Thursday, November 26, 2015

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: Hualien 花莲 - Qingshui Cliff 清水断崖

Photo By: Elin Chow
Address: Suhua Road, Sioulin Township, Hualien Country, 972, Taiwan 花莲县秀林乡苏花公路

Leaving Qixingtan Scenic Area 七星潭风景区, we continued our journey north from Hualien 花莲 to Su-ao Township 苏澳市, Yilan Country 宜兰县 via the Suhua Highway 苏花公路 with a brief stop at Qingshui Cliff  (also known as Cingshui Cliff or Chingshui Cliff) 清水断崖.

Qingshui Cliff  清水断崖

Located 20 minutes drive from Qixingtan Scenic Area, Qingshui Cliff is a seaside viewing location in Taroko Gorge 太鲁閣. Named as one of the eight wonders in Taiwan, Qingshui Cliff is a 21 km length of coastal cliffs rising vertically from the Pacific Ocean.

Averaging over 800 m above sea level, the scenic attraction offers some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the country. Standing at a 2408 m above sea level, Qingshui Mountain is considered the highest coastal cliff in Taiwan.

There are many viewing platform along the Suhua Highway where you can view the magnificent coastal scenery.

The 118 km long Suhua highway is the only highway connecting Su-ao Township, Yilan and Hualien City, Hualien. It is built with many tunnels, directly into the cliffs, 800 meters above sea level. Some roads were almost impossible to build due to extremely steep cliffs at certain section of the highway.

Recently named as one of the most dangerous road in the world, the highway is known to be especially vulnerable to landslides and falling rocks during earthquakes and typhoon seasons. The roads are often closed due to frequent falling rocks from the mountains along the highway after earthquakes or heavy downpours.

It was a hot and sunny day when we visited Hualien. We drove miles on a bright blue day with dazzling azure ocean on our right and lush green cliffs on our left. Exiting Chongde Tunnel 崇德隧道, we parked at the observation deck at the north side of the tunnel, 182.5 kilometers along Su-Hua Highway.

Most visitors would visit Taroko Gorge without making a stop at Qingshui Cliff. Thus, the area is rarely overwhelmed with tourists. However, occasionally, a few tour buses will still stop to let visitors alight off, snap a photo or two before continuing down the road.

Hiring a car is perhaps the best way to experience the natural beauty of Hualien. You may choose to rent a car for self-drive or engage a local driver to drive you around. There are many scenic locations along the highway where you can stop to admire the scenery and snap some keepsake photos. Hiring a car would provide you the freedom and flexibility to explore the area at your own pace.

Suhua Highway is perfect for anyone who enjoy breathtaking scenery and stunning ocean view at every turn. However, please note that most of the roads are narrow and winding with many blind curves. So make sure you drive slowly and watch out for falling rocks and oncoming traffic.

We were glad to have Mr Tsai as our driver during our time in Taiwan. He was a very careful, skillful and experienced driver. We felt we were in safe hands even on the narrow winding mountain roads.

We descended a flight of stone steps leading to an observation deck. This is where you will enjoy a stunning, panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean.

On the observation deck, we came upon a stone with the Chinese character "Qingshui Cliff " inscribed on it. There was tons of tourists gathering around the inscribed stone, eagerly waiting for their turn to snap some keepsake photo.

So, just like any other tourists with a camera, we joined the queue to have our typical tourist photos taken too.

The view from the observation deck was magnificent, offering a stunning uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs and Chongde Beach 崇德海滩.

We were awed by the spectacular views of enormous sea cliffs, stunning beaches and striking coastline. The view was absolutely breathtaking!

A 15 minutes walk down the stone steps, along Chongde Trail 崇德步道 will bring visitors to Chongde Beach.  The 9 km long trail starts from the observation deck at Suhua Highway (where we parked our car) and is paved with flagstones.

There are several stone benches at the end of the trail where visitors can sit, relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery. You can sit down and watch the fisherman mend their nets or just simply enjoy the fresh afternoon breeze. Apart from that, Chongde Beach is a popular spot for watching sunrise or sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Couple can even enjoy a romantic stroll along the beach at sunset.

However, please note that swimming is prohibited at Chongde Beach due to strong undercurrent.

The picturesque natural landscape offers an abundance of opportunities for photography. Photo enthusiastic will instantly fall in love with the scenery and spend most of their time busily snapping away on their camera.

We stood on the observation deck, enjoying the warm breeze and sunshine. Far below, the waves were crashing against the enormous cliffs, sending sea spray high in the air.

With the absence of mass tourism, the entire area remains wonderfully unspoiled and tranquil, making the attraction a delight to explore at any time of the year.

After our photo opportunity, we got back into the car and drove further north to another observation point just to view the cliffs from a different angle.

We enjoyed similarly breathtaking views from this observation point. The scenery was particularly stunning, especially on a beautiful, sunny day.

Far in the distance, we could see the lush green mountains shrouded in thick layers of clouds and mist.

The clear blue sky, steep rugged cliffs and impossibly blue ocean makes a perfect backdrop for photo taking. So, be sure to bring your camera along, or you may regret.

Suhua Highway is one of the most scenic drive in Taiwan. Although dangerous, the breathtaking scenery along the winding roads never fails to attracts many visitors from around the world. The beautiful landscape along the roads can be enjoyed by looking out the window of a car, as well as by walking along one of the many trails. Be prepared to be mesmerized by the ever-changing landscapes at each and every turn.

While most visitors eagerly flock to Taroko Gorge without making a stop at Qingshui Cliff, it is definitely one of the most spectacular sight on Taiwan's Pacific coast that no visitors should miss. A visit to Hualien would not be complete without a trip to this gorgeous attraction.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Trip To Taiwan 台湾: Hualien 花莲 - Qixingtan Scenic Area 七星潭风景区

Photo By: Elin Chow
Address: Hai An Road, Xincheng Township, Hualien, Taiwan 花莲县新城乡海岸路

We started our 7th day of our 11D10N Taiwan Trip in Hualien 花莲 the next morning. After a hearty breakfast, we checked out of Qixingtan Qixinghai B&B 七星潭七星海民宿 and set off for our first destination of the day - Qixingtan Scenic Area (also known as Seven-Star Bay, Chishingtan or Cisingtan Scenic Area) 七星潭风景区.

 Qixingtan Scenic Area 七星潭风景区

Located in Beipu Village of Xincheng Township in Hualien Country, Qixingtan Beach is known as one of the most beautiful beach in Taiwan. Once a thriving fishing village, the beach is now a popular tourist destination in Hualien due to its abundance of natural beauty.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a vast, open grassland set against the clear blue sky. In the distance, the mountains are shrouded by layers of clouds.

Walking in, you will find the iconic Stargazing Square. In the evening, the Star-gazing Square provides a great spot for stargazing. Visitors would be able see all the seven star of the Big Dipper here.

With plenty of fresh air and open grassland, this would be an ideal spot to have a picnic and kite flying. The entire area is huge with plenty of spaces to spread out the picnic blanket and enjoy a leisurely lunch on the sprawling grass field.

Taiwan is known for its cycling culture and Hualien, in particular, is a haven for cyclists. Qixingtan Bike Trail is a bike trail connecting Hualien city to Qixingtan. The 15km trail starts from Qixingtan Scenic Area to Beibin Park and would takes two to three hours to complete.

Cycling is a great way to explore and enjoy the coastal scenery in Hualien city. Surrounded by blue sky, ocean and lush natural greenery, the scenery along the trail was amazingly beautiful.

The bike trail was smooth, well-paved and easy to navigate. For those who are interesting in cycling, bicycle rentals are available at many locations, at a relatively affordable price.

Due to its remote location, Qixingtan Bike Trail was never really crowded, which allows one to cycle and explore at their own pace. There were several rest stops along the trail for one to stop and take a break.

Remember to bring your camera as there will be plenty of great opportunities for photography along the way. The best time to cycle is in the early morning or late evening time to beat the heat or tourist traffic.

Walking further in, we came upon a big rock with the Chinese character "Qixingtan Coastal Area" inscribed on it.

Just like other visitors with a camera, we took our typical tourist photo in front of the iconic monument and went off exploring the rest of the area.

After a quick photo session, we descended down a few stone steps leading to the beach.

Just like the Pebble Beach at Terrace Of The Three Immortals / Sanxiantai 三仙台风景区, Qixingtan Beach is a crescent-shaped bay made entirely out of stone pebbles. There are no sand, of any kind, at this beach. The kilometer-long coastline is completely made up of smooth stone pebbles of different colors and sizes, making it unique from the many other beaches I have visited in my entire life.

There are no paved walkway along the beach, making it inaccessible to visitors in wheelchairs who wish to see and explore the pristine coastline.

Please note that the law prohibits visitors from bringing any of the pebbles from the beach home as souvenir. Even if the law does not prohibit you to do that, please do not take any of them home. Can you imagine what will happen to the beach if every visitor bring a pebble or two home?  I believe the scenic beach would just vanish in a few years time!

The beach was seemingly clean but unfortunately, not litter-free. There were bits and pieces of trash scattered all over the entire beach, which was a very frustrating sight to see.

Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.  Please be a responsible traveler and remember not to leave any of your trash behind or remove anything when you leave the beach. We all must play our a part in protecting and preserving the beauty of our natural environment.

It was not easy to walk our way across the beach without having our feet digging into the pebbles. However, the good thing is that we do not have to worry about getting sand in our shoes.

Although most of the pebbles have a smooth and rounded appearance, walking barefoot across the pebbly coast can still be a rather painful experience. Furthermore, the pebbles were too hot to walk on barefoot. I would recommend anyone to wear comfortable walking shoes when you visit the beach. Slippers and high heels are definitely not recommended.

The view from the beach was magnificent, offering an uninterrupted and stunning view of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding mountains. I was overwhelmed by beautiful scenery, remarkably blue sky and turquiose blue ocean.

Qixingtan Beach is famed for stunning unspoilt pebbly coastline and sparkling blue waters. However, please note that swimming is forbidden at Qixingtan beach due to extreme tide, high waves and strong currents.

The picturesque scenery offers an abundance of breathtaking photo opportunities in every direction.

We spent about an hour walking around, taking photograph and admiring the beautiful ocean scenery. The view was so picture-perfect that we could not resist taking as many photos as we could.

Despite being a popular tourist attraction in Taiwan, Qixingtan Scenic Area was never overwhelmed with tourists. It is almost never crowded, perhaps because of its remote location on the eastern side of Taiwan's Central Mountain Range.

We visited the beach on a blazing hot day and the sun was shining mercilessly in the clear blue sky, scorching us. Spending a long period of time under the scorching sun would lead to sunburnt and dehydration. Please remember to apply sufficient amount of sunscreen (which I forgot to), wear a hat and most importantly, drink plenty of water.

Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Qixingtan beach is definitely a perfect place to relax and unwind. Close your eyes, take a deep breath of the fresh, warm ocean air and listen to the roaring waves crashing against the pebbly shore.

We sat down facing the shimmering blue water, taking in the warm breeze and sun.The sun was shining brightly in the sky, making the pebbles too scorching hot to sit on. Due to the hot and humid weather, we could not sit too long on the beach.

Other than stargazing, the beach is also an excellent place to view sunrise and sunset. Couples can even enjoy a romantic stroll along the beach at sunset.

On a clear day, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the spectacular Qingshui Cliff ( also known as Chingshui Cliff or Cingshui Cliff ) 清水断崖 in the far distance.

Qixingtan Scenic Area is an ideal destination for anyone who enjoy breathtaking scenery, glorious sunshine and stunning ocean views. Much of the beach remains largely unspoilt and undeveloped, making it a great place to appreciate the peace of nature. We were amazed by the impossibly blue sky, ocean and stunning coastline. The beauty of the beach made it so hard for us to leave.

Qixingtan Scenic Area is a must visit destination and I would recommend anyone to drop by if you are visiting Hualien.

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 11D10N round island tour itinerary for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 11 days in Taiwan. Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter  for the latest updates on my 11 days adventures in Taiwan!