The Most Beautiful Spot In Taiwan

If someone had told me that one of the most beautiful natural sights we'd see on our whole trip would be in Taiwan I wouldn't have believed them. You cannot visit Taiwan without visiting Toroko Gorge. Relatively unknown outside of Taiwan and China, it lies on the east coast near Hualien, where we were based. Toroko is one of those places that looks good in photos, but no photo can capture the scale and beauty of actually seeing it. I certainly didn't expect to be as blown away by it as I was. There are 3 ways to see the gorge - by bus, getting off at sites you choose, by taxi or by scooter. Taxi was never an option for us on a budget, and the bus sounded a bit restricting. And we of course love riding scooters….so you know what we chose. I was a bit apprehensive about renting one because a lot of information online said that foreigners could only rent a 50cc model, which would have been painfully slow up and down hills with 2 of us on it. But luckily it wasn't a problem to get a nice fast 125cc model, albeit at a relatively high price compared to Southeast Asia. Taiwan not only builds some ugly scooters, they are also exceedingly uncomfortable. Our model had no pop out footrests for Katy, only the edge of the drivers footboard, so she was forced to sit with her knees at right angles and I was squished forward with my leg digging into the ignition key. It wasn't a good start.Luckily we just about managed to keep comfortable on the very uninspiring 20km ride from Hualien to the start of the gorge. The first essential stop is the information centre, purely to get a decent map. There was also an area to view the gorge where many people including us stopped, but compared to what was to come it was a waste of time.
Our first stop was the Eternal Spring Shrine. The small shrine is attractive but unremarkable, if it wasn’t for the epic surroundings. The sight of the shrine and clifftop temple dwarfed by the scale of the gorge is incredible. It does involve a walk through some caves with unnerving warnings telling you not to stop in case of falling rocks, but luckily we survived.We carried on into the gorge and came across an actual rock slide – a giant one. A huge chunk of the hill had collapsed onto the road and while they had cleared the road just about, huge boulders lay everywhere. Quite scary.After a while we reached Swallow Grotto, so named for the masses of swallows nesting in holes in the rock. This area is all about the view, it is where Toroko Gorge is at it’s most stunning. There is supposed to be a trail to follow but this was closed, presumably because of fallen rocks. This was to become a theme of our day. So we scooted on, stopping approximately every 3 seconds as an even more beautiful view was visible.