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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hualien , Taiwan

First Day in Hualien, Taiwan ( July 2015 )

From Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station
Taipei Railway Administration to Hualien

We slept in the airport and woke up as early as 3:30 in the morning to purchased our bus ticket in counter 7 to Taipei Main Station and catch our 7 am train ride bound for Hualien. Good thing they provide 24 hours bus service from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station, Bus 1819, Ticket Fare is NT 125 and Travel time of 40-80 minutes (depending on traffic). If you're catching a train in the morning please ensure to be in the train station 1 hour before time. The trains are efficiently on time and leaves a minute after the arrival. An hour early gives you plenty of time to get lost, be in the correct platform, right car train, refund a ticket, have some snacks and most of all have a relaxing waiting time for the train. 

Online Train Booking 
We booked our early train from Taipei to Hualien online. Fare Rates  NT 340 - NT 440, depending on the express train. During the online booking don't be alarmed if you don't see Taipei as the starting point, Shulin is another station before Taipei, it means it will pass by Taipei for other passengers. At the same time don't be alarm If you don't see your destination as the last point during you're online booking. It only means the you're destination is not the last stop, it will drop by to your desired place and will keep going to other stations as well. For online booking you can have your train tickets printed at most convenient stores like 7'11, at a fee of NT 28, or have it printed in train stations for a lesser fee. 

Chu-Kuang Express
Shulin-Hualien ( 7:08 am - 10:03 am )
2 hours and 55 minutes
Normal Rate: NT 340
Discounted Rate: NT 969 / SGD 43 ( 3 tickets ) 

There are other train services like Tze-Chiang Limited Express: either Taroko Express and Puyuman Express, 2 hours from Taipei to Hualien for NTD 440 . We had plenty of time for the day so we took the cheaper price and an hour more of travel time to enjoy the scenic view of the countryside, besides we need our beauty sleep too. Don't lose your ticket even if you've boarded the train and keep it somewhere accessible for last minute glance of train details before boarding , and for the ticket collection afterwards.

Hualien train station to Clearsky Backpacker Hostel. Taxi NT 130. You can ask for an airport pick-up if you want to, we forgot to remind the hostel about our arrival time.

Check in Clearsky Backpacker Hostel
Address: No. 18, Jianlin St, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970
Phone: +886 3 831 5665
3 Days 2 Nights
SGD 95.94 ( SGD 31.98 each )

Hostel Bike Rental NT 100 for deposit (refundable) and NT 5 per hour
Visit: Nanbin Park, Pine Garden and Rainbow Night Market

It was my first time to cycle in the streets. I was scared but I've eventually got used to it after a few metres ride. Our chinese map plus google map screenshots and our sense of direction was put to test during this activity. Our first time, our first day in Hualien and we're on our bikes right away going around the city. There are no turns at all just follow the big road and you'll eventually see the park. 

First stop: Nanbin Park
From Clearsky Backpackers Hostel head to the main road and cycle straight in He Ping Road. Passed by several traffic lights, make sure to give way to cars and motorcycles and keep your bicycle to the sides. 

Second Stop: Pine Garden 
From Nanbin Park cycle all the way to end of the park. Once you've reached the road outside the park, take the Hai Bin Street. We had our late lunch or a quick snack at a small cafe we passed by named California 66 spent NT 410 for lunch. A pricey meal for a great ambiance. Afterwards we continued to cycle straight pass by a small street towards a temple, Kangli Street, Guanghua Street and etc. Just keep your eye on the main road. Once you've spotted Hualien Harbour cross the street to Minquan 1st Street, cycle straight up the hill, then cross the intersection and make your way uphill to the small road that has the Song Yuan Street sign. We were greeted with an Entrance Fee of NT 50 to get inside the garden. ( The picture on the left shows Song Yuan Street, just go straight uphill after you cross the traffic light. )

We cycled back to the hostel, passed along the same signs, this time around everything looked differently so be careful which way you turn. Cycle downhill from Pine Garden in  Song Yuan Street, made our way back to Minquan 1st St, crossed the street again and back to the main road. 

Along the way in Hai'an Road we saw the Rainbow Night Market formerly known as Nanbin Night Market. The largest night market in Hualien. When we arrived there they were setting-up the stalls for the big business that evening. It's nice to see the other side of the night market where its calm and clean. We stroll for a short period of time and went back on the road again. 

Rainbow Night Market 
Address: Intersection of Rd. Nanbin and Rd. Heping, Hualien City, Hualien County 970, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

We had dinner nearby the hostel, just infront of the FE24 Mall. An authentic Taiwanese meal for a cheap price of NT 200. I totally love unexplored restaurants by tourist, you can enjoy the food way better and more importantly its not crowded.

Wanton Noodle Soup
Minced Meat with Wanton Noodle Soup
Friend Tofu
Pigs Heart

We were fully satisfied with our meal but we can't end the night without having a bubble tea. Bubble tea is the most famous drink in Taiwan, the founder of the oh-so-good tasting milk tea. Our first milk tea in the Heart of Asia. The Georgpeck milk tea was just a steps away from the restaurant, we ordered their specialty which is named after the outlet, Georgpeck Milk Tea for NT 90 . 

Just beside the milk tea outlet were these giant watermelons! If only I can drink one more cup then I would have bought that evening. We decided not to leave Hualien without ever tasting these gigantic watermelons. 

As we arrived in the hostel we had some chitchats with the owner, Mr. Robert and two working-holiday students. A pineapple in the center of the table kept our conversations going until it was time for bed. 


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