There are several places down in the south east I’ve wanted to go to, so we planned to do it this weekend. Since the place we were heading is in the north end of Taidong county, we figured the quickest way would be to approach from Hualien which is just to the north of Taidong. However, there were no train tickets available so we decided to drive.

On Friday evening we packed up our stuff then drove north towards Taipei, followed the road eastward then turned south. About an hour and a half later we had reached Suao in Yilan county so I thought we could be in Hualien city in another hour. We could then stay the night there and take off for taidong in the morning. This was a miscalculation on my part, since the highway ended in Suao and we had to take a small mountain road. Winding your way along steep cliffs in the dark is not fun let me tell you, and after nearly an hour of driving we had only done about twenty or thirty kilometers. It seemed the best course of action would be to get a hotel as soon as possible then continue in the morning.

We set off a little after ten the following morning, driving along the coastal road that winds itself along jungle clad cliffs that drop steeply into turquoise waters.  About an hour and a half of spectacular landscapes later we rolled into Hualien city and stopped by a small restaurant for lunch. According to Google it was a noodle place, but it turned out (as indicated by the decor) that their specialty is seafood. We had some fantastic abalone with plenty of vinegar, onion, chili and coriander.

The outside of the restaurant

The amazing abalone

After lunch we drove on, the road quickly becoming straighter and less mountainous as we drove along the floor of a valley, mountains in the distance and beautiful, light green rice fields on both sides of the road. About two hours later we go to the small town that had been our goal. However, the blacksmith shop we had intended to visit was closed, apparently the owner happened to be gone this very weekend; bad planning on our part to not call ahead I guess.

The area is also fairly well known for it’s beautiful rice fields so we rented a tandem bike then spent a hour or so riding around on the various small roads among the fields.

When we returned the bike it was already getting dark, so we got back in the car and drove another hour to the town of Zhiben which is famous for it’s hot springs. We found a hotel then spent the evening soaking in the warm water. Since we were now rather far south on the east coast we decided that the best way to go home would be to cross over to the west side then take the highway north, thus completing the circle of the island.

Anyway, on Sunday morning we took it pretty easy with a few detours on our way westward. First we headed up into the mountains to some famous fields of yellow lily-like flowers. We then then drove out to the coast again to the now disused Taimali train station, which is said to have the best view of any train station in Taiwan.

Train passing by Taimali station

By now it was already afternoon, and in these parts of the country most restaurants close around one o’clock, so we ended up eating lunch in a convenience store.  After lunch we crossed the southern tip of the island, getting some good views while driving through the mountains. then turned northward once we reached the west coast. Before heading home we made one last stop at an old Spanish church which is the most European looking church I’ve seen in this country.

After seeing the chuch we continued northward and soon reached the highway, and shortly after, it got dark. At that point there was nothing left to do but to crank up the music and drive. Now we are finally back home after our unplanned circumnavigation of Isla Formosa.