Tonight, our dinner experience in Hualien was certainly on the opposite extreme, in a large hotel catering to Chinese tourists flocking in droves to see the Taroko Gorge (which we skipped today….oops), with a large, overpriced, mediocre dinner. That is, unless you are Chinese. Then, there were plenty of full bodied fish, googley eyed shrimp, various types of rice, and other strange and interesting items that we did not risk a taste of.
See the problem of the hotel, was location. Close to the ocean with a great view (sort of), near the harbour, and the cement factory BUT about 2.5 km to town center. And, although we do have a car, we decided the hassle of leaving the underground parking and driving around to find edible options or more likely nothing was outweighted by the sub-par buffet.
We managed to load up on fresh vegetables, fruit, ham and bland white rice, and just when I was getting excited to hit the dessert section, I realized there was ice cream!!! However, my dreams fell flat in two sad stages, first for a lack of anything chocolate (ice cream or pastry) anywhere in sight, and second, for Josh bringing to my attention the lack of sanitation necessary for each individual to scoop his/her own helping from the deep and delicious tub of ice creamy yum yum. So, adequately grossed out, I opted for a pastry that looked like chocolate, but turned out to be red BEAN! What a sad and horifying joke.
Anyway, happiness and sanity aside, let’s talk about how we arrived in the little city of Hualien. Along a VERY winding and slow road, through the mountains, behind tour buses, and other unpassable vehicles, at a very slow pace for several hours (I think 3 from Wulai). Not only was it not fast, but the scenery wasn’t so fantastic either, the most exciting parts were passing through the numberous old communist-era looking tunnels; dark, dingy, and sketchy, with a light every few hundred feet and power cables lining the inner walls about waste high. We relied almost entirely on the GPS (who remains unnamed because we aren’t fond of her “American English” voice for its harsh annoying tones and no particular accent, plus she doesn’t say the street names so she’s pretty much useless so she gets the “mute” treatment).
Out in the day light though, there were all kinds of industrial ugliness to see, on both sides of the highway when things started to open up near the city. Things didn’t get much better once we arrived, but we found our hotel without GPS, instead, using “skyview” navigation (knowing the hotel was tall, we picked it out from the wrong direction destination GPS had shown).
The fancy pants foyer impressed us, but it seemed a little bit like something out of North Korea, set up lavishly, and for whom? It was strange to show up at a huge hotel, having it look like a ghost town until 5pm when the tour buses show up. At least we were wrong about that. The staff to guest ratio is actually more appropriate than we had concluded.
So, with little to do near by we snapped up the free bike rental opportunity that the hotel had to offer, and went for a cruise into town on the path system that lined the oceanside. Sounds pretty I know, and during our ride we could begin to appreciate the effort that they have made to try to beautify a sad little industrial town.
Not sure if we’ll back track to the gorge tomorrow, or continue on down south to surfville…. only time and nightly internet research will tell.