Hualien main shopping strip is mainly along the Zhonghua Road and Minyi Street. Visitors can buy their favourite Taiwan snacks like mochi, pineapple cake and peanut biscuits from a number of stores. I have tried their famous wan ton dumpling. It was rather plain but tasty, and somewhat different from the HK or Guangzhou variety. But it was made famous because former president Chiang Ching-kuo loves eating there. There are also numerous pearl tea and desert shops there, for the Taiwanese take their desert seriously.
There is also a night market near the Zhonghua Road. There are two famous dumpling stores that sell cheap and delicious dumplings. For US$1, one can have 10 dumplings or 6 Xiao long bao. But expect to queue up during the busy hours. These are really popular with the locals that they are open for 24 hours.
We planned to travel along the eastern coastal highway but aborted it due to the news of impending typhoon. Just outside Hualien, there is lake recreation area that is quite popular with the locals. It is called Liyu lake. There are many food stalls and boat hiring sheds for visitors. The local prawn fritter was quite tasty. I had a go at the so-called hand brewed beer. The beer was not bad. The taxi driver was chatty, and we spoke about the local situation and various aboriginal tribes of the area. He also told us that the land owners of farm land are forbidden from building large houses and apartments in the farm lands that appear on both sides of the roads in the country side. But people get around it by building these as village home stay. Hence there a numerous large mansions on the farmlands.
The people of Hualien are warm country folks. It is easy to talk to them and I did not feel unsafe at all. I also had a nice chat in the evening with the home stay boss regarding Taiwan politics and China-Taiwan relation. He was very critical of President Ma, and Taiwanese politics in general. According to him, they are not doing enough to elevate the economy, being involved in too much politicking. Property prices have gone up the roof, but incomes have barely moved up. I told him that this is a world wide phenomenon. where banks and special interest groups reap the most benefit in such a situation.
One of the things that strike me while in Taiwan was the proliferation of local political news in the TV channels. The embattled President Ma was embroiled in bitter dispute with legislative Yuan speaker, Wang Jingping. Watching the antics of politicians on TV has become a favourite past-time like watching soap opera for many.
There was a peculiar incidence involving a taxi which was called by our homestay to bring us to the train station. After the trip, the meter clearly shows NT$150 ($5) , but the young driver with tattoo on his arms insisted on accepting NT$100 ($3.50) from me only. I still can’t figure out the reason. Maybe this was the standard fare or he felt that he chose the wrong route. Anyway, we boarded the Taroko Express that night at the Hualien station, and arrived in Taipei after a 2 hour smooth ride. And we have missed the typhoon that hit Taipei a few hours earlier.