien which takes Around 4.5 hours. 
The train actually moves along the coast! Freaking awesome view from the windows. 
Sorry for my LQ photo since the train was moving fast. 

It was actually a National Day weekend for Taiwanese and so the numbered seats were sold out. But at least we were lucky enough to sat through half of the journey while enjoying the awesome seaview. 

Checked In at our hostel once we arrived. Will intro about the accommodation in the last part of the post :D Rented bicycles from our hostel and it's time for Lunch! The hostel staff recommended some places for us to try out at the central city area and can't wait to hunt them up!

Turns out it's another Line-Up kind of day! Awesome food awaits.

1. 花莲一品香扁食 Hualien Dumplings
A small little shop with densely packed tables and chairs. People were queuing up but it didn't take long for our turn to dine in. I guess there's an unwritten rule for diners to quickly finish their meals and leave so that others don't have to wait for long.

Just like the name suggests, the shop specializes in dumplings 扁食 which supposedly be Wantan, but larger compared to the ones in Malaysia's Wantan noodles.

Address: Hualien City, No. 512 Zhongzheng Road 中正路512號

 鲜肉扁食面 Pork Dumplings Noodles TWD60
The dumplings! Love the chewy outer layer, which is slightly thicker than usual wantan dumplings. The pork meat filling was chewy and juicy with both lean meat and some tendons that adds texture. Not to forget the simple soup was well seasoned with shallots and cilantro, goes well with the dumplings and noodles! 

 鲜肉馄饨 Pork Dumplings TWD 60
Just the dumplings without the noodles. Hence there's more dumplings compared to the noodles.

 鲜肉红油抄手 Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil  TWD 70
Love this even more!! It's the same dumplings but coated with a layer of spicy fragrant chili oil with spring onions and crunchy seaweed! Being the Malaysian, you will fall in love for this flavor!

2. 周家包子蒸饺 zhouJia Dumplings and Steamed Buns  
Certainly those dumplings weren't enough, we were saving our belly space for more good stuff and I guess it's the right choice! It was drizzling and steamy hot buns and dumplings definitely taste better!

Address: Hualien City, Gongzheng Street No. 4-20 花蓮縣花蓮市公正街4-20號

 韭菜蒸饺 Chives Dumpling TWD 30
10 pcs per serving, that means 3 twd per dumpling. OMG Isn't that cheap? 
Taiwan rocks la really!!!! 
Btw it taste good, can't go wrong with juicy and fragrant chives :D 

 小笼包 XiaoLongBao -- TWD50
You've probably tried the ones in Din Tai Fung but this is a different one! Xiaolongbaos are usually categorized under dumplings but the one in Hualien are actually the steamed buns version instead of the dumpling skin outer layer. Honestly I can't say this is a very creative thing coz it's like our usual steamed bun with filling inside. But I guess the best part would be the soft, fluffy buns absorbing all the juicy essence of pork fillings! So yea, just imagine all the soup that oozes out from xiaolongbao is now seeped into the fluffy buns. Chewing down the delicious bun is just so awesome!!
And the price!! Will definitely be back for this.

They are generous with the fillings and the steamed buns are enough to make you full! 

After filling up our bellies, we walked around the area which is a shopping district with many boutiques, selling clothes at super affordable price!

Time for sightseeing. We left the central city area and head towards 七星潭 Chihsingtan. Visited some interesting places along the way, unplanned, unexpected. Just plain cycling and stopping every now and then when we see something interesting. 

3. 将军府 JiangJunFu
Saw this Japanese style house with a green lawn. The rows of red lantern certainly caught our eye as well. Turns out this is a restored Japanese-style house from the past and now the house is opened for visitors to have a glimpse of Japanese home. The house has many racks loaded with books, minimal furnishing. There's a whole range of Kimonos and Japanese traditional clothing for visitors to try them on for a fee of TWD100. 

Spoke to one of the crew and turns out they are trying to collect signatures from visitors in order to seek funding for the restoration of other houses like this one, which is located around the area as well. 

 You'll find other old houses around the area as well and they are trying to get funding to restore them. So leave your signature or support them by purchasing some of the souvenirs that they sell at the place. 

4. Meilunxi Riverside Park 美崙溪河濱公園
A recreational park for cycling and jogging as there's a track along the river. Sorry I didn't take many photos as we were passing by. It's a very quiet park. If you have extra time, you might wanna spend some time strolling along the river, crossing the pretty red bridge or just relax at one of the benches or the gazebo below. 

I saw this tree quite often in Hualien. Pretty right? 

5. 松园别馆 Pine Garden
Located up the hill, a historical building now turned into exhibition area. Looks very pretty, probably because of its European architecture. The grey walls with arches and climbing green plants that brightens the building with life. I'm not sure how it looks inside though. If you have time, you may enter the building, or just grab some snacks and enjoy the seaview at the garden area.

By the way, just like the name suggests, there's quite a number of Pine trees around.

 A snack stall in Japanese style lot. 

6. 花中榕树下 臭豆腐 Stinky Tofu right at the entrance of Pine Garden 
Right after coming down from the Pine Garden, we decided to have a quick snack at this restaurant situated right next to the entrance road to the Pine Garden. We were already attracted by the smell before we head to Pine Garden and couldn't resist the urge to try it haha...

 臭豆腐 Stinky Tofu TWD50
and it truly does not disappoint. I guess Taiwan's Stinky tofu just taste better for some reason. Love the crunchy yet juicy deep fried tofu. And the weird but somehow pleasant taste and aroma. 

Who says only Asian girls take photos of food before eating?

On the way to 七星潭 Chihsingtan 
The real cycling starts, we took the path along the coast. Taking in the infinite sea on our right as we cycle. The wind was gusty, sends chills down my spine but it's just so freaking exciting. The coast over here looks calm but you'll see the waves grumbling in a slow pace. The blue-grey waters and cloudy sky gives a very gloomy scene, whenever I shout out of excitement, it feels like I'm disturbing the peace LOL

7. Meilun Coast Park 美崙海濱公園

8. 花蓮港景觀橋 Hualien Port Bridge
Great place to enjoy the cool breeze

 Air, Sea, Rail, Road
One glance at the passages that connects the world

9. Cycling Track
From the bridge, there's a cycling track that runs along the railway before going into the coastline. Didn't take many photos but it was kinda cool experience to check out the ancient looking warehouses and freight trains.  

 The cycling track in the middle of....bushes and grassland
See the mountain at the front? Loving the greens here. 

As we go in further, there were actually several platforms for sightseeing of the coast. We were rushing to reach the beach before sun down, and so we did not stop by all these viewing platforms. 
Do observe the shaking trees and swinging shrubs along the tracks, I think they are pretty haha. 

7. 七星潭 Chihsingtan
Finally reached the Chihsingtan after all that cycling!! Going up and down the hill, squeezing every inch of our calf muscles!! We didn't really explore the whole area though, we just hanged out at the beach coz I didn't realize how much time passed while I was immersed in the breathtaking beauty of powerful rolling waves.

My photo can't really show the exact magnitude of the waves. 
It's really a high one and just FYI, we were standing almost 20 meters away.  

 Maybe it's almost sun down, I really love the sky's soft shade of powder blue. So calm. The grey waters and black rocks compliments the serene view. 
 Instead of sand, the beach was covered with rocks! It's the flat ones that come in different shades of grey (nothing to do with fifty haha)  They were trying to find the perfect stone lol

The wind was blowing violently, this is the best selfie I can manage over there. 

The place turned dark by 6 and we had to head back to the city before it's too dark. Cycling back to the city center was faster, took less than an hour compared to our 1.5 hour journey to Chihsingtan. The area was quite happening on Friday, we had our dinner.and explored the shopping streets. 

8. 鹅肉先生 (Mr Goose) 
We saw the crowd queuing at this shop since afternoon. Not sure what's so awesome about this shop but I was kinda eager to try goose meat after trying Turkey meat rice in Chiayi LOL. 
Turns out, all the crowd in front was such a liar. Didn't find it to be super delicious. And it's quite pricey, maybe locals like it. 

鹅肉 Goose meat -- TWD300 for small serving 
Well I was expecting something very special but turns out goose taste very much like duck in my opinion. But slightly more greasy than duck thanks to the thick fat layer. They didn't put a lot of seasoning though. Eating with the ginger taste better probably because the ginger helps remove a smell from the goose meat which I don't really know how to describe haha...  

汤冬粉 Glass Noodles Soup -- TWD40
To pair with the Goose Meat。 Actually taste good, chewy and absorbing all the soup!

汤阳春面 Soup Noodles -- TWD 40

9. 旧铁道行人徒步区 Lane 551 Zhongzheng Road (Former Railway Station)
It's a shopping street that looks pretty at night. The street has floor tiles that replicates a railway track and the shop lots resembles railway station.  Many twinkle lights brighten the street and gives a romantic scene. The shops are mainly clothing shops and souvenir shops, great for tourists too.

See the train?

Had a cup of Oolong Milk Tea! 
Yummy :D

We continued to walk around the area and do shopping. Window shopping in my case. That's pretty much for Day 1! Next day, we went to the MUST-GO Taroko National Park. Time for never-seen-before sights. 

Accommodation: Amigos Hostel
So we stayed at this hostel for 2 nights for our Hualien trip It takes around 5 minutes to reach from Hualien Train Station. We stayed in a mixed dorm, TWD1000 per pax for two nights. The rooms are fine, the shower rooms have shampoo and conditioner. 

The hostel's ground floor is a very cozy common area. Where the owner and staffs of the hostel will always hang out and chat with the guests. It really has a homey feel. The common area has loads of books, a wall of photos of guests, some photos of owner's traveling experiences. There's a simple kitchen at one end, with fridge, water cooler, cups, coffee tea and all sorts. There's also a induction cooker for those who wanna cook. 

The best part is, there's a coffee bar! The owner is actually into coffee and I suppose he can be called as a barista. They sell americano and latte if I'm not wrong. On our last day before checking out, the kitchen ran out of coffee bags and the owner was kind enough to brew coffee immediately for the guys. I tried the coffee and it taste awesome! 

What else, I just wanna say, the common area is such a nice place to chillax. The comfy couches, the friendly staffs and travelers, the books, and there's a box full of board games and card games as well!

The hand drip coffee bag they provided. Awesome aroma and flavor, it's not bitter at all and has a mild sweet aftertaste. 

Enjoying our breakfast at the couch. Life is good!

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