On the east coast of Taiwan sits a sleeping giant, Taroko Gorge (太魯閣 / tai lu ge). Taroko Gorge is an almost 12 mile long (19 kilometer) canyon with a river that spills out into the Pacific Ocean. Because of its immense size, it’s been likened to the Grand Canyon. Local indigenous people even named it “Taroko” meaning magnificent and splendid for its sheer immensity.
I visited the gorge on the way back up to Taipei from Hualien. There were signs everywhere along the roads, so it wasn’t hard to get to the national park.
A little more difficult was the drive through the canyon. Roads here wind back and forth under sheer cliffs. Two-way traffic is often conducted on an extra-wide single-lane road with drivers pulling over at turnouts.
When I went, there was a lot of new construction happening. This made the drive through particularly taxing.
Eventually we got to a place that we could actually pull over and stop called the Tianxiang Recreation Area (天祥遊憩區 / tian xiang you qi ou). In addition to a restroom, there were benches with a nice view of the riverbed below. You could see huge chunks of marble in the river with the passage of time marked along the edges. The Xiangde Temple (祥德寺 / xiang de si) is a short walk away with a lovely pagoda built along the gorge.
In addition to the temple and restroom, there is a 7-Eleven and museum. We spent a lot of time idling because, as we found out, we were locked into the recreation area. The construction going on forced us to stay where we were until the top of the hour, when they would let traffic through for a short period of time. Not surprisingly, I took my time looking at things in Tianxiang.
The museum was cool in that it detailed the significance of Taroko Gorge as well as the history of the road that allowed the east and west of Taiwan to fully become one. It’s crazy how much blood, sweat, and tears contributed to the creation of Highway 8.
In the 7-Eleven, I discovered some very cute and unique snacks:
Couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a photo of a recognizable brand from the US, Coldstone (though I was a bit surprised to see them in the macaron ice cream sandwich business).
We purchased some tea and ice treats to snack on.
The grapes were really interesting in that they tasted like Japanese grape ice cream on the inside, but the outside had a thin skin that resembled the outside of a real grape. They kind of reminded me of bonbons in terms of the size.
With the top of the hour nearing, we got back into our car to head out. There were a number of people who were also trapped, seen running to their vehicles. We crossed the bridge headed back east towards where we came from and stopped at the eastern gate for a few photos.
Right near the entrance to Taroko Gorge there are a number of indigenous vendors selling various food and wares. I would be interested in trying some of the food next time.
On the road again headed due north towards Yilan, we made sure to stop by one of the eight wonders of Taiwan, Qingshui Cliffs (清水斷崖石碑 / qing shui duan ya shi bei). Apparently you can see the three distinct colors that make up the Pacific Ocean, but it was hard for me to tell. We actually ended passing the actual view point. Instead we stopped more inland where it was impossible to see the ocean cliffs.
We only managed to get the view below after stopping at the exactly location Google says Qingshui Cliffs is. In short, don’t stop at Daqingshui Recreation Area (大清水遊憩區 / da qing shui you qi ou) or go further north to the stated location of the cliffs. View the cliffs from 小清水休憩區 (xiao qing shui xiu qi ou).
There’s so much more to see in Taroko Gorge. I feel like I barely scratched the surface. Will have to come back to see sights like the Water Curtain Cave.
If you’re the adventurous type or find yourself on the eastern coast of Taiwan, don’t forget to drop by. Just be safe if you’re driving and watch out for possible construction keeping you from realizing your plans.