When two of my dear friends announced they were having a wedding reception in Taipei, Taiwan at the end of May this year, I couldn’t have been more excited. We would already be in Hong Kong and all of our friends would be coming to our new hood for the festivities. Plus, since Taiwan is only a 1.5 hour flight from Hong Kong, we wouldn’t have to go far for the wedding!
But my pregnancy popped up and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding because my due date is just two weeks after their wedding weekend. I was so upset. After all, it’s not very common to have good friends getting married halfway around the world just after you moved out there!
I was less upset, however, about not making it to Taipei. Taiwan’s a super common destination for everyone here, so I knew I’d see it regardless.
Before our move, my friends and sister told us that they would love to come to Hong Kong for the holidays. But with 1.5 weeks of holiday, we wanted to add on a quick trip outside of Hong Kong that wasn’t too cold, wouldn’t require much travel time, and doesn’t have Zika. Taiwan was the perfect place.
I’ve heard lots of great things about Taipei – great food, great blowouts, great nightlife – but because our friends were coming from New York, they had their hearts set on a more remote location, the Toroko Gorge.
From everyone that I know who has been to Taiwan, no one has ever mentioned Toroko. So while I was down for checking out a national park, I couldn’t say I was overly ecstatic. I was happy enough just having our friends and family visit.
Thanks to a new friend in Hong Kong, we mapped out our trip and left for Toroko a few days after our friends and sister arrived.
We took an early flight from Hong Kong to Taipei and then an Uber to the Taipei Railway Station. It was lunch time when we got to the station, and while we still had half a days worth of travel to get to Toroko, I was excited because one of the recommendations we got was to get the Taipei Railway bento box.
My friends had already done some research on where they and my sister could find vegetarian food, but my husband and I had no clue where to get a “good” bento box. So we hunted. We went from one food stall to the next, and were generally very surprised at how helpful everyone was in translating (or attempting to) what types of bento boxes they sold.
We finally came away with two boxes and several snacks for the group and were pleasantly surprised to find that our friends and sister had also found loads of tasty vegetarian food at a restaurant called Minder. Success!
Close to 3 hours later, we arrived to our next stop – Hualien Station. And from there, a hotel shuttle took us to our destination for the evening – the Silks Place Toroko.
The overall journey was long, starting at 6:30am and arriving close to 6pm, but well worth it. The drive to the hotel was so stunning as it took us from Hualien through the Toroko Gorge to our hotel. It was then that we got our first taste of the beauty of the gorge.
The resort itself is beautiful. It’s meant for rest, relaxation and yoga retreats etc. and the decor suited it perfectly. It was elegant, serene, and minimalist from the lobby to the rooms. There were even little cups of hot ginger tea waiting for you in the lobby.
We checked in, grabbed dinner in one of the two restaurants in the hotel (one was all Chinese while the other had a buffet – we opted for the buffet), and tucked in for the night knowing we’d have to wake up early for our all-day tour of the gorge that we booked through the resort.
In the morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel and stepped outside thinking we’d be with a big tour group (which I was not excited because I’m not a fan of big tour groups), but were pleasantly surprised when we were taken to a van that was meant only for us. We were also given lanyards for our water bottles that made me smirk each time I grabbed it. But, hey, can’t complain about convenience.
The Toroko Gorge was absolutely stunning. The crazier part was visually realizing that this serene park was originally limestone that was compressed into marble…all of it! We were taken to about 5 different locations to see different aspects of the stunning formations and loved all of it.
We walked across the gorge at various points, and went up to a Buddhist temple for a quick round of meditation and to ring the big bell at the top.
It was really stunning.
For lunch we were taken to a sort of a “hill station”. I couldn’t say where it was exactly, but while the non-vegetarians went for the fresh buffet, the vegetarians also received an amazing spread, freshly cooked as we walked in.
We were in Toroko during the dry season, so it was hard to imagine the marble beauty being hidden by the water that fills up the gorge in the rainy season. But I’m sure it’s just a different type of beauty, potentially with different types of water related activities as well.
To me, the Toroko Gorge isn’t a place where you see a million different natural sights, but a stunning, natural beauty that’s meant to be taken in from different angles. You do this by walking along the little hike paths all along the gorge. Even during the dry season, there’s a fair bit of water running through the gorge in certain parts. And if you look closely enough, you might catch a waterfall or two.
You could spend about two days going to various locations in the park and hiking around. Probably longer if there’s a yoga retreat involved. It’s a great destination for a quiet getaway.
I’d also highly recommend Silks Palace Taroko to anyone visiting the area. The only thing is that while they had an amazing spread of food for breakfast and dinner, my husband and I were underwhelmed by the dinner options. My sister and our friends however were offered a lovely spread of vegetarian options specifically made for them. So while most folks worry that you won’t find good vegetarian food in Taiwan, it’s quite the contrary. I found myself wishing I had ordered their vegetarian spread as well.
So, you’re ever planning on visiting Taiwan, don’t just stop at Taipei (though I’m definitely planning to spend some time there), but consider checking out Toroko or one of the other eight national parks in Taiwan I was shocked that there are nine national parks in Taiwan!. And if you do make it out there, please let me know!
Blog edited by: Betty Ho