Hello Gorgeous Gorges...and food out the Wazoo!

One of the top travel to locations in Taiwan is the gorges in Taroko nestled in the mountains on the eastern side of the country in Hualien County. This also happens to be one of the popular locations in Taiwan that I have yet to travel to...thank goodness for willing guinea pigs...umm I mean Josh!

Hualien County

Although Taiwan is a teeny little country  {for all my Ohio readers, it's only like 1/3 the size of Ohio!} it takes FOREVER to cross from one coast to the next due to the lovely mountains that run through the middle of the country. Sooo, Josh and I left my house around 4:30 Friday afternoon & hopped on the slow train headed for Taipei where we grabbed dinner and got on the 7:30 train to Hualien. We didn't arrive in Hualien until almost 9:30 with a solid 3.5 hours of travel under our belts already! Lucky for us though, one of my co-teachers is from Hualien and offered to tour us around for the weekend, so he picked us up at the train station and took us to our bed and breakfast {ok I can't lie....we stopped for pork rice & soup on the way there lol}.

--- --- Saturday, December 19, 2015 --- --- ---  ---  ---  --- ---

We woke up Saturday morning, grabbed some quick breakfast and enjoyed our breakfast during our almost hour ride to Taroko Gorge. Once we got to the gorge we checked some maps and decided that we we start our hike at the farthest point from the visitors center where we were and work our way back...hello another 45 minute bus ride!

When we finally got off the bus we were a bit disoriented & had to stop for directions and a generous gift of hard hats lol! Along the way we quickly discovered that although the map claimed 40 minutes each way to the cave we were headed to, that was taking into consideration that we drove the first half of the trip...not our case! About an hour and 15 minutes later, we made it {although side note, we ran into a Brazilian hiker who told us that in his 3 days at Taroko, the hike we were doing was his favorite...SCORE!} The trail to Baiyang Waterfall consisted of 7 tunnels (like bring a flash light because  you can't see your hand 2 inches from your face type of tunnels), amazing views, and a waterfall curtain inside a cave at the end.

We hiked and hiked and hiked, and finally made it to the end...Oh my goodness...I loved it! It was about this point that we were thankful for our $1USD rain ponchos, not necessarily for the rain, but for the waterfall! We took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our pant legs, donned our beautiful ponchos and went for it! The floor of the cave had 6-12 inches of water in it and along the one side of the cave was a very narrow rock shelf that we could walk along that was slightly dried (only a few inches of water haha). Towards the middle of the cave though was a waterfall curtain pouring from the ceiling of the cave EVERYWHERE! {side note: this may have been where my school-girl giggling ensued!} Needless to say, if you ever find yourself in Taroko...the Baiyang Waterfall is a must! ;)

We spent a good 3.5 hours total on this hike, so by the time we reached the road again there wasn't much daylight time, or shuttle buses, left (thank you Taiwan 5:30pm year round sunset!) We hopped on the next bus still unsure of what to do, and then the heavens opened...hello downpour...so we did what any sensible person would do...we headed one for one last hike; Swallows Grotto. This trail followed closely along a winding road to the left, and a steep drop to the gorge on the right and though we had on our all-too-flattering, bright, yellow, plastic, rain ponchos, the views were amazing and we were glad to get in one last hike of the day. Although...we were quite happy {and soggy} when our bus finally pulled around the corner allowing us an hour nap on the way home!

We got back to Hualien & met my co-teacher Ben again who helped us rent a scooter for the next 24 hour and then we began our 2 day personal food tour of Hualien! Having grown up in Hualien, Ben knew which night markets to take us to, what street stands had the best noodles, and exactly where to get the best bubble teas in town...I can't lie...we definitely went to sleep that night with our bellies happy and full!

--- --- Sunday, December 20, 2015 --- --- ---  ---  ---  --- ---

Waking up Sunday morning we didn't have any concrete plans until noon, so Josh and I scootered our way around town checking out several morning markets, sampling some local coffees & teas, and generally enjoying the morning hustle and bustle in Hualien. Around noon we met up with Ben again for round 2 of our "how much Hualien food can you fit inside you at one time competition" {I realize we may have been the only competitors in this "competition" but even if there had been 100 other people involved, I'm still confidant Josh and I would have won lol}. Dumplings, fried rice, noodles, coffin bread, black sugar bubble tea, sticky buns, sugar thread sesame balls, green onion pancakes, dried sweet bread, taro cakes...oh my goodness I'm sure I missed a few...but you get the picture...SO MUCH FOOD!

In the midst of our whirlwind  food tour we also drove out to the ocean for some spectacular views of the blue waters, mountain peaks, and black pebbled beaches. But alas, all good things come to an end, so around 5:30 we had to catch our train back to Taipei, find some Mexican food for dinner there {only my 4th time in 5 months :( } and then take a nice long nap during the train from Taipei to Hsinchu before finally calling our long weekend a wrap!