After almost three months of no traveling, the stress started building up and I couldn’t wait for a chance to travel domestically after the COVID-19 calmed down in mid-April. Around the same time last year, we also visited Hualien and Taitung. This year, we skipped Taroko and focused more on a mix of relaxing and biking.
Glamping at Hayaku (海崖谷)
We used to camp a few times a year in the US, and I really missed falling asleep with the sounds of nature. Out of convenience, we checked out this glamping site with an ocean view that opened less than a year ago. In addition to campsites, they also had a cafe open to the public with 100 NTD entrance fee. However, since this place got more popular these days on the news, the serene vibe was sort of lost to the crowd and noise throughout the day. Still, we enjoyed the spacious tent with an egg chair and BBQ dinner on the makeshift grill. The weather was too cloudy to see the sunrise, but the accessible view of the sea was already calming me down.
Biking in Hualien
The most popular bike route in Hualien was probably the Liangtan path (兩潭自行車道), and suitable for all levels. The route connects two lakes, Chihsingtan Lake (七星潭) in the north, and Liyu Lake (鯉魚潭) in the south. The path is 35.5 km / 22 mi, and takes about 3.5 hours each way. Since we also wanted to explore the sights along the route, we split the path into two days – one day biking north and the second day south starting from the train station (where we stayed) between the two lakes.
Biking south to Liyu Lake (鯉魚潭)
Ji’an shrine (慶修院)
During Japan colonization days, the current Ji-an village (吉安鄉) used to be called Yoshino (吉野村), a village where around 300 people from Japan immigrated to. The shrine was built for the Japanese residents, with 88 stone Buddha sculptures from Shikoku, Japan. It is the most well preserved Japanese shrine in Taiwan, with the purification trough and wooden architecture that are rare in Taiwanese temples. We parked our bikes outside and walked around the shrine for a bit, immersing ourselves in this level 3 historic site.
Military Memorial (軍人忠靈祠)
We stopped by this memorial park after biking a bit away from the Ji’an Shrine in the field. The memorial was guarded by retired military monuments, a tank and a missile from previous wars. After following the steps up to the memorial, a river surrounded the building with paths around to walk on. It was a quiet place and where servicepeople are buried, and we walked around the platform to see a view of Hualien and learned about a few more military monuments.
We biked around the lake on a well-maintained bike path. Along the path, there were also entrances to the Liyu Mountain hiking trails tailored for different goals. It rained consistently when we biked, so we just biked the loop quickly. Bike and boat rentals were also available.
Coffee break at Venice Garden Cafe
This was a very cute cafe of a homestay near the Liyu Lake visitor center, and perfect for us to have a coffee/tea break. I got a lavender milk tea and sat around for half an hour to take in the lake view in this nicely decorated garden.
Coffee/tea break at containers-style Starbucks
We stopped by this unique Starbucks made of shipping containers from around the world, each container was marked with the ports it had been to. Due to COVID, it was less crowded than last year and we got seats by the window with a view of the parking lot. It was a perfect tea break for me after about the ride from Liyu Lake, and right by the route 11 that connects to the dedicated path by the ocean. I enjoyed an iced matcha latte, while Tony had a large iced Americano.
Biking north to Chihsingtan (七星潭)
The ride from the train station to Chihsingtan Lake was much shorter than the ride south to Liyu Lake. It took us half an afternoon round trip, with a lunch stop at Jia Curry and 7-11 to acquire a poncho and bottled water. The path was really nicely paved and isolated from the traffic. Along the way, we passed by some interesting spots like an industrial seaport, a concrete factory, and an eco-park that used to be a dumpsite. The path ended at the beach, Chihsingtan. There were some cafes around and people fishing, we hoped to stay longer but the rain started pouring down.
Thick chewy egg pancake at Yi-Wei Breakfast (怡味)
We biked to this breakfast shop on our last day, I felt like I had to try this place for the special egg pancake. It was somewhat full inside, the menu was simple – gyoza and pan-fried buns were self-service. We shared an egg pancake, two pan-fried buns, and iced soymilk. The egg pancake was different from the common styles, the dough was thicker and slightly fried. I loved the flavor after chewing the dough, and it went very well with the soymilk.
Black tea & instant noodles at Li-Ming Breakfast (黎明紅茶)
This breakfast place was just a few blocks away from Yi-Wei Breakfast above. The seatings were outdoors, and we got two iced black tea, a basal egg pancake, and instant noodle soup. I haven’t had noodle soup for breakfast for a long time, and it warmed me up for the day of a long bike ride to Liyu Lake.
Jia Curry (家咖哩)
This curry house was founded in 2006 in Hualien, and now had a few locations in other cities. We went to the HQ for lunch at the beginning of our bike ride north to Chihsingtan Lake. Each curry entree comes with a salad, drink, and dessert. I had the southeast Asian style chicken curry, and it was really tasty with the surprise egg dessert at the end.
Yu-Feng Sushi (御楓壽司屋)
We stopped by this sushi restaurant for lunch near the Shoufeng train station after Liyu Lake. Everything tasted so good after a bike ride, and I especially enjoyed the seared salmon and shrimp fried rice.
Salt Lick BBQ (火車頭烤肉屋)
We stumbled upon this western-style restaurant during their Happy Hour 5-6 pm on our walk to the night market. Their beer list was all from local breweries in Taiwan, and Tony got a lager from Redpoint Brewing Co. in Daan, Taipei. This was the first restaurant I’d found deep dish pizza, though we didn’t get a chance to try it due to its 45-minute minimum wait time. We got gumbo and pizza, and had way too much leftover for breakfast the next morning.
Probably due to COVID, lodging was really affordable near the Hualien train station – our homestay at Hualien Turkey (家鄉民宿) (the husband is from Turkey) was 2700 NTD / 90 USD for two nights. We had a comfortable stay, and it was really nice having bikes around for breakfast and night market that were 20-minute walk at least. Unfortunately, many vendors were closed at Dongdamen night market and we missed the shaved snow place that we had been craving.
We had a wonderful getaway in Hualien, exploring the local scenery with bikes this time. After more training, I’d love to come back to bike longer distance (maybe someday bike from Hualien to Taitung). I also hope the vendors at the night market and local businesses bounce back from the pandemic soon. We will certainly be back to this beautiful part of the east coast, hopefully with better weather next time!