Temple

Stairs to the Xiangde Temple

The eastern coast of Taiwan is beautiful, with mountains rising straight out of the sea to enormous heights.  Over centuries, the Liwu river has carved through the marble and granite to create the stunning Taroko Gorge.

The engineering feats required to build roadways, tunnels, and bridges along the gorge are nothing short of miraculous, and are rivaled only by the incredible natural beauty of the sheer cliff faces, raging river, and abundant waterfalls.  And yet access to the gorge is only a few hours outside of Taipei.

Following one hiking trail might lead to a hidden temple in the mist, straight out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Another trail might bring you to a remote waterfall, and yet another to a cascade of water inside a dark cave.

The small village of Tianxiang is in the center of it all, in the middle of Taroko National Park.  We stayed at the 5-star Silks Place hotel, where we could get easy access to the hiking trails by day and relax in the roof-top heated pools at night.

Xiangde Temple

Xiangde Temple Pagoda and Buddha on a Hilltop

Inside the Xiangde Temple Pagoda

Inside the Xiangde Temple Pagoda

Getting My Zen On

Getting My Zen On

On the Pacific Ring of Fire, Taiwan is no stranger to earthquakes.  At the entrance to the park, the welcome booth offers free helmet loans.  And if the signs on the roads warning of rock slides weren’t enough of a warning to be on alert, the large rocks on the paths should drive the message home.  Several hiking trails were closed while we were visiting due to recent rock slides

The Baiyang Waterfall trail was our favorite, winding along the river through numerous tunnels.  Many of the tunnels were long and curved, so no natural light was visible from within.

Tunnel on Baiyang Waterfall Trail

Tunnel on Baiyang Waterfall Trail

View from a Cave on Baiyang Trail

View from a Cave on Baiyang Trail

One of Many Waterfalls

One of Many Waterfalls

At the end of the trail was the famous Water Curtain, a natural spring spilling out of the ceiling of a tunnel (very cool!)

Entrance to Water Curtain Cave

Entrance to Water Curtain Cave

Water Curtain

Water Curtain

We explored some of the park on a tour with the hotel, walking through the Swallow Grotto and the Tunnel of Nine Turns.

That is a lot of Kitchen Counters

That is a lot of Kitchen Counters

Bridge over the River Liwu

Bridge over the River Liwu

Many of the vistas were so massive that they just won’t fit through the lens of a camera.  Even a panoramic shot can’t do the place justice, as the views were as tall as they were wide.  Instead, I tried an app called Occipital 360Panorama to try to get the whole view



After a nice day exploring, it was nice to return to our luxurious accommodations for a nice meal and a soak in the hot tub.  You almost didn’t need to leave the hotel to get great views

Rooftop Hot Tub

Rooftop Hot Tub

If our schedule in Taiwan allows, we would like to return for a few more days and explore more of the trails.  There are some longer trails higher up in the mountains that require permits, and a few nearby camping options

$:
All inclusive hotel package, including one night stay, round-trip transportation from the Hualien train station, dinner, brunch, and an organized tour cost: 8500 TWD (~$283)
Round-trip train ticket from Taipei to Hualien: 792 TWD/person (~$26)

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