CET Taiwan’s Excursion to Hualien

Written by Sam Simonds (Connecticut College) Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Spring 2018

Every few weeks, CET Taipei takes students on a cultural excursion. These excursions are organized and headed by CET Taipei’s resident director, Dale Albanese. On a recent excursion, we visited the incredible beaches of Hualien, learned about the origins and practices of Tzu Chi Buddhism, and spent a day biking and hiking through one of Taiwan’s most famous national parks, Taroko Gorge.

After a three-hour train ride, we arrived at Hualien Station and headed to Dale’s favorite restaurant in Hualien. The restaurant, run by an indigenous man, had no menu. After telling them how many dishes we wanted to eat, we were served a variety of different traditionally indigenous meals, including fish, seaweed, bird, and pork. He then brought us to the back of the restaurant where he taught us to shoot a bow!

We then headed off to the world headquarters of Tzu Chi Buddhism. Tzu Chi Buddhism is a branch of Buddhism that actively attempts to put the teachings of Buddha into practice through humanitarian aid projects both domestically and internationally. Unlike many religiously influenced humanitarian aid groups, Tzu Chi is dedicated to serving communities with different religious and cultural backgrounds without an agenda to convert local people or to influence the ideologies of communities. Within their religious and spiritual beliefs, to simply serve others and adhere to how others wish to be served leads one to the path the enlightenment.

Hualien is situated on the convergence of the Eurasian and Philippine tectonic plates, consequently activity from these plates over the years have pushed rocks of an incredible variety to the Earth’s surface. Large boulders lined the oceanside and I was mesmerized by a color pallet that I had never imagined existed in nature.

On our last day in Hualien, our host prepared us breakfast and then drove the nine of us along with nine bikes to the top of Taroko Gorge. The roads through the gorge totaled just around 28 kilometers (mostly downhill).

We started the morning with a hike through long tunnels and along stretches of the gorge where we watched the magnificent power of the river below us and marveled at the beauty of natural waterfalls.

It was a cloudy day, and the mountains above us gracefully sloped into an ominous mist. The landscape was a striking resemblance of Chinese landscape paintings. We ended our trip exploring the riverbed of the gorge.