CCMA's trip to Hualien

Went to Hualien, Taiwan on December 10, 2011

We left ITRI on Saturday morning. During the few previous days it was raining, so I was afraid that we╩╝d have to spend all our time in the hotel. But the weather during the weekend was sunny and pretty warm, so we had lots of opportunities for outdoors activities, and this is exactly what we did. Initially, the organizers of our trip planned that we go to Sea world on Sunday morning. But many of us were in this kind of park before, so we did not want to go there. Instead, we decided to go hiking. Hualien is an area where two tectonic plates collide, thus it has high mountains and in general a rather hilly terrain.

But first things first. Riding to Hualien was a lot of fun. We stopped at some shops that were selling liquor, cakes, and fruit tea, and we made a stop for a lunch at Yilan. Finally, we arrived to Farglory hotel located on top of a mountain near the seashore. If you look on the one side, you will see the ocean. If you look on the other side, you will see Hualien beneath your feet. It is such a wonderful location, albeit a rather remote one. Apparently, people use it as an escape from the bustling city life.

Many people got up early in the morning to use a rare opportunity to take nice pics. Photography is one of the most popular hobbies in Taiwan. Many people carry along expensive equipment in order to get a few really nice shots. For some reason, the cheap camera industry did not really take off here. People are looking for quality and they are willing to spend lots of money trying to achieve it.

But me and Paul went on our regular morning jog. We did not realize that the hotel was located on such a tall mountain. When we were riding the bus to the hotel on the previous night, the ride was rather smooth and quick. Or maybe this was because we were singing karaoke songs. I was in a good mood, so I sang several songs: Words don╩╝t come easy, Yesterday, and something else. So, we spent maybe 15 minutes running downhill. Only after that did we realize that we╩╝d have to climb back on top! What a tough morning jog it was!

Then people went to Sea world, and we went hiking. Actually, we rented a small bus and a tour guide who brought us to some interesting places. He told us that up to a dozen power plants have been built which took advantage of the mountain streams. They run from as high as 800m above the ground, so the gravitation makes it possible to convert the mountain streams into real energy, enough to power the whole city of Hualien! That mountain area is also known for aboriginal culture. They make many beautiful things, for example wooden furniture from Hinoki, a special kind of cypress tree. It smells so beautifully. I actually bought a small wooden vase carved from Hinoki.

Other than that, I kept on taking panoramic pictures. The weather was nice, and the views were breathtaking, so everybody really liked that tour. The tour guide showed us some stones whose shape or color remind a human face, a giant bird, a hand, etc. Try to spot them in the following images. Use your imagination.

Then we went back to Hualien. According to our plan, we moved to another hotel called the Promised Land. This hotel was also very impressive. I should say that in this trip hotels was the things that impressed me the most. Apparently, we stayed in some high-end hotels. I was told that Presidential suite in one of these hotels costs 2000 USD/night. The Promised land hotel is comprised of several dozen 2-storied cottages. They are connected by a network of water channels with motor boats running along. This creates such an unusual and romantic environment, as if you are in Venice!

In the evening I went on to explore the neighbourhood. As with the previous hotel, it was located away from the city, but not on the mountains. I spent about an hour walking though rice fields before I reached some kind of town. I did not realize that in Taiwan there are places where you cannot see any house while walking for almost an hour. It reminded me of Finland, the county of thousands of lakes, where the closest city to the capital Helsinki is actually located in Estonia. That is, the distances between Finnish cities are really huge, you can spend days if you try to walk between them. Anyway, we only spent 1 night in this hotel. Still, I used the opportunity for a morning photo session. Below are the pictures. There are beautiful statues near each cottage. It is obvious, that people have invested a lot into quality here. Everything looks so polished, that sometimes I had a feeling I was in a different world. I wonder how much it costs to build such an awesomeness.

On Monday morning we originally planned to go to Taroko National Park. But the rain began on Monday morning. Our departure from the hotel was delayed, and trip to Taroko was not going to be pleasant or long one. So I decided to join Paul who was going back to Hsinchu by train. We took the express train and after riding for 3 hours were back in Hsinchu. So I was able to get home at around 2PM. I wanted to go to office to write some programs, but a heavy rain started, so I had to spend the evening at home. I was sleeping in my bed after such a wonderful trip. I was really impressed by these hotels and of course by the beauty of mountains.