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Published: February 23rd 2013
There is a place in Taiwan where things are different. There is a place where the grey concrete of Taipei seems so far away. There is a place where the blue is bluer, the green is greener, marble stones shine in all the colours of the rainbow and the clouds hang lower.
I am not talking about Neverland and I am not Peter Pan or Michael Jackson for that matter... What I want to talk about in this entry is the wild east of Taiwan, a rough landscape with towering peaks of more than 3.000 meters and crystal clear water meeting the rocky cliffs of the coastline. According to popular belief is is this part of the island that has given birth to its alternative name 'Formosa', i.e. the beautiful island. Portuguese sailors centuries past are believed to have acknowledged the beauty of the landscape by baptizing it with the name which is still commonly used when speaking about Taiwan.
One place in particular sums up the beauty of the wild east, namely the Taroko Gorge. Hitting the top of Taiwan's most visited tourist destination the gorge is no other than (as the name suggests) a narrow canyon following
Narrow section of the gorge
the course of a small river through humongous mountain peaks. So what is that special about Taroko you might ask. Considering that the island's center is almost entirely formed by a landscape of more than 3.000 meter peaks embedded in clouds what makes this little strip of land so different?
Well, as the title suggests the secret of Taroko lies in its colours. Having spent most of my life among the peaks of the Italian Alps I have had my fair share of mountains and I am pretty hard to impress in this specific matter. Taroko anyhow is different. First of all, the walls of the gorge are pure and neath marble. Yes, you got it right. The place is completely made of marble! Not only is it marble, but it is marble which shines in all colours of the rainbow when the sun hits it. If this would not be enough, the small stream following the gorge displays the bluest water I have ever seen. If we would be talking about China I would bother to ask if somebody actually put some colour in there but considering we are talking about ROC and not PRC I guess thats
Flowers add to the colour spectrum
just how nature made this place!
If this doesn't convince you for a visit, there is a little more to the gorge. While not necessarily a hub of culture, there is one small village which (understandably) cathers mostly to tourists. When I am talking about a village I actually mean only a small conglomerate of houses (about 5-10 I would say) with some very mediocre tourist-aimed food stalls along its core. While there is not other choice for rest really, the surroundings of the place make you almost forget what you are eating and/or drinking so I guess thats forgiven and forgotten. Next to the village there is a fairly interesting (and highly freuqented even by religious followers) Buddhist temple towering over the narrow section of the gorge. It is particularly interesting to walk up there and take a look on Taroko from the top.
Within the most visited parts of the gorge there are several hiking trails of different levels of difficulty, but as we went by motorbike through the place we did not stop too long and took only short ways up hills and down to the river beds. If you are a hiker I am
anyhow convinced you will love the place. If you are a realy daredevil you can actually follow up the gorge through the moutainours labyrinth of central Taiwan which would eventually bring you (after about 3 days by bus, thats what people say) to the West of the island. As our time in Formosa is restricted (and THH has some degree of motion sickness) we had to pass on this one...
Anyway, if you ever happend to be in this part of Taiwan, do not spend a lot of time hanging around in the capital Hualien.. We have explored the town large and wide and except a mediore riverside promenade and some great pork buns at the market, there is nothing which can even nearly keep up with what Taroko has to offer.
This is it from the wild east of Formosa... keep on moving!
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