One of the biggest reasons to head over to the east coast of Taiwan is to check out Taroko Gorge, Taiwan's "Grand Canyon" in the Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園)
So, despite the rainy weather on Monday, Nick and I suited up in our ponchos, hopped on our rented scooter, and headed up into the mountains to check out the gorge.
Due to the rain, almost all of the park's hiking trails were closed, even the "Tunnel of 9 Turns" which is supposed to be the most beautiful part of the whole park, but that didn't prevent us from having a great time.
The bottom half of the gorge is completely cut out of marble, and because the water was pretty low during our visit, we got to see some beautiful marble river beds
One of the first things I was struck by as we started our ascent into the gorge was a massive, vertical wall that had been cut so smoothly from the mountain, it almost looked like a gigantic slice of birthday cake. It doesn't look like much from the picture, but the sheer enormity and severity of it was breathtaking, and it was only a preview of what was to come.
As we drove through the gorge, we stopped along the way to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. The gorge is dotted with pagodas, shrines, and other treasures.
In the middle of the gorge is the TINY town of Tiansiang (天祥) and just before you reach it you can see the pagoda of the Hsiang-te Temple.
It's the first pagoda Nick or I have ever climbed into and it was as dizzying as it was stunning.
I actually felt a little bit nervous up at the top because the ledge was so small and we were up so high. Just as we arrived at the temple, three tour buses had pulled up as well.
Thankfully, we beat the tour groups and were up there alone... I think I might have had a heart attack if I had been sharing that tiny little space with other tourists (o god, I'm turning into my father!)
here are some views from the pagoda:
Although we had been told by a well meaning park ranger to stop at Tiansiang and turn back, Nick and I decided to press on, up the mountain to see what we could find, and the higher we went, the more gorgeous the scenery.
We kept driving until we weren't going up any more and at about 2:00 we decided to turn back.
As we headed down the mountain, we managed to find a couple of trails that were open, and although we didn't venture out too much, we did check out two pretty cool (and scary) suspension bridges crossing over the gorge.
The bridges offered a great view to the gorge below, and I can only imagine what we would have found if we had been willing to hike in the spotty weather.
On our way out of the park, we stopped by the Eternal Spring Shrine to take some pictures and enjoy the view.
The shrine was built to commemorate the lives that were lost in building the roads through Taroko.
Despite the intermitent rain, we had a fabulous time driving through the gorge. It is an absolutly beautiful park and it felt really great to be up in the mountains, enjoying the beauty of Taiwan. Living in Taichung, it's easy to forget how beautiful Taiwan is, but one afternoon in the gorge was enough to remind us!