Hualien County is a county on the east coast of Taiwan. It is the largest county by area, yet due to its mountainous terrain, has one of the lowest populations in the country.
The county seat and largest city is Hualien City. Most of the population resides in the Huadong Valley, which runs north to south, sandwiched between the Central and Hai’an mountain ranges. Due to the rural nature of the county, Hualien attracts many visitors for its natural beauty, which include Taroko Gorge, Qingshui Cliff, and Qixingtan Beach.
History : Modern-day Hualien City was originally called Kiray , after the Sakiraya Taiwanese aborigines and their settlement. Spanish settlers arrived in 1622 to pan for gold. Picking up the sounds of native words, these settlers called the area Turumoan . Han Chinese settlers arrived in 1851. Qing Dynasty records give the name of the region as Huilan due to the whirling of waters in the delta.
Empire of Japan : During Taiwan’s Japanese colonial period (1895-1945) the island’s Japanese governors opted not to transliterate the name “Kiray” because the Japanese pronunciation of the word resembled the Japanese word for “dislike, disgusting” . The official name became Karen Harbour . Karenko Prefecture consisted of modern-day Hualien County. Toward the end of World War II the Governor-General of Taiwan moved many Japanese residents of Taiwan to the area to develop agriculture.
Republic of China : After Japan’s surrender in 1945, the rule of Taiwan was passed to the Kuomintang government of the Republic of China. Hualien was established as a county named Hualien County of Taiwan Province on 25 December 1945. A few years later, the Kuomintang soon became refugees in Taiwan following the rise of Communism in China (1949) but continued to govern the island according to the Republic of China constitution. In 1951 Hualien was the first county in Taiwan to be governed according to the ROC local autonomy law.
In the 1980s and 1990s Taiwan transformed itself into a self-governing multiparty democracy. Today the Hualien area serves as the key population centre on the east coast as well as the one of five main life circle regions in Taiwan,together with Taipei, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung.
Geography : Central Mountain Range : Hualien County is situated in eastern Taiwan Island. It faces the Pacific Ocean to the east, Central Mountain Range to the west bordering Taichung City, Nantou County and Kaohsiung City, Yilan County to the north and Taitung County to the south. It stretches around 137.5 km (85.4 mi) from north to south with its width ranging from 27 to 43 km (17 to 27 mi) long from east to west. Its area is about 4,628.57 km2 (1,787.10 sq mi) and occupies one eighth of Taiwan’s total area.
Despite its vast area, only 7% of the county area is populated. The remaining area is occupied by rivers (7%) and mountains (87%). Mountains are composed of Central Mountain Range in the west and Haian Range in the east. The main rivers in the county are the Hualian River, Xiuguluan River and their branches. The plains stretch along the valleys between both mountain ranges with a width around 3–6 km (1.9–3.7 mi). Due to the restriction of its landscape, Hualien people reside mostly on the alluvial fans of the Huatung Valley plains
- Nature : National parks in the county are Matai’an Wetland Ecological Park, Taroko National Park and Yushan National Park. The county is also home to several mountains and cliffs, such as Hehuan Mountain, Pingfeng Mountain, Qilai Mountain and Qingshui Cliff. Other natural areas include the Liyu Lake, Shihtiping, Mugua River Gorge, Walami Trail, Niushan Huting, East Rift Valley, Rareseed Ranch and Chihsingtan Beach.
- Museums : Museums and historical buildings in Hualien County include Pine Garden, Saoba Stone Pillars, Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries Park, Chihsing Tan Katsuo Museum and Hualien County Stone Sculptural Museum. Theme parks : Farglory Ocean Park is in Hualien County. Temples and shrines : Hualien Martyrs’ Shrine, Eternal Spring Shrine and Xiangde Temple are located in the county. Markets : Night markets in the county are Dongdamen Night Market.
Access : Coordinates : 23.976072, 121.604811 / By train : There are frequent trains from Taipei, and depending on the type of train, the journey can take from two to four and a half hours. Express trains (Taroko Express) take 2 hours and cost 440NTD. The train follows the coast for part of the journey, and the left side of the train offers the best views. The cheapest way to go to Hualien is to take a combo bus/train, go to Tapei Bus station, look for the counters 22,23,24, Kamalan company, ask for a combo ticket to Hualien, get off the bus at Luodong (last stop), take the train to Hualien, price 222NTD (avril 2018), about 3 hours ride altogether
There are also frequent trains to Taitung and, less frequently, to Kaohsiung and then Tainan. During peak travel season, train tickets are sometimes are hard to get. It is recommended to book your trip early to ensure your seat.
By plane : Domestic airlines connect Hualien with all of Taiwan’s major cities. It a thirty minute flight to Hualien from Taipei’s Songshan Airport. There are currently (Dec. 2009) also irregular (charter) flights to Yonaguni Island and Ishigaki Island in Okinawa (Japan) and a regular service to Ishigaki Island is being planned. Starting from Dec. 2016 Hong Kong Express flies two weekly flights to and from Hong Kong to Hualien
Activities : Hualien Ocean Park, . M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su 8:30AM-5PM. Hualien’s biggest man-made tourist attraction. As well as ferries wheel and cable car, the park contains eight zones that introduce different aspects of ocean and marine life. Kids, in particular, will have great time here but for adventurous travelers or people wanting a more viable experience, there are many places one can go that are much cheaper and provide a better experience of the ‘real’ Country of Taiwan. Adults NT$890, children NT$790.
River Tracing and Hiking in the Hualien area (Hualien Outdoors), 2 Guo Lian 3rd Street, Hualien City (Near Train station). Hualien has one of the best terrains in the world for river tracing and hiking. Ample rain and deep river valleys make it an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Several wild hot springs also make the area a great place to get into the woods and mountains. Hualien Outdoors organizes trips to some of the more wild areas of Taroko and Hualien county.
Whale Watching . Many species of whales and dolphins pass through the east coast of Taiwan, go out by boat for a chance to see breaching whales and dolphin pods. NT$66