Counting My Blessings in Hualien

Me and the wonderful Tingying & her friend.

Whenever I think about Hualien, I do it with a lot of love and gratitude. That is because not only did I have a really fun, semi-adventurous time exploring with new friends, but every wonderful thing that happened to me during the rest of my time in Taiwan could be traced back to my very brief stay there.

Hualien truly had a positive ripple effect.

Situated on the mountainous eastern coast of Taiwan, Hualien County is just a couple of hours away from Taipei by train yet blessed with some of the most spectacular sceneries you could find in Asia…

…such as the triple threat Chishingtan beach

with pebbles, mountains & ocean. What more do you want? 

Most visitors, however, come to Hualien for Taroko National Park and then move on. Which, I realized after spending two days there, is a bit sad. There is more to Hualien than just Taroko.

The truth of the matter is I still do not consider myself qualified to advise you how to properly visit Hualien. I only did some scanty researching and planning beforehand; the sole reason I was able to visit the places I visited was the incredible locals I met at my hostel who fetched me around the entire time. Without them, I would have followed a very typical tourist path and probably left without any profound impression. I repeatedly asked myself what I had done to deserve that much kindness and hospitality. Did Longshan Temple have anything to do with it?

Lovely sunset at Chishingtan. Really, it was hard not to feel grateful for moments like this. 

Thanks to my sloppiness (or borderline stupidity? I will let you judge), the Chu-kuang Express train ride from Taipei to Hualien started out uneventful but ended up memorable. As I approached seat No. 9 of cabin 9, I was slightly annoyed to find that it had been taken by a middle-aged woman. “Seriously, Taiwan, you’re better than this”, I thought to myself. However, since seat No. 11 was empty, I sat down, reveling in the fact that I had saved her from some public embarrassment.

Midway through the journey, though, I woke up to see a man smiling hesitantly at me and pointing at his train ticket. I had no idea how long he had been standing there, but I could sense something was wrong. I glanced at his ticket, then at mine.

Shit, I had been really stupid, and worse condescending all along. [Read more…]