Taiwan Itinerary Day 2
Chishingtan Scenic Area
Hualien Hotel Bayview
Zeng Ji Muah Chee
Cingjing Homestay – Julie’s Garden
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Road Trip from Hualien to Cingjing
Welcome to the second day of our Taiwan itinerary! This is one of the most beautiful and amazing days of our Taiwan trip. For our second day, we travel from Hualien to Cingjing via the Central Cross-Island Highway. The itinerary of our road trip includes the following:
- Chishingtan Beach
- Zeng Ji Muah Chee (mochi)
- Qingshui Cliff
- Taroko Gorge – Arch Gate
- Taroko Gorge – Shakadang Trail
- Taroko Gorge – Eternal Spring Shrine / Changchun Shrine
- Taroko Gorge – Swallow Grotto Trail
- Taroko Gorge – Cimu Bridge
- Taroko Gorge – Yue Fei Pavilion and Suspension Bridge
- Bilu Divine Tree
- Hehuanshan – Shimen Mountain Trail (3237m)
- Hehuanshan – Wuling Viewing Platform (3275m)
- Cingjing Homestay
Check out a clip of our road trip here:
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Chishingtan Beach
We woke up early in the morning for the sunrise at Chishingtan beach. The sunrise at Chishingtan beach is known to be beautiful! The timing for sunrise in Taiwan during this time of the year is around 6 a.m. As a result, we had to wake up around 5 a.m+ and walk to the famous Chishingtan beach. Luckily our hotel is located just right next to the scenic area of Chishingtan! Hence it was just a mere 5 minutes walk from the hotel.
But unfortunately, it was way too cloudy that day. The cloud in the sky was so thick such that we couldn’t even spot the sun. In spite of that, the Chishingtan beach still looks good! It is different from the usual beach with a white sand and blue sea, Chishingtan beach has dark sand with a lot of pebbles and a turquoise sea.
The morning at Chishingtan was very cold. The weather was cloudy and windy and hence the waves were extremely strong. We couldn’t get any nearer to the sea without getting wet.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Hualien Hotel Bayview 七星潭渡假飯店
After taking a stroll at Chishingtan beach, we walked back to the hotel to check out and have breakfast. Now we finally have a chance to take some nice pictures of the hotel. Let’s have a look at Hotel Bayview’s beautiful exterior and surroundings.
To see more photos of the interior of our Aegean Sea themed room, see our previous post – Taiwan Itinerary Day 1.
Hotel Bayview has a beautiful Aegean Sea concept. Even all their rooms are sharing the same theme and they look absolutely romantic and fancy. (See more room photos at Taiwan Day 1) Just look at the pleasant blue and white colour theme, this can definitely seize the hearts of young girls everywhere! Well at least I have totally fallen in love with this beautiful establishment.
There is an Aegean Sea concept cafe opened 24 hours so you can drop by anytime to have a sip of coffee on the house and relax. With such a gorgeous sea view, Hotel Bayview also provides free bicycle rental so you can cycle along the coastal line and enjoy the beauty of Chishingtan.
There’s also a rooftop floor for you to relax and enjoy the sea view. But too bad we didn’t have enough time to enjoy all these awesome facilities provided by Hotel Bayview. The hotel is near to the scenic area at Chishingtan but not as near to Hualien town and Hualien train station. But free shuttle service is provided between Hualien station and Hotel Bayview. See more photos or make your booking HERE.
Since we knew that we won’t be spending much time in the hotel, we opted for the cheapest room type. We were totally surprised by the standard of the room and the view from our windows.
A hotel is made by men and stone. Hotel Bayview has beautiful design and they do provide good service as well. The staff at Hotel Bayview are very helpful and friendly. The overall staying experience was pleasant and comfortable. Our only regret was not being able to spend more time here to enjoy the hotel facilities and explore Hualien town.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Breakfast at Hotel Bayview
Complimentary buffet style breakfast is available daily from 7 a.m to 9 a.m.
The buffet spread ranges from western food to traditional Taiwan breakfast like congee and buns. I’m not a big fan of congee but the one here in Taiwan comes with a lot of side dishes. They are so simple yet so appetizing.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – How to go from Hualien to Taroko Gorge
To go from Hualien to the west side of Taiwan (Taichung, Tainan, Kaoshiung, Cingjing), you may choose to take the train to Taipei and then another train, HSR or bus to your destination. You may also choose to travel by car from Hualien to Cingjing or Taichung via Central Cross-Island Highway, passing by Taroko Gorge and Hehuanshan. The later may be a little bit dangerous due to the long and mountainous road across mountains. But we opt for this option as it is the faster way out and we would love to visit Taroko Gorge and Hehuanshan as well!
Driving from Hualien to Cingjing is pretty challenging so don’t just make do with any drivers. We engaged Mr. Neil Zeng who has years of experience driving around this area. Neil is extremely polite and speaks fluent English. On top of that, his driving skill is worth praising and his car is pretty quiet and comfortable.
For those who are interested in engaging driver to travel from Hualien to Cingjing or vise versa, I would strongly recommend Neil. This is not sponsored but honestly the service provided by Neil is really impeccable.
Contact: +886963369086 (Neil)
Vehicle type: Toyota Camry Hybrid
Cost: NT$5000 Service hour: 10 hours
Do take note that quote may seem pricey but as mentioned, the road is curvy and challenging so the cost will naturally be a little bit higher.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Leaving from Hualien to Taroko Gorge
We kicked off our road trip to Taroko Gorge, Hehuanshan and Cingjing when our driver Neil Zeng picked us up from our hotel at 8 a.m. It is recommended to start the day earlier so that you have more time to explore the different trails at Taroko National Park. Our road trip from Hualien to Cingjing was around 10 hours including sightseeing along the journey.
One thing to note is that the food choices in Taroko National Park is very limited. So if it’s possible, please bring your own lunch or snacks when you’re visiting. The food in Taroko National Park is known to be disappointing and expensive. So our driver, Neil stopped us at a convenience store on the way to Taroko Gorge to buy some buns and snacks to be eaten later.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Zeng Ji Muah Chee / Mochi (曾記麻糬)
Zeng Ji Muah Chee in Hualien is famous for their fresh handmade muah chee (mochi). It is so famous that most people recognize muah chee as the signature food in Hualien because of the well known Zeng Ji Muah Chee (曾記麻糬). There are several branches in Hualien and we visited one of them on our way to Taroko Gorge.
The store is conveniently located along the main road and the huge yellow signboard is very eye-catching.
Besides the popular fresh handmade muah chee, there are some ready packed muah chee and pastries sold at the stores as well.
We visited the shop just when they opened at 8 a.m. As you can see from the photos, there’s not a single soul there yet. We had to go and walk around for a short while before the muah chee ingredients arrived at the shop.
By the time we came back to the shop after 10 minutes, the staff started to make muah chee by stuffing the peanut powder into the dough.
There are several flavours for the freshly made muah chee: peanut, green bean, red bean and sesame.
The muah chee is pretty big and filling so please do not buy too much. The freshly made muah chee is best to be eaten within a day. Among all of the flavours, we like peanut flavour the most! The chewy layer of the skin matches so well with the fillings, they tasted pretty good. But a word of caution here, do not eat this in the car because it would get messy with the powder coated on the muah chee.
*Please take note that different branches may have different opening hours and availability for freshly made muah chee. Please do call or email them to check if you’re visiting the other branches.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Cingshui Cliff (清水斷崖)
After a short drive into the mountain, we were reaching the first attraction in the Taroko National Park — Qingshui Cliff. Qingshui Cliff is known as one of the eight wonders in Taiwan. The 21 km long stretch of cliffs between Heren and Chongde on the Suhua Highway has an average height of over 800m, the highest coastal cliff in Taiwan. The east-south cliff of Qingshui Mountain appears to be the steepest of them all. The enormous steep cliff beside the ocean gives one of the most beautiful sceneries in Taiwan.
There are several viewing platforms along Suhua Highway. Neil brought us to the viewing platform at Huide Trail, noting that the scenery from this view point is one of the better ones. The road along the view platform is currently under construction so vehicles are not allowed to enter. We walked for around 5-10 minutes from where Neil dropped us to the viewing platform.
There’s another popular observation deck at the north of Chongde Tunnel. A lot of people would choose that one instead of Huide Trail because of the trail from the observation deck to Chongde Beach. But unfortunately it was destroyed by a typhoon a while ago. Since the trail to the beach is no longer accessible (at least for now), Huide Trail seems to be a better option. I do find the view from the viewing point at Huide Trail a little bit nicer. As Hualien area is frequented by typhoons and earthquakes, the trails and attractions in Taroko National Park get damaged sometimes, and as such you may want to check the road and trail conditions at the Taroko National Park HERE.
Some people do skip Qingshui Cliff stop when they visit Taroko National Park. But I really think that you should make a brief stop here. The layers of colour at the sea by the cliffs give a magnificent coastal view. People says that Hualien is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan, and I agree!
Similar to Chishingtan beach, the waves at the Qingshui Cliffs are very high. The spectacular view from the viewing platform will gives some really magnificent photos. Be sure to snap more photos of the beautiful Qingshui Cliff by the turquoise blue ocean!
You can also see the Northlink Railway Line tracks from the viewpoint. Occasionally, you may also see the trains travelling between Daqingshui and Chongde tunnels.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Taroko National Park 太魯閣國家公園 – Taroko Gorge Arch Gate 東西橫貫公路牌坊
The Arch Gate at Taroko National Park east entrance is an important landmark at Taroko Gorge (太魯閣). The gateway officially marks the starts of Taroko Gorge. This is a great place to have a brief stop for a photo with the Arch Gate.
Here’s a photo of us at the Arch Gate taken by our driver, Neil. He is so experienced that he knows exactly where to stand to snap a great photo like this.
Remember to stand by the side of the road or on the chevron so that you won’t hold up traffic while taking pictures.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Taroko Gorge – Shakadang Trail (砂卡礑步道)
Shakadang Trail is also known as the Mysterious Valley Trail. It is famous for the crystal clear water along the cliff. The Shakadang Trail is a fairly easy 4.4 km hiking path. The return journey of the trail only takes up around one hour.
After the recent typhoon attacks, some areas in Taroko have been damaged. The rivers flowing through the gorge have since been corrupted and turned muddy. Shakadang Trail is one of the only places in Taroko Gorge that crystal clear waters could still be seen during our visit. The beautiful contrast in colour of the turquoise Shakadang River and the white marble canyons is really stunning.
The Shakadang Trail follows the gentle flow of Shakadang River. The beautiful river winds through marble rocks along the winding river cliffs. At certain points, water flows and forms mesmerizing pools of water.
Shakadang Trail has one of the most beautiful scenery in Taroko Gorge. Even though some trails in Taroko Gorge have been closed for safety precautions, Shakadang Trail is still worth visiting and you will be amazed by nature’s creations here.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Taroko Gorge Eternal Spring Shrine/ Changchun Shrine (長春祠)
The Eternal Spring Shrine in Taroko Gorge is also known as Changchun Shrine (長春祠). It was modeled after a famous Tang Dynasty temple, to commemorates the 212 veterans who died while constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway. The memorial shrine complex is situated right on top of the natural waterfall streams. The spring water that pours down into the valley is known as the Changchun Waterfall as the water never stop flowing all year long.
This landmark appears to be one of the most famous scenic spots in Taroko Gorge. While viewing the Changshun Shrine from the main road, you may also explore the Changchun Trail (長春祠步道) that leads to the Eternal Spring (Changchun) Shrine.
The shrine is around 300m from the main road. If you would like to have a closer look, you may follow the Changchun Trail to reach the shrine. There’s a trail behind Changchun shrine leading to Guanyin Cave, Taroko Tower, Bell Tower and Changuang Temple (Zen monastery). However, the trail is steep and may be slippery when it rains. So travellers are advised to stay off the trail on rainy days.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Taroko Gorge – Swallow Grotto Trail
After a brief stop at the Eternal Spring Shrine, we moved on to our next stop — Swallow Grotto Trail / Yanzihkou Trail (燕子口步道). Before reaching Swallow Grotto Trail, Neil stopped by a safety helmets collection point to pick up safety helmets for us. There’s a risk of rockfalls from the rock cliff in this area. Taroko National Park authority provides free helmets to ensure the safety of travellers visiting the Swallow Grotto Trail.
Along Central Cross-Island Highway, Swallow Grotto Trail runs about 1.3 km from the entrance. This is also a must-visit sight in Taroko Gorge to experience the wonders of canyons, geysers, sinkholes, and spring water spraying out from the walls. The rock cliffs at Swallow Grotto are very near to each other and there’s a swift flowing Liwu River running between the narrow canyons.
Swallow Grotto Trail is just right on the side of the main road. So travellers are advised to always keep to the side and beware of the vehicles passing by.
The potholes seen on the grey marble rocks are caused by erosion as a result of the Liwu River flowing through the narrow canyons. After many years, the speedy water running through craved the awesome marble surfaces with hundreds of potholes. The special terrain then became the swallows’ playground and where they nested. Hence the name “Swallow Grotto”.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Taroko Gorge – Cimu Bridge (慈母橋)
Next stop, Cimu Bridge! The word”Cimu” (慈母) in Chinese means motherly devotion. Cimu Bridge is located between Jiuqudong (Tunnel of Nine Turns) Trail and Lushui Trail in the Taroko National Park. The red steel hanging bridge in H-shape has white marble lotus stones from Hualien on the sides and marble stone lions at the ends. It was built on top of a huge frog-like marble rock.
There’s a Cimu pavilion (慈母亭) on the east side of Cimu Bridge. It was built by the late President of Taiwan – Chiang Kai-Shek, in memory of his mother.
On top of the “frog’s head”, there’s another pavilion built by the late President of Taiwan, Chiang Jing-Guo, as a tribute to his mother. The pavilion looks just like a crown on the frog.
Here’s another nice shot taken by our driver, Neil.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Taroko Gorge – Yeh Fei Pavilion (岳飞亭)
After a brief stop at Cimu Bridge, we are heading to our next little stopover — Yeh Fei(Yue Fei) Pavilion (岳飞亭).
The Yeh Fei Pavilion was built to pay tributes to the folk hero, Yue Fei. Just a little background story, if you haven’t heard of the hero of ancient China, Yue Fei (岳飞). In the Southern Song Dynasty, Yue Fei was a famous military general who has greatly contributed to the country but was later framed on false treason charges and killed by the infamous villain, Qin Hui.
There’s a well known legend of the tattoo on his back. Yue Fei’s mother had wrote the four characters, ‘Utmost’, ‘Loyalty’, ‘Serve’ and ‘Nation’ (盡忠報國), which carry the meaning of “serve the country with the utmost loyalty”. This is to remind the son to not be tempted by wealth and status but always remember to stay loyal in serving the country.
We stopped for only 5 minutes for the photo opportunity and went back to the car. This marked the end of our tour in Taroko Gorge. After this, we set off to Hehuanshan, a very, very beautiful mountain within the Taroko National Park district.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – From Taroko Gorge to Hehuanshan
Before the 2 hours long journey to Hehuanshan. Neil dropped us at a nearby 7 eleven convenience store to buy snacks and use the toilet.
For those who have car sickness like me, do remember to bring motion sickness pills and consume them before the journey. Knowing that the road to Hehuanshan is long and winding, Neil kindly reminded me to eat the pills half an hour before the we set off. Thanks to his thoughtfulness, I avoided the torture of car sickness!
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Hehuanshan – Bilu Divine Tree (碧綠神木)
We almost fell asleep as soon as our butts touched the car seats. The next moment when we opened our eyes (Neil had to wake us up), we were already at 2150 meters above sea level! I guess the motion sickness pills were really effective, I have absolutely no idea how was the scenery along the way. We were shocked the moment we opened the car doors because the air was freezing cold!
We stopped here to have a small break and check out The Sacred Tree of Bilu, also known as Bilu Divine Tree (碧綠神木). Beside the tree, there’s a small wooden cafe selling food and drinks. The feeling that I got from the people behind the cafe was a little dodgy. It is hard to explain but I felt a little bit uncomfortable when they were trying to sell us their snacks. In the end we didn’t buy any snacks from them but we got a cup of hot tea, because it was too awkward to leave immediately after using their toilet. Lol.
Actually with the cold temperature out there, having a hot drink is pretty comforting. After getting the drink, we went back to the carpark where the Bilu Divine Tree is. The huge tree is around 50 meters tall, with a diameter of 3.5 meters and age of more than 3000 years! It is so amazing that a tree can stand for thousands of years yet still be lush and green. This is really a miracle of life.
See more about the sacred tree HERE!
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Foggy Road on Hehuanshan / Mt. Hehuan (合歡山)
The area near Bilu Divine Tree was very foggy. At first, I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to have a good view at Hehuanshan. But I was wrong!
Despite the low visibility, Neil still looked calm and steady. If I were to drive on the winding roads with this level of visibility, I would be totally freaked out.
After around a 10 minutes drive in the fog, we entered a tunnel. I really felt like I was in a movie. The journey was just so mysterious and exciting!
After passing through the mysterious tunnel, what we saw next totally blew my mind away. Literally.
This. Is. It. The uninterrupted blue sky, malachite-green layers of mountains and the sea of clouds drew the most beautiful painting outside our windows. This was totally unexpected given the foggy conditions on our way here. I have never seen any sky that can be so blue, pure and clear. For a second, I thought I was dreaming.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Hehuanshan – Shihmen Mountain Trail 石門山步道 (3237 m)
Shortly after we were astounded by the stunning landscape of Hehuanshan at about 2500 meters above sea level, we reached the Shimen Mountain Trail (石門山步道).
At that point, there were several mountain peak trails to choose from. Neil recommended us the easiest trail to the mountain peak, Shimen Mountain Trail. Mt Shimen (Shimenshan) is one of the top 100 peaks in Taiwan that soars higher than 3000 meters.
The total length of the trail was only around 600 meters. Overall the climb wasn’t too steep and there were steps along the path. Even though it was the least challenging trail, but it wasn’t really that easy due to the thin air at the high altitude. I think we took almost half an hour to reach the peak of Shimen Mountain as we needed to take frequent breaks to adjust our breath.
Even though it was just a mere 600 meter hike, I felt that it was harder than jogging for 5 km. But as long as you adjust your pace, everyone will be able to reach the peak.
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Hehuanshan – Shihmen Mountain Peak
Finally, we reached the peak of Mt. Shimen! The view from the peak is absolutely AMAZING! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Make sure you brought enough garments to keep you warm because the chilly air here is no joke. I regret underestimating the temperature here in November.
Make sure you insert Hehuanshan into your Taiwan itinerary, this place is too awesome to be missed! I find Hehuanshan my favourite place throughout our Taiwan Trip.
Looking at the amazing view from the peak, I think our hardship has totally paid off.
Some panorama shots:
The magnificent views of the sea of clouds and mountains are to die for.
Going down with the same path was relatively easy. Throughout the journey, we had to walk while fighting the coldness from the air.
The funny thing is, only when we got back to the car did I notice that, I had warm packs in my pockets all along! I could have used them but why didn’t I think of doing so? *Face palms*
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Hehuanshan – Wuling Viewing Platform 武嶺 (3275 m)
After leaving the Mt. Shimen, we stopped by the Hehuanshan Viewing Platform (3158m) for a short while for photos. However, I found that the next spot that we’re going to offers an even better view. Next, we left for the last stop in Hehuanshan – Wuling Viewing Platform (武嶺) @ 3275m.
Wuling is the highest point in Taiwan where a vehicle can reach. This is an excellent point for photography enthusiasts to capture the beauty of the cloud sea and sunset. The sky was dyed into various colours within the blue hour when the sun was dipping into the sea of clouds. During the night time, people will gather around here for star gazing and observe the immense milky way of the night sky.
The sunset is always amazingly beautiful especially at 3000 meters high. But why did I feel that the sun was gone in the blink of an eye?
Taiwan Itinerary Day 2 – Cingjing Homestay – Julie’s Garden/Fon Chin Homestay 清境峰情
From Wuling, we took around 45 mintues drive to reach Cingjing. By the time we reach our homestay — Julie’s Garden / Fon Chin (清境峰情人文民宿 ), the sky has already turned dark. Upon checking in, we liaised with the person in charge at the homestay regarding the shuttle bus and transport to Taichung the next day.
Shuttle bus service to and from Green Green Grasslands is available at Julie’s Garden. The homestay can also arrange the transport to and from Taichung as well as the Hehuanshan Sunrise Tour, but advance bookings are required. For those who are coming to Cingjing but not planning Hehuanshan in the itinerary, you may consider the Hehuanshan Sunrise Tour. The tour departs around 3-4 a.m in the morning and normally includes sunrise and star gazing. But sometimes when its foggy, you might not be able to see the sun.
More photos of Julie’s Garden can be seen on our next post.
After checking in, we could finally have a rest in the room! We booked our room in the Fon Chin building (本館-峰情). They have another newer building — Skyhill (新館), located nearer to the Green Green Grasslands. Let’s have a look at our room at Julie’s Garden homestay.
Night time at Cingjing can be quite cold, so no air condition is required.
Complimentary supper which includes some snacks and fruits is available at Julie’s Garden. If dinner is required, you would need to inform them during booking. If you don’t mind some cats wandering around the homestay area, Julie’s Garden is a great choice. The view from our room is absolutely awesome (see photos in Taiwan Itinerary Day 3).
On our day 3 in Taiwan, we visit Cingjing Farm, Swiss Garden, Carton King, Miyahara (宮原眼科) and Yizhong shopping district. Check out our day 3 adventure HERE!