Saturday, October 29, 2011

week 58_Northeast Scenic Coastal Highway to Yilan

It's rare these days that the stars align and my husband and I share two days off in a row together, so when that happened this weekend we considered our good fortune and got out of town!

Taiwan is a small island and is very accessible by public transportation (high speed rail, slow train, buses, subways, bicycles, etc!) but we decided the flexibility of driving a car, and aiming for a nearby destination was probably best --- spending 12 hours on a train, then bus, going to and from a remote destination wasn't quite feasible.

Renting a car was surprisingly painless despite our inability to communicate well in Chinese! Jason booked a cute little Nissan TIIDA online, and the price was probably equivalent to 2 train tickets... less than 2 high speed rail round trip tickets. We used a website for a rental car agency in Taipei that has English service. We hit the road with the general goal of headed towards Yilan, a nearby town about an hour from Taipei if you take the short route --- but we took the scenic route. :)

If you drive along highway 2, the 'Northeast Coastal Scenic Drive,' the two lane highway lies just at the base of the mountains where they meet the ocean. It is scattered with small towns, fishing piers, ports, bays, little villages. It was beautiful and so refreshing! The first town we took a pit stop in was called Dali and had a very large temple (or multiple temples really all grouped together) perched on the side of the mountains, overlooking the ocean.

Tiangong Temple, Dali, Taiwan
My husband, taking in the few from the entrance
View from the top, looking back at the Pacific
Best travel partner, ever --- and an elephant :)
After Dali, our next point of interest was to find a beach! Since I had already visited Wai'ao beach during one of my hash runs[walks] I suggested we head that way. It is just a bit further down the coast and almost to Yilan. As opposed to the larger Fulong beach, which we also passed, Wai'Ao is small and uncrowded. It is a black sand beach with interesting rocks at either end of the wide open sandy stretch, and an abundance of orange seashells. We reached the beach near sundown and decided it was worth another trip the next morning! But after a walk to stretch our legs, we continued with our scenic journey to Yilan. 

When we reached Yilan we found some grub and toured the night market before settling into a nearby hotel - the Grand BOSS Hotel - ha, I'm not kidding, I think we chose it just for the name. The room was decent and offered a stiff double bed for the two of us - pretty typical Taiwanese accommodations.

The next morning we slept in, enjoyed breakfast, and set back out to the coast to enjoy some time on the beach. On our way to the ocean front, we passed through a few small towns and enjoyed checking out the nearby Wulongxi (sp?) waterfall. 

Wulongxi Waterfall ~ Beautiful
You may recognize this black sand from a previous blog post, Wai'Ao beach is small and uncrowded, but is only an hour from Taipei and was the perfect spot for the two of us on a lazy Sunday morning.

Wai'Ao beach ~ Black sand, big waves, and many orange seashells
The beach was mostly unoccupied, and the water had only surfers at this time of year - but 78 degrees and sunny outside, we couldn't help ourselves but to jump in! The waves are great here and the water was only stunningly cold for the first minute or so.  :)

Most importantly, it's easy to get wrapped up in the concrete and buildings of the big city --- it was nice to get out for the weekend, and to be reminded how very NEARBY these beautiful scenic destinations are to Taipei! Now that the sweltering summer heat has passed, it's time to get back outdoors and enjoy it!

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