After a whirlwind weekend in Taitung, Kasey stated that it is his favorite city in Taiwan. I can’t commit to any Taiwanese city, but I understood his sudden love for it. The southern city has beaches, a forest park with a pond, a bike path circling the downtown, and has a chill, island vibe to it. Best of all, there is so much to see and do. Obviously, we were exhausted by the time we got back to Jhubei, but the long train rides were worth it. If you’ve got a free weekend, jump on the HSR to Kaohsiung and then try your best to get a seat on the slow train to Taitung. Here are just some of the options for weekend exploring once you make it down.
Yuan Sen Botanical Garden
I’ll be honest, Kasey and I thought this was just a buffet restaurant when we showed up and were confused to find the cheap and practical tourist bus dropping us off on some upscale grounds containing botanical gardens, farm animals, herb shops, and a buffet of mostly fresh herbs and vegetables for hot pot. The buffet was around 500 NTD and it was delicious. There was a small bit of meats and also various teas and coffee made from natural products. It was a good place for lunch and to wander a bit, but it is not a place you could spend all day.
Lu Yeh Highland
The main reason people go to the highlands was the same reason that we went: the Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival! This event happens every summer and showcases hot air balloons and pilots from around the globe. There is great views up there, especially at sunset and there were even people paragliding. If you go to the festival, you can ride in a hot air balloon at sunrise for around 8,000 NTD or if you are strapped for cash, like us, you can go up for 15 minutes in a tethered balloon for 500 NTD.
Taitung Bike Trail
This trail goes all around the city of Taitung, following train tracks, passing by the ocean, winding through the forest park roads, and zooming through the city streets. We biked for three hours and only made it halfway, but it was a humid, sun beating down sort of day and we also had come onto the trail from further out of the city, where our hostel was. A good bike trail is always a find, so if you go down, you must try out a ride on this well done path.
This is also known as the 8 arches bridge and it looks like a snake or dragon slithering out over the sea to Sanxiantai Island, not far at all from the main land. It was actually a bit tiring going up and down the arches to get to the island, but the area is beautiful with the bright blue water and black, volcanic rock. This is the farthest stop on the tourist bus so it’s a long haul but the ride out there is also stunning.
Get to this beach while you can! They are in the process of building a huge hotel on it and it won’t be a quiet, relaxing spot in the sun for much longer. There was a handful of people practicing to be lifeguards and playing in the water when we went, but otherwise the beach was fairly empty. Drawbacks were the sand being SO HOT that just running to the water from our shadowy spot up against a wall gave my feet some searing pain and the lack of water or food being sold anywhere nearby. Luckily, they had bathroom and shower facilities set up!
Looking at this list, I have absolutely no idea how Kasey and I did all this in one weekend. We must be superhuman…that or mentally insane. Either way, Taitung is an amazing place, so get yourself there now!