Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On to Taroko Gorge and Silks Place

I am now on my second day around Taiwan as a solo traveler who can’t speak Chinese and only using public transportation. My first stop was Luodong where I visited the National Center for Traditional Arts and had a nice stay at the Sunny Stream Villa homestay. See Day One post here. I am now traveling down to Taroko Gorge and will spend the night at the luxury resort Silks Place in Tienxiang which is 18 km down a twisty, sometimes one-lane road in Taroko Gorge National Park. 

Nondescript Luodong Station

To get there I will leave from the nondescript Luodong station and take what is called a local train that stops at every station on the way to Xincheng, the nearest station to Taroko Gorge National Park. I purchased the ticket when I first arrived at Luodong. The fare was about US$3.50. Cheap!  I had inquired about the express train to Xincheng, but it left late, cost more and it was a standing ticket only. My experience is if you can pronounce the city you want to go to correctly, you’ll have no problem with ticket clerks outside of Taipei or better yet, write down the city and times you want to leave on a piece of paper and show them.

Local train interior

Local trains do not have reserved seats, but on this weekday I had no problem getting a seat. The train was filled with many local tourists, heading to Taroko Gorge. While the train seemed slow going (just over an hour), the view was amazing every time we came out of a tunnel and saw the coast.

Very pretty Xincheng Station

Xincheng station has been redone and is very nice. Half the parking lot was full of private tour buses which is where most of the tourists headed.  If you are traveling on your own, you have two options to get into Taroko Gorge, the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus, and the local bus. Both stop at the bus stop in the parking lot at the left as you exit the train station.  My only goal was to get to Tienxiang since I had toured the amazing Taroko Gorge before, and both buses made a stop there. As it happened, the local bus arrived first and with my “Easy Card” I was off along with the other tourists!

Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus route


Incredible that a road could be built here


The bus made a few stops, but overall we had a quick trip through the beautiful Taroko Gorge and I finally arrived at Tienxiang. I arrived too early to check into the Silks Place resort so they took my bag and said they would email me when the room was ready (amazingly I had 4G).

Silks Place resort hotel

So I had time to kill in Tienxiang. A hike up to the Tianfeng Pagoda was in order in addition to walking around Tienxiang. I had wished Silks Place had a lounge where I could rest and have a drink. They have a  lounge, however, it’s only for those guests who pay extra to be “Retreat Guests.”  So I had my Taiwan beer in the stall across the parking lot. At 3:00 pm I got an email saying my room was ready (I will review Silks Place in my next post).

Tianfeng Pagoda 

Restaurants and stalls across from Silks Place parking lot

Church up above Silks Place

I had reservations on the southbound express train leaving about 10:00 am the next morning from the Hualien Station. This ticket was bought in advance when I was in Taipei. Both the local bus and the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus terminate at the Hualien train station. When I checked out, the local bus was waiting in the Silks Place parking lot. I also have noticed that the local buses do not always keep to a schedule and may leave early, so keep that in mind. After another trip through Taroko Gorge this time by a betel nut crazed driver, I arrived safely at the badly needing upgrading Hualien station for my next destination in my around Taiwan trip.

What happens when two big buses meet on a one-lane Taroko Gorge road?

One backs up.

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