We got up really early (5AM) and headed to the airport. If you're staying in downtown Taipei, Edison will pick you up at your hotel. We were a little too far off the beaten path, but *luckily* had no issues catching a cab that early.
The airport coordinator gave us a little sticker at Song Shan Airport so that the tour guide in Hualien would know who she was looking for. They completely checked us in, too, and we literally walked through the gate 5 minutes before it took off. It was nerve wracking since we're so used to having to be at the gate 30 minutes before the flight takes off or whatever, but it worked out and we were happily on our way!
Our next stop along the touristy path was Shakadang Trail. It was put in for tourists, like us, to check out the rock formations and ecosystem along the river. Our tour guide was awesome, but there were time when she was telling us to look at stuff and we had no idea what she was talking about. For example, it took the entire group about 20 minutes to realize that she was pointing out a beehive by saying, "killer bees." By the end of the trip, a group of us had made it a game to see who could figure out what she was saying first.
We, then, walked through Swallow Grotta Trail where we got to wear fancy hard hats. When I asked Mark why he thought we had to wear them, he told me it was in case of falling rocks. Then, he threw a rock at my head and said, "See! That's why!" Awesome, thanks... Haha! At the end of the trail, we stopped at a little roadside cafe spot where we had some of the best kettle corn that I've ever had before. I still think about that popcorn.
I'm feeling a little bit like Buddy the Elf at this point... ya know, how we traveled from the North Pole?! Anyone... anyone??? Okay, moving on! We traveled through the Tunnel of Nine Turns (get the reference now?) and headed for this beautiful bridge and gazebo. It was by far my favorite scenic view of the day and I have no idea what it's called. I don't know what it was about that gazebo, the red bridge, and the mountains but it moved me. Yes, it was that serious!
We stopped at another random roadside cafe for some hot cocoa and coffee. Then, we headed towards our lunch destination, Silks Place. At this point we were pretty hungry, but decided to explore a little before going inside. Mark got his yoga on and then we sprinted to the restaurant... just kidding, but only because our legs were too tired. Lunch was great and never ending. Almost the entire table was a Lazy Susan and the food just come coming out. I don't even know how many courses it was, but it was all delish!
We wrapped up the gorge tour with a pretty little bow called the Eternal Spring Shrine. It commemorates the memory of 212 veterans who died while constructing the highway. Can you imagine if we paid tribute to people in the states like they do in other parts of the world? This is such a beautiful gesture and all for construction workers. Think about it...
The end of the entire tour was at the marble factory, Chi Hsing Beach, and Hualien Stone Sculptural Park. I got a beautiful pair of earrings from the marble factory (they're jade, not marble). Then, Mark and I snagged some stones to bring home from the beach. After the beach we made it to the train station with just enough time to grab some Family Mart snacks and head back to Taipei. The train ride was about 2 hours, but I slept most of the way.
We had an absolutely fantastic time on our last day in Taiwan and overall! We can't wait to plan our next adventure and I look forward to having lots more to chat about. Cheers!