Day 2 – Jiaosi to Hualien
We woke up very early in the morning to have another dip in the hot spring bath before leaving for Hualien. Our bed wasn’t the best we had slept on during our various trips the past months. However, the hot spring bath was great to start our day.
We had already informed the owner we had to be at Jiaosi Train Station by 8.30 am to catch a train to Luodong and then take a train from there to Hualien. She had instructed her staff to be ready at 7 am to serve us breakfast where breakfast time was supposed to be 7.30 am.
When we were ready, we brought our bags to ground floor and went to the restaurant and took our seats. A lady staff member was there preparing breakfast. Soon our food arrived. It was a sandwich, a bowl of soup and a cup of herbal tea. Although the breakfast was simple, the egg sandwich was quite tasty.
After breakfast, we returned our room key to the staff and left for Jiaosi Train Station. It was just a short walk away. Along the way, we found a shop selling dim sum items but we were in a hurry to reach the train station early and didn’t have time to sample more food. We reached the train station slightly before 8.30 am and headed straight to the platform to catch an coming train for Luodong. Since we had already purchased our tickets to Hualien the day before, we didn’t have to use our Easy cards this time.
A local train arrived shortly and in 25 minutes, we arrived Luodong Train Station. We checked the information board on which platform to wait for the train line 4144 to Hualien and went to the platform to wait for the train.
Not long after, a train pulled up and all passengers alighted. This was the train that would travel to Hualien and Luodong was the first stop. So we boarded the empty train and waited for the train to leave. About ten minutes later, we left Luodong and headed south towards Hualien. It was barely 9.30 am and the day ahead looked great.
The train wasn’t crowded when we left Luodong. Soon, after stopping at other stations, more passengers boarded the train and the cabin began to fill up. Interestingly, some cyclists came into the train with their bicycles. They secured their bicycles to the poles on the train and relaxed themselves during the train ride. They seemed to be going to Toroko for some cycling in the countryside.
The journey south was interesting and at times scenic. We passed through tunnels and some stretches with beaches and views of the Pacific Ocean. There were countryside scenery and some heavy industries as well as construction works along the way during the train ride.
When we were nearer to Toroko Gorge, the scenery was more captivating with mountains and streams with bridges running further inland from the railway tracks. Many passengers got up to the train door area and took pictures through the glass windows at the same time admiring the beautiful view of nature on this bright and sunny morning.
Eventually, the train arrived Xincheng Train Station. Many passengers left the train including those cyclists onboard. They should be heading for the Toroko Gorge hike and tour.
Now with fewer passengers, the train continued its journey down south. We still could see some mountains and farmlands along the way. With such a scenic train ride, the journey didn’t feel very long and boring.
Finally, we arrived Hualien Train Station. All the passengers got up and waited near the train doors. Hualien Train Station was quite big and very crowded as well. It could be due to the marathon scheduled for the next day.
We made it out to the train station exit and found the hotel staff from Cullinan Hotel waiting for us. We requested for him to wait for us for another ten minutes because we would like to enquire about train tickets going back to Taipei in two days’ time. However, we were told another two guests were already waiting to proceed to the hotel and he couldn’t wait. We were assured he would come back to get us in about 30 minutes after sending these two guests to the hotel.
So we went back into the train station. I queued up at the ticket counter to wait for my turn to be served. When it was my turn to speak with the staff, we were informed that all train tickets going back to Taipei in two days’ time had been sold out. We were told to come back to the train station early on the departure date to purchase local train tickets instead of the express trains.
With nothing much we could do about the situation, we went back to the road outside the train station to wait for our hotel pick up. What we could do in two days’ was to purchase combo tickets where we would alight at Luodong Train Station and cross over to the bus terminal and catch a bus back to Taipei. There wouldn’t be much difference on traveling time as the bus would travel via the express way and the cost of the combo ticket would be NT209 which would be much cheaper than the cost of an express train ticket that cost NT440.
About ten minutes later, the car from Cullinan Hotel pulled up. We got in with our bags and were on our way to the hotel. By the time we arrived at Cullinan Hotel, it was already 12.30 pm. We were allowed to check in so we took our bags and went to our room.
Our room didn’t have any view to talk about with a small window next to the bed. However, the room was spacious, clean and pleasant which was such a contrast from the small little room we had at Jiaosi.
The bed was clean and comfortable and a wall mounted TV was located in front of the bed. As expected, TV programs were mainly local Chinese channels though there were a few international channels. Wifi worked well and we could get in touch with our children back home to inform them of our safe arrival to Hualien.
Bathroom was clean as well that came with a small bathtub. A nice set of toiletries was provided. Two bottles of drinking water were also provided. Everything was in order and we were happy with our room. So we went back to front desk to collect a city map and enquired about tours and lunch options.
It was a little late to arrange for tours for the afternoon though it was still possible but we still had to head out for lunch first. Due to the marathon that would take place the next day, touring of Toroko Gorge was not possible. So the hotel helped us booked whale watching for the next morning and another tour in the afternoon to visit some attractions south of Hualien.
As for lunch, there was a shopping mall just around the corner where we could find something to eat at the food court. However, the hotel staff suggested we could try out some restaurants just a few streets away at Minguo Road which were popular with the locals in Hualien.
Armed with this piece of information, we went out to the main road, turned right to Heping Road and turned left at the traffic junction to walk along Minguo Road. This road was actually quite a long stretch with shops and restaurants on this road. It was a sunny day and was quite glaring during this early afternoon.
We kept walking until it was towards the end of the road where we noticed quite a lot of people entering and leaving a restaurant. So we went in for a look and it was a restaurant that sold rice with dishes where we could select. This restaurant had 38 years of history and seemed popular. As such, we decided to have lunch here and queued to order our food. We ordered a rice set that came with a main meat dish with some other side dishes.
We took our food and found our seats and sat down for lunch. Soup was free and self service so we took two bowls of vegetable soup. Our lunch was delicious. We didn’t regret the walk under the hot sun. This restaurant also served take-away meals and there were people coming and going after ordering their food.
After lunch, we left and walked back to the hotel via another road, Linsen Road parallel to Minguo Road. We found Hualien City rather clean and pleasant. It was an easy walk of under 15 minutes and we were back to the junction near Cullinan Hotel with Far East Shopping Mall at the corner of this junction.
It was 2 pm so we went to the mall to do some shopping instead of returning to our hotel to rest. It was a relief as we walked into the mall to enjoy cool air-conditioning and we escaped the hot afternoon sun. This mall was modern where the main tenant was Far East Departmental Store.
The departmental store was having some anniversary sales during our visit. Clothes and shoes were given great discounts along with the usual higher end goods. Giordano was having great sales as well operating within the store. Muji was also having a section within the departmental store. Branded sports shoes were on sale as well.
The departmental store seemed to be doing quite well. The customer service corner was rather busy. An event hall was just right in front of the customer service section where some items were given deep discount of up to 80% discount.
We spent some time within the store and bought some stuff. Next we went to the basement level to explore. Uniqlo store was located there and we went in to do some shopping well. It seemed like the prices here were better than what we could get back home so we bought some clothes as well.
After that we went to the food court to have some desserts. It wasn’t good at all. The desserts we had at the night market in Luodong last night was very good. This desserts at the food court was rather disappointing.
Finally, we entered the supermarket to do more shopping. This supermarket was quite sizeable. They had clothes, shoes, household products and of course fruits and food. Even branded shoes like Adidas, New Balance and Nike could be found in the supermarket. Not to be mistaken was the Adidas look-alike but instead of having three stripes, those shoes had four which were actually another brand. The supermarket also had a big bakery which was convenient for us to stock up on food items.
We bought some packet papaya milk shakes that were on offer as well as some bread for snacks and breakfast. We bought some cut fruits as well. Having had enough shopping, we went back to Cullinan Hotel next door across the small road. Cullinan Hotel was really convenient and we were glad we chose to stay here especially with the free train station pick up service.
It was around 3.30 pm and it was still bright and hot out door so it was time to rest a while and catch up with the children back home via whatsapp using the hotel’s excellent wifi. Stretching out on bed watching TV and snacking with the food we bought from the supermarket kept us occupied till dinner time.
When the sky grew dark, it was time for us to venture out again. It was barely 6 pm and Hualien City was already quite dark. We planned to visit Zhiqiang Night Market and have dinner over there.
We got direction from front desk and walked back towards Far East Shopping Mall. From there we walked further down along Heping Road towards the flyover but we could not walk on the road. We had to walk below the flyover and then climbed a flight of stairs back up to the road. It was rather dark underneath the flyover though we didn’t feel unsafe at all.
Once back on the road, we kept walking until we saw more lights and some guest houses. Zhiqiang Night Market was there on the right at the traffic junction. It was a good 25 minutes walk. By the time we walked into the night market, it started to rain lightly. The night market wasn’t as crowded yet so we looked for a food stall to have our dinner.
We found one stall where most tables were already taken. We had to squeeze into a corner table near the main road where the owner let down huge plastic covers to shelter us from the rain. It seemed like the soup noodles were quite popular. We ordered fried rice and fried noodles with beef to start our meal.
Our food came not long after and so we got our dinner started. The food tasted fine but not fantastic. After a quick meal, we left the stall as many others were already queuing outside.
It was still drizzling as we explored the night market. This night market was so much smaller than the night market in Luodong. This place was mainly for food and some amusement and not on clothing and other stuff which was less exciting.
The stall selling barbeque stuff was doing roaring business with long queue of customers. They would have to select the items they wished to have and then collect a number. The wait would be at least an hour long with numbers flashing on an electronic sign board on the top corner of the stall. We won’t have the patience nor the desire to waste time that way in a night market.
One of the fruit juice stall was also attracting huge snaking crowd of customers queuing patiently in the rain. We didn’t buy our fruit juice from this stall. We just bought some mixed fruit juice from another stall. It was interesting to watch the locals enjoying their night out at a night market though.
Another stall selling bean curd in the shape of a coffin also had a huge following. We tasted this dish in Tainan some years back but didn’t wish to join the crowd, especially not in the rain just to try out this food item again.
There was a store selling pizza that was done on the spot in a big oven. Of course, fresh seafood stalls and restaurants serving hotpot dinner were available as well.
There were also the usual street food of fried stuff and grilled sausages too where we bought some to eat as we walked around. In the middle of the night market were some amusement shops to keep some night market goers occupied while waiting for their food.
Having had enough of this night market atmosphere, we decided to head back to Cullinan Hotel. We walked back to the main road and hailed a taxi. It was a simple ride where the taxi made a left turn and drove straight over the flyover then passing Far East Shopping Mall on the right and then turned right and we were back to our hotel. The taxi fare was NT125 and the ride was under ten minutes whereas we walked 25 minutes earlier to the night market.
It was not even 8 pm when we reached the hotel so we didn’t spend a lot of time at Zhiqiang Night Market being a much smaller night market mainly for food. We were glad to be back to rest in our hotel to watch TV and chat with the children again.
We had a good day though there weren’t much activities on this day other than shopping in a modern mall near our hotel in which we were glad. This night market experience wasn’t much to shout about so we were rather happy to be back to our spacious room in Cullinan Hotel early to enjoy the room and indulged in some creature comfort snacking and enjoying those packets papaya milk shakes we bought from the supermarket in the afternoon. We nearly forgot we bought cut fruits from the supermarket this afternoon where we left in the fridge. So we had fruits and drinks and snacks again after our night market outing.
Finally, it was bed time and we were going to have a very long day the next day with whale watching in the morning and visiting attractions south of Hualien in the afternoon. A good night rest would be necessary for a complete enjoyment of the day activities planned for the next day.
Continue to Day 3 …