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kiting, diving, trippin' I ain't never been lost, just confused for a few days - Daniel Boone

Taroko Gorge, Hualien & street drug deals

TAIWAN | Sunday, 13 January 2013 | Views [708]

Taroko Gorge is world famous for the marble walled canyon/gorge that you can almost reach across in places. It is really nice, steep, clean, interesting........and busy!
We were here in December, which is the off season for tourists (apparently) and were amazed by the tour buses just constantly feeding people in and out of each stop on the road up to the head of the gorge at Tianxiang.
The trusty guide book didn't recommend taking the local shuttle because it   "would be hard to pick it out amongst all the other buses on the road". I'm glad we didn't take that advice, asked at the Sleeping Boot, and took the shuttle. $NT250 gets a day pass so were able to get on and off as many times as we liked in the one day. The pictures tell it all, but it was just a pity that the typhoon damage from a few years ago saw a lot of infrastructure in the gorge still being repaired and/or replaced, so there are still some areas off limits and unsafe to see yet.
Hualien is the main city on the eastern side of Taiwan and is completely different to the cities on the western side (which aren't that far away as the crow flies). There is a completely laid back atmosphere which probably has a bit to do with the high percentage of native people on this side of the island. There is a lot more fruit, plenty of live music and just generally a nice chilled and friendly place.
Which all might have something to do with the drug deals done in the street at all hours of the day and night.
There are plenty of stalls and shops set up that sell beetle nut, which is a mild hallucinogenic drug when chewed. South East Asian countries all have it, but it did surprise me to see it in Taiwan. 
Finding a shop/dealer isn't hard either. Keep your eyes on the ground and when you notice the red stains in the street from the spat out saliva produced when chewing the nut, you're getting close. Then, just stop and listen. When you hear a car stop, sometimes very suddenly for some reason, and hit the horn two or three times keep an eye out for someone running from their shop to supply the driver and occupants with their fix.
For some reason this amused me no end while we were sitting in the laundromat next door to one of these "drug dens."
Hualien was nice, the Sleeping Boot wasn't bad but they need to shut the bloody dogs up if their guests are to get a decent sleep (traffic is one thing, but a yapping dog at 3AM is another) and it was now time to get back around to Alishan to see Rowie's sister again before we left for the Philippines.
Taiwan has very little in the way of domestic flights, mainly because their rail system is so good!
Taipei in the north to Zouying (almost in the south) is only an hour and a half high speed rail trip, and there are two or three and hour. A 'slower' express train will take an extra half an hour, or you can do the all main stops train which adds an hour or so to the trip. Once at the main station there are the local trains that do all stops, so our trip from Hualien to Chiayi, via Taipei only took a couple of hours in a roomy air-conditioned train for $NT1080 each (roughly $A35.00).
But when rushing, sometimes things go wrong!


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