In this last post of my Taiwan trip, we start in Taroko Gorge, a beautiful national park on the eastern side of Taiwan, and finish with my last few days in Taipei for Lunar New Year.
With a hike through a waterfall tunnel and a soak in a natural hot spring at the base of the gorge, Taroko easily became one of the most memorable highlights of my entire trip. It was the capstone of our whirlwind four-day island loop. It was an amazing experience in a beautiful country. And yet, touring the island of Taiwan seems incredibly underrated. Even native Taiwanese tend not to spend much time visiting these sites. I suppose this can be said of anyone– many people aren’t tourists in their own towns– but almost everyone I told about my plan to make a loop around the island would say either “Oh, I visited Alishan/Taroko Gorge once upon a time when I was little” or “Oh, I’ve never actually been. I hear it’s beautiful.”
As a second generation Taiwanese American, was simply grateful to experience Taiwan in this way. I always feel a pang of fitting in and not fitting in, of simultaneously feeling Taiwanese and yet feeling more American than ever when I visit Taiwan, but this trip gave me a new, special connection to the island– to place and space and history– as I made my way through these breathtakingly beautiful sights. How incredible is it that I have ties to this amazing place?
My friend Charlie and I hired a tour guide named Will from RoundTaiwanRound to take us around Taroko Gorge. It proved to be a wonderful decision and money extremely well spent. I was very excited to come across the company online– started by young entrepreneurs, the company does an amazing job of photographing Taiwan’s beautiful sites and crafting tours and itineraries around all of these attractions. Not only do they offer standard tour guiding and driving services, they can also take great photos for you (or lead you to all the best photography sites), and they speak English as well. In short, if you are thinking of visiting Taiwan and need tour services or just want to follow them for photo inspiration, I highly recommend RoundTaiwanRound. Tell them I sent you!
With Charlie at Swallow Grotto
For lunch, we stopped in the aboriginal village of Bulowan where I spotted JEREMY LIN! (Kind of).
Plum wine sipped from the mouth of this little boar cup.
Straight out of a fourteenth century painting.
After lunch, we went on another short hike.
Will and Charlie
The amazing thing about this hike? It ends in a waterfall tunnel that you can walk through! We donned rain ponchos, I tucked my camera underneath, and we walked barefoot through the little stream to the other end.
It’s not every day you get to stand in a waterfall and take photos of it.
Our last destination in Taroko Gorge involved climbing all the way from cliff level down to water level.
At the bottom of all the stairs was this natural hot spring that feeds in to the side of the gorge.
We soaked our feet in the water, manually adjusting the temperature by balancing the hot spring water from the rocks with the cold river water rushing by.
I can’t even tell you how surreal and beautiful of an experience it was to be sitting right down in the stream that we had been admiring from above the entire day.
I love the steam lingering in the air.
Finally, we left Taroko Gorge and caught our train from Taroko station back to Taipei, wrapping up a beautiful day and a beautiful tour around the island.
Back in Taipei, a silhouetted view of the Taipei 101 in the distance.
I spent the next few days in Taipei, relaxing with friends and family and eating a lot of food, as always. Here I am with my friend Jon and four of his male cousins… we ate a lot. Dumplings for lunch, barbeque for dinner.
I got to walk around Taipei with a five-man bodyguard team.
With my own family in Taipei– my youngest cousin
It was Lunar New Year, and so we had a very low-key celebration with our family. Lots of great home cooking.
The day after New Year’s, I met up with my friend Emily in Ximending.
Until next time, Taiwan! Much love always.
Anna is proud to be Taiwanese American and currently serves as the Editorial Director of TaiwaneseAmerican.org. She is a wedding and portrait photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but she’ll take any excuse to travel. Follow her photography on facebook or bookmark her blog at annawu.com/blog.