Sunday, February 8, 2015

Our experience in Hualien, Taiwan

After leaving Tokyo, we flew to Taiwan to spend a few days with my father.  One of the places we first went to visit was Hualien. 

Hualien is located on the mountainous eastern coast of Taiwan.  Most of the area is made up of mountains and rivers.  I learned on Wikipedia that Hualien County occupies about one eighth of the total area of Taiwan.  Mountains occupy 87% of the area, rivers occupy 7%, and people occupy only 7% of the county area.  We met up with my father in Taiwan and the three of us took the high speed rail from Taipei to Hualien.  Once we arrived in the city, we rented a car to explore the area. 

We stopped by and explored the Chihsing Tan Katsuo Museum, an old Japanese dried bonito fish factory.  This 3-story museum tells the history of how katsuobushi (dried bonito fish flakes) was made in the fishing village in earlier times. 

Making katsuobushi is a time consuming process that can take up to a month.  The bonito fish is first filleted and simmered for up to 1.5 hours.   Filets are then deboned and smoked for up to 6 hours, over and over again up to 15 times.  Then the filets are dried for up to 2 weeks with mold used to ferment the fish.  As the mold gets scraped off and the fish gets sun dried – it now resembles a block of wood.  Finally, the dried filets are sliced into shavings used in food as flavoring, stuffing, or topping.  At the gift shop we got to sample over 30 different types of katsuobushi with rice - very tasty. 

We then drove to Chishingtan Beach, where we walked around the rock beach and took in some very lovely views of the ocean.  It was interesting to walk upon a rocky shore instead of a sandy beach.   

Later on we explored the Hualien Fishing Harbor, a small area of fishing boats and restaurants.  

It was amazing to see a fishing boat bring in their catch of sunfish, the heaviest bony fish in the world with an average weight of 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg).  I had no idea that people ate this fish!  It looked pretty gross to us and we didn’t feel like trying it. 

We stayed at the Parkview Hotel in Hualien City, a very cozy and comfortable local hotel. 

We started the next morning off with a breakfast buffet at the hotel before driving out to Taroko National Park, famous for it’s marble mountains and canyons.  Taroko means “magnificent and beautiful” in the language of the indigenous Truku tribe.  This park is named after the large Taroko gorge here.

Marble and limestone mountains surround this picturesque area.  Portions of the mountain have been cut out to allow vehicles to pass through.  You could spend much of the day hiking and exploring the park.  Warning: the hiking will tire you out! 

We then took a scenic drive through Qingshui Cliff, a 21 km pathway along the eastern coastal cliffs of Taiwan.  These incredible views reminded us of being in Hawaii.  Two days in Hualien really isn’t enough to enjoy all the beauty that it has to offer. 

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