Wild Taiwan

A lady of leisure writes about wildlife in Taiwan.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hualien 花蓮

Hualien is a very nice county. It is beautiful in a rugged sense. Bordered by mountain chains which protected the county from the cold winds from up north, thus it's warmer than Taipei while facing the Pacific ocean on the other, it has an interesting climate. On mornings, it can be sunny while in the afternoon, rain. Warm, moist air from the ocean rises after meeting the high mountains, cools, condenses and forms big cumulonimbus clouds and eventually falls as rain. A phenonmenon known as Orographic precipitation.
Hualien is the largest county in Taiwan but is also the least populous due to its rugged terrain. It is famous for its high probability of being hit by typhoon and earthquake (60%). Typhoon season is from May till October while earthquake events are very much all year round. So far the damage from typhoon is more severe than earthquake.

A famed group of products of Hualien is marble and all kinds of mineral rocks. Annual production: among 8,960,000 tons of marble are 230,000 tons of dolomite, and 2,300,000 tons of cement. The marble is top quality and the mineral rocks are multi-coloured, pink, green, brown etc. The colour indicates the kind of mineral it contains. For instance, pink is Manganese, Black is Iron etc. All of Taiwan's jade is from Hualien.
With all these mining, the landscape is somewhat barren in certain parts especially along the railway track. If one drives towards Taroko Gorge, one cannot miss seeing the giant cement factory. Disputes had been going on between the Aboriginal people and the Cement factory see http://www.taiwanfirstnations.org/dthreats.html

The jewel of Hualien is of course Taroko Gorge. It was designated a national park in 1986, and it's the second largest in the whole of Taiwan. It is an awesome place, smaller than Grand Canyon but it has its own spectacular mountains, marble canyons and magnificent gorges carved by many rivers and waterfalls. Over 200 workers died constructing the road that leads into the gorge. A shrine has been set up to commemorate these braves. Many parts of the gorge remain a mystery because there's no road. Strangely enough, a five-star Formosa hotel is built right inside the gorge. Was told during one the typhoons last year, the tunnel that leads out of the hotel to the outside world was 3/4 flooded. A helicopter was needed to bring in food etc. Rock falls are constant threats especially at night when the rocks contract after a day's heating. There are now tunnels under the mountain to allow easier access but one loses the opportunity to see the gorge unlike one who travels along the open road carved into the mountain. Well, safety versus beauty, I suppose.

In Chisingtan, so named because the coast was shaped like the roman alphabet 7, overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The pepples here are real nice. They are mostly grey with patches or lines of white or brown.

There are Aboriginal peoples here and one group is the Taroko. Not many of them are left now. This is the fate suffered by many other groups as well, some have become so localised like the Han chinese that they've lost their traditional identity. Taiwan tourism should capitalise on this unique cultural heritage and let the world know more about the Aboriginal peoples. If nothing else, their architectural designs are something to be marvel at. They build their own homes and other buildings and the style is far more unusual than the standard architectural styles seen in local modern Taiwanese housing. Their knowledge about plants, animals, ways to cook them ought to be enjoyed by a wider public as well as preserved for posterity.

One aboriginal restaurant at Liyutan called Tree House serves absolutely fabulous food. The dishes were cooked by the Amis people. We had giant tilapia, the fish was gutted but the scales were left intact, coated generously with salt and baked on hot stones. So when we ate the fish, we just flicked the whole sheet of skin with scales away. Yum! We had other kinds of vegetables which were deep fried in batter, lemon papaya with sesame, chicken soup cooked with niubing, the long underground stem which made the soup sweet.

A new attraction is the ocean park built and designed by Japanese about 4 years ago. The photo above is taken from the park showing the beautiful coast. It's entertaining for kids and those young at heart. The discovery island which is usually missed is actually quite educational. The dolphin shows were the highlight of the park. I'm sure the trainers were in pain each time when they were sent off at high speed and then landed up on the pools' edge. If they were not careful, they could very well hit their heads on the low barrier or the wall of the pool since the dolphins were swimming so fast!

The hotel that I highly recommend is Parkview Hotel. The rooms are huge and clean. There's a nice grassland, artifical waterfall which is very well designed and a golf course. The room either faces the mountains or the coast. This photo is taken from our hotel room. As you can see the hotel has a huge garden and golf course.

Hualien can be reached by road, air or rail. I'd recommend the rail since one can see the Pacific ocean along the way. It is only 3 hours or so.