Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 4 -- Taroko National Park

     It rained hard at night but it was just sprinkling in the morning. I have been to Hualien many times. I knew it would clear up after a shower. So, I was not really worried about the weather situation in Hualien but the road condition and the heavy Chinese tourist flow in Taroko National Park were my major concerns. This would be a leisure day for us so no time constraints. We left our hotel which was in the downtown area of Hualien at 9 Am.   
Our sightseeing spots in the park
This is the famous gate for entering the Tarako National Park from the east. It has been there since 1960. Today the road has been expanded. It will lead you to the park headquarter and also the police station for applying for hiking permit by taking the road to the right.    
We were lucky because there was no traffic control and the traffic flow was less than normal. We stopped by the Swallow Grotto and let my friends walk along this section which is only inside the tunnel area for safety reason.  
The narrowest of Liwu River, after this section it gets wider and then flows into the Pacific ocean.  
The tunnel was built by hand using chisels and dynamite.
We stopped by the Cimu Bridge. The weather was getting more clear. The clouds surrounded the mountains. It was just like the Chinese landscape painting. It was beautiful, gorgeous, and tranquil. This was the first time I have ever seen this kind of the beauty in the park. Perhaps, most times I won't travel to the park during a heavy rain or a period of continuous raining days.      
What do you think about this sign? The sign also states where you are and where you can find a toilet nearby with the distance indications along the road. For most Chinese tourist's buses only come to this far and then turn back to the city.
Tienshiung Village was our far most stop in the national park. It is a place offering food, drink, and lodging for the park visitors from a high class hotel to a basic lodging or from an expensive to a reasonable restaurant. Also there are some hiking trail nearby Tienshiung village. For example you can walk on the trail to the pagoda to overlook the village. Of course, you would feel tired on the trail or climb up to the pagoda. But after you are at the top of the pagoda, you would forget all the effort you made and enjoy its tranquility. 
The plum tree trail leads to the Silks Hotel. In general, the plum blossom season is around December to February. The colder the weather is the more the plum are blooming.  
A view from the bus station
Entering the park, a visitor should calculate time and know where to stop for lunch on one's itinerary or bring some food with you, especial for hikers. We planed to have lunch at Bulowan Leader Hotel for an aboriginal food experience. It decorated with all the aboriginal elements in the entrance way.     
It was not really easy for my friend who came to Asia the first time to have different food other than American food. She was excited and willing to try but she didn't know how or if there was any order to start eating the food. 
My job was to explain what each item was and there was not any order in eating the food.
This is the Bulowan upper terrace, owned but leased by the governmental. The government released the land to the private ownership by the B.O.T project which is Build,Operate, and Transfer. Now it is operated by the Leader hotel group.  
If you enjoy a quite environment, it would be the best place for you to relax and interact with nature.   
The lower terrace of Bulowan has an aboriginal museum displaying the Taroko tribe cultures and customs. To the far back to the terrace is a prehistorical museum for this area. It is also the park information center and a souvenir shop.  
An old aboriginal lady demonstrated her weaving skill.
Eternal Spring Shrine hosts 212 veterans remains who scarified their lives in constructing the # 8 highway.  

     After leaving the park, we went to visit a traditional Taiwan desert shop to visit its museum and tasting its desert products.
The museum displayed the owner collections of items relating to the agricultural eras. I remembered my parents rode a bicycle just like in the photo to deliver bags of rice to their customers in my childhood.  It was a tough and simple life. 
Following by the modern society, the three wheel motor truck replaced the traditional bullock cart for the farmers. It worked more efficient. Now, it still exits in the country side of Taiwan.  
     If you ask a westerner to pick up one jewelry to represent Chinese cultures, most people would choose jade as the jewelry. For the westerners coming to Taiwan, they would like to ask me where they can buy a piece of decent jade as a souvenir for their loved ones. 
     Hualien is the only place producing jade (nephrite) in Taiwan. After seeing the marble gorges in the national park and also the needs to pick up a few of jade souvenirs, we decided to visit a marble factory which also sells Taiwan jade. 
A local famous artist was creating his artwork for the company.   

Cutting the marble (picture was taken in 2008) 
It was definitely noisy and dangerous for us. I wondered how people could handle this kind of working environment.  
Taiwanese are very proud to announce Taiwan as a treasure island--Bodou Taiwen. In fact, it is true. Taiwan is not only a high tech island but also produces semi precious stones in this small island. It produces coral, rose stone (rhodnite), Taiwan Jade, Cateye,  Picassu Onyx (seven rainbow gemstone), agate and sapphire from the top to the bottom of the map. 
Happy Buddha: Most Chinese-owned stores will display it on a near the cashier or in the reception area. We believe it would bring us good wealth. Also if you see it, you are welcome to touch its body from its head, ears, to its bully. It could also bring you money or make you more rich.    
Most people believe the price in the store is much higher than other places. I agree with this comment; however, I am the only one that can determine the value of the stone for me. When I do make a purchase, I would considerate some elements. Will the same type of stone be more expensive in my country? How much am I willing to pay for the stone? Does this store offer a quality guarantee,  not a counterfeit ? The most important element is if I like it or not? Also my recommendation is to bargain with the seller until you are satisfied with the final price they offered. .      
12 Zodiac Animal Statues
     Our last stop for the day was the Pine Garden in Hualien city. It was built on the hillside of Meilun mountain in 1943 by the Japanese as a Japanese naval office. The Japanese planted many pine trees around this garden. That is why it is called the Pine Garden. During WWII, it hosted farewell parties for Japanese Kamikaze pilots the night before their missions with comfort women. Now, it became a popular place for visitors to overlook the city of Hualien and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. Sometimes it hosts literature activities for local artists and writers.   
Overlooking the city 
The Museum 
Pine Trees were imported from Okinawa. It is an important plant to protect the military site because  it can resist the invasion of the moisture of the saturated sea salt wind and also stop the dust entering the base in the Hualien area.
Some of the above photos are contributed from the TaipeiAirStation Blog along with our friends Ted & Ann.

You can read my other articles about the Taroko National  Park by the lists below: 

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