Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hualien (花蓮) - Taroko National Park Headquarters and Visitor Center (太魯閣國家公園管理處) [Travel in Taiwan 170610: Taroko (太魯閣) Travel Series]



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A visit in Taiwan would not be complete without seeing Taroko National Park.  Its marble clad hills had been cut by water flowing from the top of the mountains.  How can you resist such beauty?  A lot of tourists go here to explore its various attractions.  However, they do not have the luxury of seeing all of Taroko.  The national park has many trails and scenic spots to enjoy that a day trip is not enough to see all of them.  As a foreigner who lives here in Taiwan, I have the advantage of exploring every corner of it.  Are you ready to join me? The luomujie blog will take you deep into the heart and soul of this tourist gem.   See its colors, hear its whisper and feel the sensation of being here through my #TarokoTravelSeries.
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Taroko National Park Headquarters

The combo-bus-train-ticket

When I arrived in Luodong Station, the 4128 local train was about to leave so my next option was to ride an express train.

I paid an additional NTD 73 at the ticket counter to get inside the express train.  However, there were no seats for me but I reached Hualien Station in less than hour.  If I took a local train it would take me 1.5 hours.

inside Hualien Station

Hualien Station with the tall mountains of Taiwan 

The Visitor Information Center near Hualien Station



Get free maps and brochure not just about Taroko National Park but to also other interesting places to see in Hualien.

Our first stop is the Taroko National Park Headquarters.  To get here from Taipei, I bought a combo-bus-train ticket at Taipei City Hall.  I boarded Bus 1570 going to Luodong Station and from there I transferred to a local train which makes a stop at Hualien Station.  The total ticket price is only NTD 209.  Isn't cheap?  More details about the combo ticket can be seen at my post in Taiwan Day 946: I've Been to Hualien Part 1 “The beach without a grain of sand”.

The Taroko National Park Headquarters serves as a Visitor Information Center and it is often neglected by tourists.   If you have any inquiries about Taroko then you can go here to ask questions.  The center's friendly staff will definitely answer your question with a smile.  Of course, I went here with a question on my mind.  Where should I go to borrow a helmet?  

Rock falls are common in Taroko especially in areas like the Swallow Grotto Trail.  Visitors are highly advised to wear helmets while exploring the dangerous but exciting areas in the park.   So where to get it?  I was told that I can get a hard hat before entering the Swallow Grotto Trail.  At Xipan dam, there is also a tent there that lets tourists get some helmets.  

 
inside the Taroko National Park Headquarters



The displays on the sides were very interesting.  It tells about the different hiking trails in Taroko.

A 3D map of Taroko National Park

Look at the red light!

Push one of these buttons to know their locations in the park.

Aside from being a Visitor Information Center where you can get free maps and charge your phone or laptop, the headquarters also functions as a museum.  Get inspired to know more about Taroko through its displays.   There are various trails to try from easy scenic ones to advanced mountaineering type.   Do you want to try each one of them? 

Back in Taiwan Day 686, I did river trekking with friends in Golden Grotto.   We followed the river up to its waterfall source.   It was a very exciting trip and I considered that as my best adventure in 2015.  The following day we went to Cimu bridge to start our adventure in Zhuilo Old Trail.  It was a death-defying 10-kilometer hike and I will never forget that.   So you see, Taroko is more than the gorge that you see in photos.   

What I experienced two years ago was just the tip of the iceberg!  Get awe with the grandness of Taroko National Park when you see its giant 3D map inside the headquarters.   It is one of its best representation.   Press a button and see one of its bulbs flash a red light to indicate the place that you have selected.  Try to locate the headquarters and you will find that it is situated at the mouth of the park.

Hualien Bus Station

bus stop sign of the Taiwan Tour Bus Taroko route

bus timetable

Getting here is fast and easy.  Board the Taiwan Tour Bus Taroko Route (Bus 1133A) and get off the bus at the headquarters stop.   If you still have plenty of time, walk downhill and have your selfie at the East Entrance Arch Gate.  This paifang marks the start of the Cross-Island Highway which is a winding mountain road connecting the east coast of Taiwan to its western side.   





There is a tunnel near the headquarters and behind it is our next destination.  Shakadang Trail awaits us on the other side!  Are you excited to see it?  In my next post, I will tell about my hiking experience in that mysterious valley trail only here in the Taroko Travel Series.
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