Our journey to Taiwan began in the most unlikeliest of places. A simple conversation with fellow travelers as we warmed ourselves fireside one evening at a tea house while trekking part of Nepal’s snowy Annapurna mountain range.
“There’s a small city in Taiwan called Hualien that we’ve been living in….”
The words seemed so innocuous at first, but as we began talking with our new found hiker friends, the idea of a beach town surrounded by green mountains in the tropics sounded better and better. The cold wind whistling through the tea house as we spoke certainly helped! Ah the tropics. It had been a year on the road already, and we were growing keen to the idea of stopping to rest and work for a spell. Two months in India had certainly taken their toll and our bodies and stomachs were due for break. Living out of a backpack and moving every few days is adventurous, sure, but after a while the journey can grow weary. A condition we had found ourselves slowly approaching for months.
Which brings us back to the conversation in Nepal. As time went on and we eventually made our way to China, we thought more and more of the description of Hualien we’d heard from the fellow travelers and kept in touch with them via email. After some research and deliberation, we finally pulled the trigger and decided to give it a shot. Months had gone by and we were already in China, Taiwan’s closest neighbor after all. So a short flight to Taipei and a train ride down to Hualien later, and we arrived unwittingly at our future home.
“We’ll stay three months,” we told ourselves as we settled into the local community, rented an apartment month to month and began to explore. We quickly found jobs teaching English to local Taiwanese children, an easy job for foreigners to get that pays well and offers great hours. We soon found our lives and our lifestyle transforming completely. Our typical work day lasting from 3pm-7pm, our mornings were left open to explore the amazing mountains, beaches and rivers of the spectacularly beautiful region.
On the train to Hualien.
Hualien waterfront at Chishingtan beach.
With so much new found time available, Daniel began writing his first novel while the local expat foreigner community embraced us with their kindness. It wasn’t long before we were hooked.
Laura’s father came to visit us just a few months after our arrival and, after a few days in Taipei, we traveled to the dramatic Toroko Gorge about twenty minutes from Hualien and various other sites in the area. The trip only helped to solidify our instant love of the unique beauty of the region and the warmth and hospitality of the people.
Laura and Dad in Taipei
No trip to Taiwan would be complete with out visiting the night market!
Temple in Toroko Gorge
Toroko Gorge = EPIC
Bike riding to the beach through Hualien with Lauras dad.
The three month deadline came and went and after a visa run to Hong Kong we returned to new job offers at better schools for more money… the deal was sealed. Our new plan became to stay in Hualien indefinitely as Daniel would write his novel and we would use Hualien as a jumping off point to adventures throughout Southeast Asia. And why not after all? Yes we missed our friends and family greatly but neither of us missed the 60+ hour work weeks and accompanying stress that a return to America would bring. Working 20 hours a week gave us ample to time to write, work on other pursuits and also have enough time to enjoy hanging out at the beach, swimming in the crystal clear rivers and waterfalls and hiking in the mountains, ALL a fifteen minute drive from our apartment. Daniel spent 3-4 hours each morning working on his book and by July, a 900 page first draft was completed! Yes, you read that correctly. 900 pages. Here are just a few pics from our first 8 months in Taiwan. They don’t do it justice!
Cow Mountain beach. 30 minutes from Hualien.
Taking a dip.
Incredible drummers at the Toroko music festival.
Dragon boat races at Liyu Lake!
Fireworks over Hualien for Chinese New Year.
One of countless places to swim within 15 minutes of our house.
Temple by our house.
Hualien oceanfront park. Our favorite thinking spot.
A parade today! And many days.
Liyu lake on a warm quiet rainy evening. So tranquil.
Another epic swim spot nearby.
Jici beach just south of Hualien.
Rinsing in the fountain with friends after a great beach volleyball game.
BBQ in the park. Makes me happy.
After a wonderful 8 months, it was time for new adventures and the proximity to so many unique countries made our decision hard. Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, the Philippines, etc., etc.. But two places had LONG been on our wish list and stood out now for being in a good weather season for visiting. The jungled island of Borneo in Malysia and the archipelago nation of Indonesia. With flights to Borneo costing a mere $80US from Taipei and flights to Bali even LESS at $67 our decision was made. BOTH! We had six weeks off for summer break and we were going to use every last minute of it. When class ended on July 2nd we jumped a train for Taipei and flew out that night. The orangutans of Sarawak, Borneo were calling, and we were listening. To the jungle!
Kylie and Bowman who first told us about Hualien back in Nepal. Thanks Guys!