2 weeks free and easy in Taiwan (12 days 11 nights)

Travelling free and easy is really the way to get in and experience the country first-hand. This is the itinerary to our 12 days free and easy trip in Taipei and Hualien.

Three years ago, Married Girl and I decided to take an overdue post-marriage trip to Taiwan. If you have read my previous post on My reflections travelling as a couple, you’ll realise that we will try to mix some adventures into our city travels, just so that both our travel needs are met. If you are looking for a bit of excitement amidst what the thriving Taipei city can offer, this post might be just for you!


Itinerary in brief: Our trip covers the following areas in a loop, across a 12-days period.

SG – Taipei (台北) – Hualien (花莲) –  JiuFen (九份) – Taipei (台北) – SG

Taiwan-Trip-Itinerary
The train runs along the white route in this picture.

What to expect: This is a free and easy itinerary so you will be expected to travel by public transport! But don’t worry, this route is easy as the train passes through all the cities listed. We also took some day-trips to Shifen and Keelung while we were at Jiufen.

Things to see: The highlights of the trip was the breathtaking Taroko Gorge, a bike trip through the amazing east coast highway (Provincial Highway 11), weaving through the Old Streets of Jiu Fen, hike the less travelled San Diao Ling nature trailas well as visit famous city spots in Taipei such as XimenDing. You can check out my other post on Things to do in Taipei and Hualien for more information about the places we covered.


Day 1: Singapore – Taoyuan Airport, Taiwan
Place of stay: Dongmen, Taipei
Hotel we bumped in: Dongmen Hotel (東門旅店)
Total number of nights: 2
Destination covered: Yong Kang Street

To allow adequate time to orientate yourself and to book train tickets out of Taipei, I will recommend that you spend the day after your arrival in Taipei.

Take a bus from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station, where you can connect to the city metro (MRT). You can take Kuo Kuang bus (1819) from the airport. The journey will take approximately 1 hour. Alternatively, we heard that the airport rail has also opened and you can now take a train directly to Taipei Main Station.

Taiwan-bus-to-airport
Buses are convenient and a comfortable way to get around in Taiwan.

You will alight at Taipei Bus Station (note, there is also the Taipei City Hall Bus Station, which is not the same as Taipei Bus Station). Head up to Taipei Main Station (for trains and MRT). After orientating ourselves, we took the MRT and headed straight to Dongmen, where we stayed for 2 nights.

Dongmen is centralized and located on the red line of the MRT. It is three stops away from Taipei Main Station. After checking in, we visited Yong Kang Street for dinner. Known to be the food hub of Taiwanese cuisines, and home to the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant, Yong Kang is worth a visit. You can consider spending a late afternoon here, and cover the area within 1 to 2 hours. Also visit the Shida night market, which is just a 10 minutes walk from Yong Kang street. We still managed to grab some snacks at Yong Kang Street despite the time.

Dinner-at-Dongmen-Yong-Kang-Street

Taiwanese-snacks-fried

In the morning, just below our hotel is a morning market that you can visit.

Morning-market-nuts

Morning-Market-Lotus-roots.jpg


Day 2: Tour around Taipei
Destination covered: Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall / Taipei 101 / Tamsui

We took a walk from Dongmen to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Strolling will take you around 15 minutes. You should be able to cover the memorial hall in 1 to 1.5 hours. If you have not bought the train tickets to Hualien, you can now head to Taipei Main Station to get them.

Chiang-Kai-Shek-Memorial-Hall
The entrance to the memorial hall.

After settling our transport, we wasted no time and headed straight to World Trade Centre Station, with a hope to visit the famous Taipei 101 observatory tower. The place is like the central district of Taipei, cluttered with skyscrapers and shopping malls. We skipped the observation tower as it was crowded, but of course, not without snapping some photos from the bottom of the building.

Taipei-101-Observatory-post
Taking a quick selfie from the majestic tower.

The last stop for the day was Tamsui. Take the MRT all the way to the opposite end of the red line. Stroll along the riverbank or visit the old wharf, revealing what was once part of Taipei bustling trading post. There are many food stalls and street hawkers selling famous Taiwanese snacks and deserts. Sit around and people watch while you snack away at the delicacies. If you have time, you might want to spend half a day to really cover the entire Tamsui. Alternatively, a 2 – 3 hours should suffice if you only want to explore the riverbanks and nearby streets.

Tamsui-street-Taiwan
The busy streets of Tamsui, especially crowded as this is a favourite spot for locals too.
Tamsui-street-artists
Watch the street artists perform away as you people-watch by the riverbank

Day 3: Taipei to Hualien
Place of stay: Hualien
Hotel we bumped in: LangHuaYiDuoDuo MingSu (浪花一朵朵民宿)
Total number of nights: 3
Destination covered: Hualien city

There are two routes to Hualien, either by the Tze-Chiang Express train, or by a combo ticket that offers a local, bus-transit-train, package. For the combo ticket, you will take a bus to Luodong (a city 1.5 hours from Taipei) before boarding the local train to Hualien. No advanced or online bookings are available for the combo tickets, but the tickets will never sell out. You can buy the tickets via the Capital Bus booth at the Taipei Bus Station. The journey time is about 2 to 3 hours for both, but the cost is double for the express train. We went with the express train to minimise the trouble of transferring our backpacks, but you can try the combo tickets if you want to.

Map-of-trains-route-Taipei-to-Hualien
The grey route is taken by the Tze-Chiang Express, while the blue route reflects the bus-train combo package.

After reaching Hualien, we took a cab to our “Mingsu”. The Mingsu was relatively far away from the city centre, located along the famous Provincial Highway 11. If you don’t like to stay in hotels, you can consider looking for Mingsu, speciality lodgings similar to the English Bed & Breakfast concept. Staying at the Mingsu along the highway will offer you a nice ocean-front view, but it can be a hassle getting to town. Public buses arrive hourly, hence, you will need to time your travel if you don’t have your own transport. Alternatively, you can book an accommodation in the city itself, which is probably a lot more convenient.

We still had the night for that day, but we decided to relax by the Mingsu, enjoying the view that opens out to the ocean. You can try to catch a bus to town and visit the Tungtamen night market if you have time. We ate at a food stall right beside the Mingsu, which is also the home to a young couple with the dream of setting up their own beach-side restaurant one day.

Taipei-Hualien-Train-ticket-stubs
Tickets for the express train with an indication of the cost.
Hualien-Sunset-from-window
The view from our balcony: the sun setting across the Pacific Ocean
Hualien-Home-cooked-food
A homely meal at the house of the couple residing beside the Mingsu.

Day 4: Taroko Gorge
Destination covered: Taroko Gorge, Qixingtan

We rented a scooter for the next 3 days to get to Taroko Gorge, and because we wanted to travel down the scenic Provincial Highway 11. We took a bus back to town early in the morning to hunt for the bike rental shops. There are a whole stretch of bike rentals near the bus station (click on the link for the map). You will need a valid driving license and your passport to rent the vehicle. Rental of a 125cc scooter for a day will cost you around 400NT.

Scooter-Bike-Rental-Taroko-Gorge
The winding road up Taroko Gorge can be quite steep at some parts.

Alternatively, Taroko Gorge can be reached by bus from Hualien. The journey to the entrance of the national park is about an hour’s drive. Board the bus station at the bright orange building beside the train station. Unlike city buses that runs every 10 minutes, buses usually leaves every half hourly or hourly. Be sure to check with the station master and grab a copy of the schedule on the day of your arrival, so that you can better plan your trip for the next few days.

The nearest station to Taroko Gorge is Xincheng train station, where you can also grab a bus into the national park. If you are not keen to rent a vehicle, an alternative option is to stay a night at Xincheng or within Taroko itself before coming to Hualien. This way, you can spend 2 days in Taroko Gorge to explore all the different treks. Accommodations are easily available on sites such as Expedia or Booking.com.

Taroko-gorge

Riding up Taroko Gorge

Visit Qi Xing Tan (七星坛) on the way back, which is along the way from Hualien to Taroko Gorge. Unfortunately, it was raining heavily the day we were there, and we couldn’t really do much. Nevertheless, I can imaging the place to be quite charming, if the weather was sunny. Recommended activities including cycling and relaxing by the beach.

Hualien-Qi-Xing-Tan-beach
The rain definitely did not stop the tourists from coming by.

Overall, we spent only 1 day in Taroko, but I will recommend 2 days if you have the time, and include Qixingtan on the second day.


Day 5: East-Coast Highway, aka Provincial Highway 11
Destination covered: Provincial highway 11 / San Xian Tai

We spent this day riding down the Provincial Highway 11. The highway connects Hualien to Taitung, another major city nearer to the south of Taiwan. Enjoy the smooth ride, empty roads, scenic views and warm breeze. This is a must-do if you are in Hualien, whether you go on a bicycle, scooter or a car. There are many pitstops along the way where you can take photos or a break. We travel all the way to San Xian Tai (三仙台), which was nearer to Taitung, before heading back. Just to note, we came across a few traffic police and speed cameras along the highway, so you might want to keep to the speed limit to avoid a speeding ticket.

East-coast-highway-Hualien-Provincial-Highway-11
The bridge that you will pass by as you ride out of Hualien towards Provincial Highway 11.
Provincial-Highway-11-Hualien-East-Coast-Highway
The highway is well travelled by locals and tourists travelling from Taitung to Hualien. Many places to stop for photos along the highway.
Sanxiantai-Taitung-Hualien
Reaching San Xian Tai view point, before we turned around and headed back to Hualien.

Day 6: Hualien City Centre
Destination covered: Hualien City Centre

On this day, we headed back to town to return the bike and visit Hualien city centre. There are many food outlets in the city, but aside from that, there isn’t really much to do. You will probably only need half a day to cover the main central area. Visit the Tungtamen Night Market if you have time, which we missed while we were there.

Hualien-city
Streets of Hualien is less crowded than Taipei. Low-rise building and shophouses line the street.

Hualien-Oyster-Mee-Sua-Stall

Hualien-Oyster-Mee-Sua


Day 7: Hualien to Jiufen 
Place of stay: Jiufen, Ruifang
Place we bumped in: Long Men Ke Zhan Jiufen (九份民宿龍門客棧)
Total number of nights: 3
Destination covered: Keelung Trail (基隆步道)

It might be a good idea to pre-book your tickets out of Hualien upon your arrival, as tickets are sometimes sold out. Due to this practice, we managed to secure the train tickets from Hualien to Ruifang at the timing that we wanted.

Ruifang Station is where you should alight to get to Jiufen. Once you alight at Ruifang Station, take a bus to Jiufen Old Street (Bus 788). Personally,  I will recommend staying over at Jiufen for a couple of days while you explore the surrounding areas such as San Diao Ling and Shifen.

Jiufen-old-street
Jiufen Old Street is on a hill. The view from our hotel overlooking the sea.

While waiting for the hotel room to be ready, we came across Keelung Trail. From the entrance of Jiufen, walk further up the road to find the start of the trail. The hill provides a breath-taking view of Jiufen and the Pacific Ocean. The hike will take you approximately 1 to 2 hours, but is a relatively easy hike. Other trail includes Teapot Mountain trail, which you will need to take a bus to get there

Keelung-hill-trail
Walk up the main road until you see the sign to Keelung Trail.
Keelung-trail-hill-Jiufen
The walk is beautiful, with Lalang decorating the steps all the way up to the peak.
Keelung-hill-Jiufen
From the peak, be rewarded with a breath-taking view of the open sea.

Day 8: Jiufen & Keelung
Destination covered: Jiufen Old Street / Miaokou Night Market

We spent the next day exploring the old streets of Jiufen. Walk up and down the winding alley and stairways, through rows and rows of shops selling souvenirs and food. This is where you can buy home the famous Jiufen Ginger tea with assorted flavours, or try the renown Lai Ah Po Yam and Sweet Potato Balls desert (images below). Expect a crowd, especially on the weekend, as tourists flock over for day-trips from Keelung and Taipei city. We skipped the Gold Mine Museum, but you can probably head there if you have the time. You can take a bus further up the hills to the museum, or to the Teapot Mountain trail.

Jiufen-desert-Lai-Ah-Po

Lai-Ah-Po-Desert

Jiufen Old Street
Shops lined up against the narrow alleys. Especially crowded in the day.

Near mid-afternoon, board bus 788 again directly to Keelung city to visit the famous Miaokou Night Market. The journey will take you approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. Remember to check the timing of the last bus back to Jiufen. Miaokou night market is famous for their seafood, and is a walk away from where you alight. Keep your stomach empty and stroll along the night market to fulfill your seafood craving. After that, take the same bus back and be mesmerized by the night view of Jiufen, as shops and houses are littered with lights. Take a relaxing stroll back to your hotel and rest for the night.

Keelung-Miaokou-night-market
The night market with its assortment of stuff. The market opens at 5pm.
Keelung-Miaokou-night-market
Choose from the many stalls to fulfill your seafood craving.

Day 9: Sandiaoling
Destination covered: Sandiaoling Waterfalls / Houtong Cat Village

From Jiufen, you can easily get to Sandiaoling or Shifen using the Pingxi train line. Tickets can be bought at Ruifang train station. Trains arrive hourly, so be sure to plan your return.

Sandiaoling is known for its tranquil trails and waterfalls, especially popular amongst the locals. Get off the train and follow the train tracks to the Sandiaoling village. Once there, signs should guide you to the start of the trail. Reaching the 3 waterfalls and back should take you no more than 3 hours.

Sandiaoling-Hiking-Train-tracks
Follow the tracks to the village. Grab some light snacks and drinks if you do not have any.

We initially planned to visit the waterfalls before heading straight to Shifen. However, we met some friendly and enthusiastic locals who urged us to continue on from the third waterfall. From the Sandiaoling trail, you can actually continue on the Pingxi trail all the way to Houtong Cat Village. Houtong Cat Village is located one station before Sandiaoling. The trek will take you approximately 4 – 5 hours, and you can basked in the peace that nature provides. We skipped Shifen as we reached Houtong pretty late. Worth a hike if you are a trekking enthusiast, or prefers to be off the beaten tracks. If not, you should have ample time to cover the waterfalls and head to Shifen for other activities.

Sandiaoling-hiking
Continue from the last waterfall to the Pingxi Trail
Sandiaoling Waterfalls
There are waterfalls along the Pingxi trail as well.

Day 10: Jiufen to Taipei Ximending
Place of stay: Taipei
Hotel we bumped in: Rainbow Hotel
Total number of nights: 2
Destination covered: Ximending

From Jiufen back to Taipei, you can take a bus (1062) directly from Jiufen Old Street to the SongShan Station, a station on the Green MRT line. The bus journey takes approximately 2 hours to get to SongShan. From there, connect via the MRT to Ximending, where we stayed for the remaining days of our trip. Same route applies if you are heading from Taipei to Jiufen.

We arrived in early afternoon and decided to walk around the area just to orientate ourselves.


Day 11: Ximending
Destination covered: Ximending

If you noticed, you will not have spent much time on shopping thus far. So spend the last day at Ximending free and easy, shopping for clothes, stationeries and food.  Ximending is a good place to shop. Known as the youth centre, you can get all kind of funky, intricate products or trendy, fashionable apparels. A must-try, however, is the Ah Zong Mian Xian (oyster noodles), opened since 1975. If shopping is not for you, you can also choose to visit anywhere else that you want to see in Taipei.

Ximending-Taiwan-Food
Eat and shop before you head back home. We definitely took our time to explore Ximending.
Ah Zong Oyster Mian Xian-Ximending-Taipei
Ah Zong Oyster Mian Xian, since 1975, is a must try. Located in central Ximending.

Day 12: (End of trip) Taoyuan Airport, Taiwan – Singapore

For the last day, make your way back to the airport. We took a cab as we have too much things to carry.  Also because we wanted a relaxing end to the trip.


Some comments about the itinerary

So that concludes our 12 days free and easy itinerary to Taipei and Hualien. We didn’t pack our schedule tight, as we prefer to take our time to explore each destination. You can definitely tweak the itinerary to maximize the places to visit.

Also, this itinerary consists of a variety of activities, from city shopping to trekking to bike trip, and may not be suitable for everyone. Taiwan is relatively easy to travel, and there are tons of resources online that you can follow up from my blog.

If you like this itinerary but will like to make some amendments, keep a look out for the copy of my itinerary that I am thinking of uploading in the blog. On and off, and whenever possible, I will share the Excel Spreadsheet (primitive, yes, but functional) that I use to plan my itinerary.

Lastly, if you liked what you have read thus far, drop your email and be updated about the Married Traveller’s travel stories, travel tips and travel reflections!

Things to do in Taipei and Hualien

If you are thinking of travelling to Taiwan, read this blog to find out about what you can do free and easy when you are in Taipei and Hualien!

Taiwan is definitely a place that you have to visit once in your life. Suitable for backpacking or just a short getaway, Taiwan caters activities for all kind of travellers, whether you are a city tourist or an adrenaline junkie.

A few years back, Married Women and I decided to visit Taiwan as one of our post-marriage travels (we decided not to have a honeymoon trip, as we prefer to continuously experience the joy of travel!), mixing a bit of adventure with city travelling.

If you are thinking of travelling to Taipei, Hualien or Jiufen, this post will briefly introduce things you can do in each of these destination. I will also briefly cover some tips on transportation, on how you can get in and out of the area. Read on to find out more, and if you like the places that you are reading, check out my other post at the end, where I will provide greater details on how to cover this in a 11 days free and easy trip!

1. Taipei (台北) 

Taipei is the capital of Taiwan. It is a great place to be, friendly locals, products so cute and intricate that you will feel like splurging all your money on them, regardless of whether you need them or not. However, uniquely Taiwan is the exuberant variety of delicacies that you can find. From the famous friend chicken, scallion pancakes to oyster noodles (mee sua), street food and night market is usually within a walk away wherever you are.

Like most cities, it is well connected and you can get around by metro. Below is a quick run though of the places that you can visit while in Taipei, all accessible by metro.

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station, Red/Green Line Intersection)

A dedication to the founder and former president of Taiwan, you can visit the memorial hall to find out about the history of the Kuomingtang, their involvement in WWII or observe the change of guards parade, if you are lucky.

Chiang-Kai-Shek-Memorial-hall-Museum
Paintings depicting significant events in KMT’s history and during WWII

Taipei 101 (World Trade Centre Station, Red Line)

Spanning 101 stories, at a height of 508 metres, many tourists will usually drop off at the Word Trade Centre Station to visit the Taipei 101 observation tower. You will need to buy a ticket up, but you’ll be rewarded with a 360º viewpoint of Taipei city. Around the place are fancy shopping malls that you can visit.

Taipei-101
Taipei 101 from afar.

Tamsui (Tamsui Station, Red Line)

Right at the other end of the red line from the World Trade Centre station is Tamsui. Consisting of a riverbank, it used to be an important trading post. Today, the old streets are lined with food stalls, selling local delights such as the “smelly” tofu (beancurd), barbecued squids glazed with sweet sauce or baked milk curds. This is also a good place to people watch as you walk along the bustling riverbank, crowded with locals, tourists and street hawkers. Visit the old wharf if you have time. Convenient place to visit if you are staying in Beitou, else it might be a little out of the way to get here.

Tamsui Taipei Taiwan
Take a relaxing walk along the riverbank.
Streets of Tamsui Taipei Taiwan
Street murals on walls along Tamsui street.
Tamsui-Taipei-Taiwan
Stop by the street hawkers and grab some snacks as you relax by the riverbank.

Yong Kang Street (Dongmen Station, Red Line)

Personally, I find Dongmen a good place to stay for a day or two. It is quite centralized and price range of accommodations are relatively cheaper than popular places like Ximending. If you are around the area, drop by Yong Kang Street for a walk. It is known as the Taiwan food hub, and home to the famous Ding Tai Fung restaurant. Visit Yong Kang from late afternoon onwards, and take a 10 minutes walk to Shida Night Market. There is also a morning market around Dongmen Hotel that you can visit.

Yongkangstreet-Taipei-Taiwan
Visit Yong Kang from late afternoon onwards for dinner.

Ximending (Ximen Station, Blue/Green Line Intersection)

If you are in Taipei, then you must definitely visit Ximending, the youth shopping district. The place is a reflection of youth vibrancy, with activities lasting late into the nights. You will see both students and office workers gathered around the streets, eating, drinking or hanging out with their friends. We managed to see a youth dance competition going on in the parade late into the night. Again, this place has really good street food that you must try, such as Ah Zong Mian Xian (Oyster Noodles) or the Prince Cheese Potatoes, just to name a few. For people who like shopping, this is also the place to be as you will find lots of fashionable apparels.

Taipei-Streets-of-Ximending-at-night
The streets are crowded even when it is late at night.

2. Around Taipei (台北) 

Jiufen (Ruifang Train Station)

Jiufen-TaiwanJust slightly north of Taipei is the famous Jiufen, known for winding alley of shops and steps (known as the Old Streets). Originally a home to miners until the mines were closed in 1971, the place can still give emit instant nostalgia of an old miners’ town, as you walked through the maze of lanes and alley, and past shophouses that resembles traditional Japanese inns. The Old Street is located on a hill overlooking the sea, and is usually very crowded as tourists flock over from nearby Kee Lung or Taipei city for day-trips. You can’t miss the Old Street once you are at Jiufen. The place is also famous for the Jiufen assorted-flavour ginger tea, as well as the authentic and traditional Lai Ah Po sweet potato and yam ball desert. Activities in Jiufen becomes more latent in the evening, providing a relaxing and repose atmosphere.

Jiufen Old Streets-Taiwan
Packed streets in day. The place is also popular with Japanese tourists due to its history.
Jiufen Desert-Taiwan
Seeing this means you have found the famous Lai Ah Po home made sweet potato and yam ball desert.

There is a beautiful hill near Jiufen Old street, known as Keelung Hill (基隆山道). The trail takes you to a spot overseeing the ocean and the whole of Jiufen. At a height of 685m, the hill has pathed steps all the way to the top and takes approximately one hour to climb. It is definitely an easy but tiring trek, especially if you don’t exercise regularly. You can take beautiful panoramic photos of Jiufen at the peak. There are also other treks around Jiufen, such as the Teapot Mountain Hiking trail that we missed. You can visit the Old Gold Mine Museum if you want.

Keelung hill-Jiufen-Taiwan
The final steps to the peak of the mountains, with lalang lining the sides of the trail.
Keelung Hill-Taipei-Jiufen
Enjoy picturesque view of the ocean from the peak.
Keelung Hill-Jiufen-Taiwan
View of Jiufen from the peak. You can trace the winding path and locate where the Old Street is.

Sandiaoling Waterfalls 三貂嶺瀑布 (Pingxi Train line)

Sandiaoling is popular amongst the locals for its waterfalls and nature trails. From Ruifang train station, you can easily get a ticket to Sandiaoling or Shifen via the Pingxi line. We were initially planning to visit Sandiaoling followed by Shifen. However, we changed our plans as we met some friendly locals who urged us to continue trekking through to see the beauty of the park.

From Sandiaoling train station, walk along the train treks until you come to the Sandiaoling village. From there, there will be signs guiding you to the waterfall trail. The pride of Sandiaoling is its three waterfall, the Hegu, MoTian and Pipa Cave waterfall.

Sandiaoling-Village-Pingxi-Ruifang-Jiufen-Taiwan
Walk along the train treks until you reach the Sandiaoling village. Grab food or drinks here before you proceed.

The hike is simple and fun, with some variations from the dirt tracks along the way
When you reach the last waterfall, you can ascend to the Pipa cave and continue on from there. Follow the trail that takes you to Houtong Cat village, which is one stop before Sandiaoling train station. The trek took us approximately 4 – 5 hours as we took our time to absorb in all of nature’s wonder.

Motian waterfall, on the left is the largest waterfall amongst the three. The Pipa Cave waterfall on the right signals the end of the Sandiaoling waterfall trail. Continue to Pingxi trail from there.

Sandiaoling waterfall

Sandiaoling Waterfall-Pipa Cave Waterfall

It was a beautiful and peaceful trail, with lesser people as we went deeper into the forest.  The trail will lead you to the opposite of the Lion’s mouth mountain, giving you an indication of how the mountain acquired its name.

Signs-Sandiaoling trail
Follow the signs to Houtong Station
Sandiaoling-trail-Shizikou
Can you see how the Lion’s Mouth Mountain got it’s name?

We reached Huotong late in the afternoon, but the trek was definitely worth it, even though we missed Shifen. Nearby Houtong Cat Village, you will come across some abandoned miners’ quarters and coal mining plant.

Houtong cat village-Taiwan
Miner’s lodge at Houtong. I wonder if the mesh is installed after it’s abandonment, or if olden houses was build this way.
Houtong Cat Village-Coal mine
Old coal processing facility. It looks quite interesting to a city person like me who have never seen one before.

Keelung Night Market (Keelung Station)

From Jiufen, you can also schedule an afternoon to visit Keelung and its Miaokou night market, which opens at 5pm. Miaokou night market is known for its seafood, including lobster, crabs, prawns, you name it. The bus from Jiufen Old Street, 788 goes straight to Keelung station. From there, you want easily walk to the night market. However, take note of the time the last bus departs from Keelung station if you need to get back to Jiufen.

Keelung-Miaokou night market
The streets are packed with seafood.

3. Hualien (花莲)

Hualien is about 3 hours by train from Taipei city. Compared to places like Ximending, Hualien will appeal to you if you are looking for a quiescent place to be. Even though it is the largest eastern city in Taiwan, you’ll not find any skyscrapers or highways with heavy traffic. Instead, you are greeted by streets and streets of shophouses and low-rise buildings, with  mouth-watering eateries at every corner. We reached Hualien around early noon and only spent a day in the city. Visit the Tungtamen night market on one of your nights here.

Hualien

Hualien

Taroko Gorge

Hualien-Xingcheng-Taroko Gorge
A natural formation and a wonder of nature. This is what most people comes Hualien or Xincheng for.

Taroko Gorge is a well-known heritage destination if you are in Hualien. We rented a scooter, which is very helpful if you want to do a day-trip to Taroko Gorge. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes to reach the entrance of Taroko, travelling at a speed of about 60km/h.

You can stop at various parts of the national park to explore the treks. There are multiple treks along the national park, such as the Shakadang trail (砂卡礑步道) or the Yanzikou trail ( 燕子口), which is a closed of segment of the old road circling round the gorge. You can also visit the Changchun shrine (長春祠), a dedication to the workers who died building the highway, or the Lushui Geology Exhibition Hall, where there is also a short Lushui trail nearby.

Yanzikou-Taroko gorge-Hualien
Yanzikou trail, you will need safety helmet to protect against falling debris, as you walk along to old road.

We headed straight to the Tianxiang Youth centre as we wanted to embark on the famous Baiyang Trail, known for its Water Curtain Cave. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the heavy rainfall. It was also too late by that time for us to head back to Zhuliu Old Road, where you can experience the breath-taking narrow mountain passage used during the Japanese occupation. I will recommend 2 days if you intend to really cover the sites in Taroko.

Tianxiang recreational are-Tarok
Tianxiang recreational area is also where the Baiyang Trail is.
Taroko gorge-Hualien
Looking at the meandering river and wondering how long these boulders must have been laying there.
Taroko-Gorge-Valley
There are many hidden spots and treks all along the national park. Explore slowly if you have time.

Qixingtan Beach 七星坛

Along the way to Taroko from Hualien, if you are driving or riding a scooter, you can stop by the famous Qixingtan beach. Formed in the shape of a crescent, the beach is where the mountains meet the open sea. You can rent a bicycle and do some cycling if the weather permits, or seat by the beach enjoying the breeze from the pacific ocean. There are street hawkers along the beach, and you can definitely find the famous DaChangBaoXiaoChang (大肠包小肠 , or big sausage wrap small sausage), made of Taiwanese sausages wrapped in glutinous rice. We stopped by the beach and grab some hot food, as it was pouring cats and dogs on our way back, but also because we wanted to   see what Qixingtan was all about.

Hualien-Qixingtan
The beach on a normal sunny day, stretching miles and miles.

Hualin-qixingtan

Qixingtan-Hualien

Travelling through Provincial Highway 11

Whether you rent a scooter, ride a bicycle or drive a car, enjoy the idyllic coastal road and feel the warm breeze against your cheeks as your travel through the Provincial Highway 11, just south of Hualien. We travelled down from Hualien all the way down to San Xian Tai (三仙台), a look out point which was nearer to Taitung. It took us a full day ride through and fro, covering about 200 km in total. Keep to the speed limit as there are traffic police and cameras situated all along the coastal road.

Hualien-East coast hightway 11
Ride through the empty roads along Provincial Highway 11.
Hualien-Provincial Highway 11-East coast highway
Ride though mountains and catch a glimpse of plantations from the high ground.
Hualien-Provincial Highway 11-East coast highway
The mountains meet the open sea again the road stretching for miles.
Sanxiantai-Hualien-Provincial Highway 11-East coast highway
The final stop, a view of Sanxiantai before we headed back to towards Hualien again.
Provincial Highway 11-Hualien
Stopping by the riverbank near to Hualien to enjoy the sunset before ending the road-trip.

4. Our afterthoughts for the trip?

So this sums up the places that we covered over a 11 days trip in Taiwan. With proper planning, you can definitely visit more places than we had, as we prefer to take our trip slow. That said, you should definitely try to cover Shifen if you can, as well as stay a night or two at Beitou in Taipei to enjoy the famous hot baths, which we couldn’t due to time.

Taiwan is definitely an easy place to travel free and easy, if you want to. It is well connected and there are tons of resources online to help you plan. Though language can be a barrier in the rural areas if you can’t speak Mandarin, don’t worry as people there are really helpful and will try to assist you as best as they can. Also, with Google translate, anything is possible now.

If you like what you have read, and want to try planning your own free and easy trip, check out our 11 days free and easy to Taipei and Hualien for more information on detailed itinerary and tips on how to get around by public transport. You can also download a copy of my itinerary there if that is something that interests you!