Taipei, Taiwan, April 2016:Next stop on Taiwan tourist trail is a city on the East coast called Hualien (who are you Len). According to research the place boasts plenty of natural scenery with mountains bordering the city’s Western flank while beaches form part of the cities Eastern edge. A city with a beach – well, that just sounds pretty good after what has been a largely disappointing experience in Taipei, so lets pack the backpack and head on over there.
The cheapest way to travel to Hualien from Taipei is the try and thumb a lift of course! Failing that the next cheapest option is a bus to the next big town and change there to a local train that heads South, they all stop at Hualien. The journey starts at Taipei City Hall Bus Station, well connected by the Metro. Just roll up to the counter there and buy a ticket, no need to pre-book or make reservations as the buses are frequent, about every 30 minutes from what I can ascertain looking at the departures signs. T$209 single trip includes the bus and train tickets, gate 13 and its a blue bus to Luodong. The journey is comfortable enough, its like being on a plane. An emergency safety card in the seat pocket, a safety video plays as the bus leaves the station and the seats are wide – wide enough for those big built Westerners! The journey lasts for just 1 hour – shame because I could sit all day on this bus – all it needs now is a stewardess. After exactly 1 hour the bus pulls up opposite Luodong Station – every one gets off here, its the end of the journey.
Luodong station looks quite a historic building, constructed of brick and even with a tiled roof. The rest of the place looks pretty average for Taiwan – long streets, endless shops and a few cafes. Since I have 1 1/2 hours th wait for the train its a good place to grab some lunch – thick noodle soup, a good bowl full for T$35.
13.16 as the local train to Hualien rolls away from Luodong platform 2B. Quite comfortable seats, if little out of date as wear and tear shows. What they didn’t tell me at the ticket desk is that I don’t actually have a seat! And as the train fills with Chinese package tourists its becoming clear that this might not be the nice easy journey I’d hoped it might be! Yes, I have to move as the Chinese lady cackles at me. Thankfully though there is 1 spare sear in the carriage and I have first claim!
1 hour 15 minutes to Hualien which in theory should be a scenic journey with the Pacific Ocean on the left and mountains on the right. Unfortunately the mist and murk from Taipei has extended into low clouds and drizzle thus ending any hopes of a scenic journey.
Top Tips: There is a tourist train from Taipei to Hualien but needs a reservation at least 2 weeks before planned travel. It costs T$409, £9.08, but there is a seat all the way. Train tickets for local trains booked on the day don’t always guarantee a seat for the entire journey – might just have to stand for a while! Local trains from Luodong are about every 2 hours and expect them to be packed with Chinese tour groups.