East Coast National Scenic Area
Jul 25, 2019
|Again, the typical morning routine and on the road by 8:45. As we were traveling along, we were passing custard apple fields (locals call it Buddha's head) & banana and Betel Nut orchards. Alan stopped and bought some Betel Nuts for us to taste. Jean split a nut in half. We both chewed on it and it had a bitter taste. Jean then tried a whole one with the leaf around it and she commented that the leaf helped make it taste a little better, but only had it in her mouth for about two minutes. It is used like gum in SE Asia, except it gives you a little rush from the juice. Adam in eating his became a little red in the face from the juice, as did others who chewed it.
Today was another hop on/hop off day in the East Coast National Scenic Area, but the stops were a little further apart than yesterday, usually between 30 to 45 minutes. Our first stop was Little Yeliu, which is known for a fantastic assortment of oddly-shaped rock formations. We wandered out to the sandstone formations to see the "Big-Eyed Frog" (excellent), the "Camel Stone" (not that great) and the "Telephone Rock" (Think desk phone. I didn't see it, they must of been high on Betel Nuts when they were naming these rocks). Barbara from Australia found two new formations, pillow rock and baby elephant.
We stopped in Dongheq for their famous pork steamed bun. It was only 10:25 and too early for lunch, but we were encouraged to buy take-away items from the bun place or 7/11 to have as a picnic lunch on the bus later. The bus stopped at the 7/11 and e disembarked and hit the bun shop which was across the street. Jean and I purchased two pork buns, one cabbage bun and a brown sugar bun.
Our next stop was the Sanxiantai (Three Immortals Platform) named for the legend that three immortals once stepped foot on the island (platform) and three pinnacles appeared. The site is even more widely known for the Eight-Arch Dragon Bridge that looks like a dragon stretching across the sea. We hiked out to the bridge to see the Three Immortals and the bridge.
On the way back we decided to walk across Pebble Beach, which is not a sand beach, nor a sand trap on a golf course. They should of named this stone beach or giant pebbles beach. This is not a place to spread your towel or blanket for a day on the beach.
Next were the Stone Steps which were created by erosion over the years. This was a quick photo stop and continue on. Along the way to our next stop, Alan talked about the Pacific migration of island people (He used the Disney movie "Moana" as an example) and how many of the islands and nations in the Pacific have common links.
Fanshuliao River gorge was our next stop. This was another quick photo opportunity. We walked onto the old 18 bridge out over the gorge. Look one way and you see a magnificent natural gorge 100m below, look the other way, and you see the peaceful rolling valley below.
On the way to the Hualien Marble Factory & Showroom, Alan talked about the geography of the region. When we arrived at Hualien, the bus drove around the factory as we are not allowed to walk through the dangerous factory floor. We then disembarked and met a Hualien representative on the steps. She started the 6 minute tour about nephrite, jadeite, sapphires, etc. outside and continued inside. Once she was done with the nickel and dime tour, we were let loose in the showroom. As I mentioned before, Jean doesn't want/need anymore jewelry. I looked at the small statues in various stones that were of dragons, but nothing spoke to me. Oh, well.
Our last stop of the day was in Taroko National Park to see the Taroko Gorge which is 19 km long in the Marble Mountains. The natural beauty one finds in the mountains and what nature does over the millennia between wind and water erosion is phenomenal and beautiful. It had begun to rain, so our hike was in the rain. First Alan stopped and got two bags of helmets for us to wear while we hiked the trail. We then stopped at Swallow Grotto along the Yanzikou Trail. We pit on our helmets and proceeded to walk along the trail. We met the bus on the other side of the trail. The river below ran white from the calcium from the marble and limestone along the river bed.
Hotel Silks Place Taroko was our hotel for the night that was only a few minutes away. We were staying in the National Park! The hotel had a lot of amenities - roof top pool, indoor pool, 6 individual hot tubs with individual controls, movies on the roof at night, Ansi song concert to which we did not go, and more. Unfortunately, they only had two restaurants - one was a buffet which is too much food, or a Chinese restaurant. We chose the Chinese restaurant. We dropped our bags in our room, changed clothes and went immediately to the Mei Yuan Chinese Restaurant about 5:30.
We got a table for two and I ordered the Mangalitsa Pork, which is the pork equivalent of kobe beef, and an oyster in garlic sauce appetizer. Jean ordered the Beef and Bitter Melon entree. The restaurant had two dishes on the table, a pickled cucumber and kimchi which we enjoyed while waiting for our order. The oyster appetizer appeared and I was taken aback. I was expecting one or two regular sized oysters. What I got was about 30 miniature oysters I had to open! The pork entree was very moist and came with a thick sauce, but I also kept the oyster sauce to use with the pork. Jean enjoyed her dish of beef, and yes, the melons were bitter.
When we were close to finishing our meal, the Canadian cousins sat down next to us and the California couple sat next to them. When we left, the cousins had still not received their order. We walked around the hotel to see the roof pol and hot tubs, and the basement entertainment room that was set-up mainly for children. They had a lot of activities for them. Then we returned to the room for the evening to read and type.