A few episodes ago Catriona Rowntree visited Taipei. It was the first time Getaway
had been to Taiwan and everyone in the team was pleasantly surprised.
For this episode she ventured out of the capital city and was pleased to know that in the last 20 years the Taiwanese have looked into protecting their natural treasures. Seven national parks have been created and Taroko Gorge is the country's new number one tourist destination.
It's interesting that the beauty of the area has been known to the indigenous population for thousands of years. Now tourists are enthusiastic about learning of its culture and traditions.
While it's only about a four–hour drive from Taipei, there is too much to enjoy to make it a day trip, so think about setting aside a couple of days to explore. Taroko Gorge is on the eastern side of Taiwan, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and mountain ranges. It has hundreds of hiking trails ranging in difficulty from leisurely strolls to serious treks.
One the easiest and most beautiful, Shakadang Trail is a 4.4km walk which cuts into the gorge cliff face. A stream runs along a narrow river valley and turquoise water from marble stones flows year round. It's a branch of the Liwu River which cut though rock layers 9 million years old to carve the gorge.
"Shakadang" is an indigenous word for "molar tooth". Many were found when the path was being made by the Japanese and the indigenous people believed the teeth belonged to their ancestors.
Leader Village Hotel
Designed as a small tribal village with indigenous-style cabins, Leader Village is perched at the half-way point of the park. Cabins are double or larger with thick mattresses on raised wooden floors. Lamps and paintings are handmade by locals, and the staff members are descended from the Taroko tribe. You can sit on the porch and enjoy the scenery and peace of the mountains and at night, the stargazing plaza has heavenly sky views.
Dinner could be betel-nut soup with pork, wild boar, mountain chicken with ginger and homemade millet wine. Bulowan performances demonstrate culture, musical instruments and dance.
Tunnel of Nine Turns
The tunnel was constructed in the early 1990s and was diverted to leave the most scenic section open to walkers. There are beautiful rock folds, joints and marble cliffs formed over the course of tens of thousands of years of erosion.
It was hand built by thousands of soldiers and "nine" doesn't really mean the number of tunnels. In Chinese it can simply mean "many". In some places the marble walls are so close together just a thin line of daylight is visible.
Eternal Springs Shrine
The shrine commemorates the 212 military veterans who died during the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway. It has been rebuilt three times because of rockslides and storm damage.
It sits on a steep cliff overlooking the Liwu River above a rushing waterfall fed by springs that never dry. Combined with its classic Chinese-style pavilions it presents fantastic photo opportunities.
In 1987 the cliff by the rivers collapsed and destroyed the pavilion next to the shrine. After 10 years it was restored and is now open to the public again. The stairs behind the shrine take you to Guanyin Cave and Changuang Temple. The bell and drum towers above the shrine welcome the new dawn everyday.
From Tiansiang you can see Siangde Temple on a plateau across the river. Surrounded by mountains, it looks like nine lotuses so it's known as the Jiuhuashan (Nine Lotus) of Taiwan. Since vehicles can't reach the Buddhist temple, it's a very peaceful place. Visitors need to walk across the Pudu Bridge and walk up steps. A round trip takes about 50 minutes. Light vegetarian food is available.
Taroko Gorge in the north-east of Taiwan.
Advance Olympic Travel has six-day packages from Sydney and Brisbane starting at $1590 per person twin share. They include return flights with China Airlines, a visit to Taroko Gorge, four nights' accommodation at Grand Taipei and one night at the Leader Village Hotel.
China Airlines flies 10 times a week to Taipei.
Prices correct at May 21, 2009.
For further information
Ph: (02) 9231 3336 or 1300 668 052
Advance Olympic Travel
Level 2, 64 Castlereagh Street
Ph: (02) 9233 8508
Fax: (02) 9232 7039
Ph: 1800 824 926 or (02) 9627 9208
Fax: (02) 9627 9207
Leader Village Hotel
231-1 Fu Shih Village
Ph: +886 3 861 0111
Visas: Australians do not require a visa for Taiwan if they are staying 30 days or fewer. Passports need to have at least six months' validity.
Electricity: 110V, 60Hz with two-flat pins as used in the United States.
Time zone: GMT +8.
Currency: New Taiwan dollar.
International dialling code: + 866.
Travellers should be "in date" for the standard Australia/New Zealand immunisation schedules and should consider routine traveller vaccinations against food- and water-borne illnesses. Other health precautions may be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor about six weeks before travel. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.