Coach tour down to Hualien
I had to wake up at 4:30am in order to get ready in time for leaving my hostel and to meet the coach group for the weekends coach trip to Hualien and east Taiwan. Because I had to meet the coach group at 5:50 AM I could not catch the MRT as it didn't start until 6AM. But luckily there was lots of Taxis driving around outside my hostel so I managed to catch one almost straight away. I arrived at Taipei station about 30 minutes early and had to wait for every one to arrive. Once everyone had arrived we all boarded our coach and I sat next to my good Taiwanese friend. The first stop for the coach was to pick up more people in Keelung and then we continued on with our journey. The next stop was a toilet break in Yilan. Because there are so many coach tours in East Taiwan there are several large toilet stops, there was about 12 coaches at our first one. We then left the flat area of Yilan and started our climb up over the mountains towards Hualien. The road we took winded up over the mountains and followed the coast down. Because the mountains come straight out of the sea between Yiland and Hualien, there is no flat land for good roads. But this made the journey very interesting with towering mountains and wonderful views of the sea. We had only two stops on the way to Hualien, one for another toilet break and the other so that we could take photos from a scenic spot. When we arrived in Hualien we went for our Lunch at a local restaurant which specially caters for coach tours. So when we arrived they all ready had the food ready for us. The restaurant was interesting as I had ever seen restaurants which just cater for large coach tours before. The restaurant had a large area for parking outside for the coaches and inside it was one very large room with many large round tables. The food at the restaurant was very nice and I particularly liked the shrimp.
After our lunch we split up into 6 VW transporters because the gorge that we were about to see was too narrow for large vehicles. Our first stop on the tour of the gorge was yet another Taiwanese toilet break with small stalls selling local produce, such as jewellery and jades. We then stopped across form an old hydro electric plant which was built by the Japanese into the mountain over 70 years ago. It also had an interesting bridge for carrying the power lines. Whilst at the stop our tour guide told us some of the aboriginal history, although it was in Chinese so I didn't understand much. However he showed us old photographs of the Aboriginal Taiwanese people holding the heads of their enemies.
We continued on our journey which took us up a very narrow single lane road which wound slowly up the valley. The views down were fantastic and the water in the river below was an almost unnatural blue. Our next stop was a new bridge which spanned the river and had great views into two of the valleys, the river looked very inviting for a swim as there was deep blue pools, which looked very inviting on such a hot day. We continued up the valley passing many other tours, however because it was a single track road it made it very difficult to pass the other cars and so slowed our progress a lot. When we reached the end of the road we had a tour guide tell us more about the aboriginal history, although again she told us in Chinese so I did not understand much. We stayed about 20 minutes looking at the views of the high tropical mountains and the deep river valleys whilst enjoying ice lollies form the very cheap shop. They were very big lollies and only cost about 30p each, the flavours were: peanut, coconut, fruit, and milk.
On the way back down the valley they let us walk for about 1km down the road so that we could take photos and enjoy the views better. The road was very interesting as it clung to the cliffs and had several cuttings and tunnels. The cliff down the the river was a little scary, but fortunately most of the road had barriers along it. Our final stop along the valley was next to a smaller river which had some very large but beautiful boulders in it and some more beautiful blue pools. There was also some more stalls selling local polished stones and BBQ food. Once back at the main coach we watched a film as we drove towards our next restaurant for dinner. We stopped off in a restaurant which was surrounded by ponds with the sound of frogs all around, however as it was getting dark we couldn't see much. The dinner was very similar to the meal at lunch time, with round tables with a vegetable dish, a pork dish, a chicken dish, a shrimp dish and a fish dish. After our dinner we went straight back onto the coach and people started to sing on the Karaoke system on the bus, I was amazed that they has thousands of songs on the karaoke system because I had never seen one built into a coach before. The coach was much more high Tech than any I have seen in Europe, with a large wide flat screen TV at the front and several other flat screen Tvs throughout the coach. The coach also had many colourful LED lights dotted around forming a complex lighting system. The driver was situated beneath us in his own area which was separated from the rest of the coach. The coach was also fitted out with a complex media system, with large speakers throughout the coach and one very large LED lit sub-woofer at the front. The Media system could show live TV, films and Karaoke which included two wireless microphones. The seats also had more leg room than I normal British coach and the seats could also recline further. All this made the long coach journey much more enjoyable.
After Kareoke we arrived at our Hotel which was in Rueisuei just south of middle Taipei. After dropping off my bags I had a short walk with my good Taiwanese friend to see the town, although it was a very small town which mainly catered for people staying for the nearby River rafting or for passing cyclists.