Is Taroko National Park Tawan's best kept secret? That is the impression I got during a recent visit. Nobody else I talked to on the trip had ever heard of it before. And when I ask my friends in Hong Kong – both expat and Chinese – I get the same response.
“Taroko Gorge? Never heard of the place!”
For most foreign visitors to Taiwan, Taroko National Park is a brief stopover on a whirlwind trip around the island. Most don't even spend the night there, staying in hotels in the Hualian, the nearest city, instead.
They are driven through the park in tour buses, disembarking for brief strolls through Taroko Gorge at a few key locations. The buses then make U turns, heading back down the mountain.
And for my money, it is a shame.
Taroko National Park is located at the eastern end of Taiwan's Central Cross Island Highway. Covering 227,336 acres, it spreads across the counties of Hualien, Nantou, and Taichung. Within its confines of the park are Mount Nantou, which rises 3,742 metres above sea level, and a beautiful coastline fronting the Pacific Ocean. Taroko Gorge, with its craggy marble cliffs, runs through its heart.
I could spend a long weekend there. Better yet, an entire week!
To Be Continued
Writes Suellen Zima of Laguna Woods, California:
I could have told you about the wonders of Taroko Gorge in 1990. I was living and teaching in Taichung, Taiwan, and found the pollution really terrible. When I told other teachers that I was overwhelmed by the pollution and had to breathe some decent air, they recommended I go to the other side of the island to Taroko Gorge.
They were very right! I remember going there during a teaching break and just breathing deeply over and over. I discovered that good air was air you couldn't see, couldn't smell, and didn't feel like lead in your body. Years later, when I returned to stay a couple of months in Taiwan, I headed for Hualien near Taroko Gorge. It was a totally different experience from the over-busy, over-polluted side of the island.
14 September 2010 (via email) Suellen is author of Memoirs of a Middle-Aged Hummingbird.
Copyright: Michael Taylor Pictured: Wen Shan, Taroko Gorge, Taiwan Photo Credit: Silks Place Taroko