|Hualien Station area|
Hualien is a popular getaway city from Taipei, with most tourists (domestic and foreign) using it as a gateway to Taroko Gorge. For information on transport, accommodation, sights, hiking trails, please see my Formosa Guide pages on Hualien and Taroko Gorge.
Don't arrive in Hualien late and hungry. I arrived after 8pm and wandered around in the dark and rain looking for restaurants on Google Maps which were closed or shut down. I found a few choose-your-own-food-for-the-deep-frier-type places, but opted for a 7-11 meal. If coming from Taipei in the evening get a take-out meal from Minder Vegetarian (in the train station) and eat it on the train.
Due to the ever-growing influx of tourists visiting to see the gorge, the hotel situation in Hualien is pretty dire, with a bed and your own tiny bathroom difficult to find for under 1000NT (or double that during the weekends). There are a few hostels, of varying quality, which can be found online, and several hotels scattered around the train station, but you may be lucky to find clean sheets on many of them.
|City Home, Hualien|
I highly recommend staying at the all-vegan City Home. At 2000NT per night (weeknights) it's moderately expensive for Taiwan, however its spotless, spacious, tastefully decorated rooms, combined with a simple but delicious breakfast the next morning - guaranteed all vegan - make it well worth considering the price. It sells itself as a 'hostel' but it's more like a boutique hotel. If you will have just one night of luxury in Taiwan then consider making it at City Home. They also have larger rooms with more beds for families or travelling groups.
|Double room, City Home (Hualien)|
City Home use to be attached to a Loving Hut, where breakfast was served the next morning. Unfortunately the Loving Hut has since been closed, but breakfast is delivered from the other nearby Loving Hut in the morning. It's a simple Taiwanese-style breakfast, but a perfectly satisfying start to a day hiking in Taroko Gorge. A menu is provided at check-in, and guests choose what they want the next morning.
|City Home breakfast delivery.|
Prices at City Home double in the weekend, as is standard for Hualien. So it's important to book ahead for a weekday, which brings the added benefit of seats on trains and fewer visitors to Taroko Gorge (or almost anywhere else you're going).
Unfortunately City Home is about 2km from the train station, so it requires a taxi if carrying luggage. Unfortunately the Loving Hut is about 2km away from both. All routes are walkable, or cheap taxi fares.
|Hualien Loving Hut curry and smoothie|
As always the Loving Hut offers probably the healthiest, quite possibly the least expensive and certainly the most trustworthy vegan meal in Hualien. This is the place to stock up on sandwiches or snack food for a trip into Taroko Gorge - you'll be glad you did later, even if they're a bit past their best. If you are staying at Tianxiang (or elsewhere in the Gorge) I would take a day's worth, and keep them in the fridge at your hostel or hotel. While not the healthiest meal, the carbohydrates will be burned on the road, and the plastic packaging can be easily folded up and stored until you find a rubbish bin (few and far between in Taroko Gorge).
|These simple takeaway lunch items are a godsend when hiking in Taroko Gorge.|
Food is typical Loving Hut fare, also at typical prices of about about 100NT per dish. They also serve a range of smoothies and hot drinks, great for fuelling up before a day or three's hiking. There is an attached shop with an excellent range of groceries, but most visitors are likely to be going hiking in the gorge and moving on, so it's not the place to stock up unless you live there.
|Loving Hut groceries.|
Phone 038 566 353
Monday - Thursday: 6:30am - 2:30pm
Friday - Sunday: 6:30am - 8:30pm
Chang Chun Teng
The second-best option is the all-you-can-eat Chang Chun Vegetarian restaurant. This is like Hualien's humbler version of Taipei's Evergreen Vegetarian restaurant in Taipei (which I no longer recommend), or any other all-you-can-eat buffet, but it's simpler and cheaper (at 200NT per person). It serves a generous range of traditional Taiwanese food, including soups and desserts, but does not offer the western style desserts or drinks (including coffee) that the larger buffets in Taipei or Kaohsiung do.
|Chang Chun Buffet spread, Hualien|
As always at non-vegan restaurants in Taiwan, the staff tried to help when I told them I didn't eat dairy products, and took me round telling me not to eat items with cheese, but passing over fake meat, mayonnaise salad dressing and even buttered bread! So like at most non-vegan restaurants in Taiwan you're on your own to figure out what's vegan, so all bread, fake meat and milky/creamy dressings should be assumed to contain dairy products. There's still plenty to eat though, and if you need a good meal (besides the Loving Hut) before a day or two of trekking then this will fit the bill.
No. 22, Fu'an Rd, Hualien City, Hualien County, Taiwan 970
Lunch: 11am - 2pm
Dinner: 5pm - 8pm
Closed: second and fourth Monday of each month.
Phone: 03 856 9069
No website, Happycow page
Zhai Pu Vegetarian Restaurant
|Zhu Pai Vegetarian Restaurant|
Zhuai Pai (齋舖素食館) is the place to come for a quick, cheap meal near the train station. It's a typical Taiwanese buffet, not the best, but not half bad for a small buffet in a small city, a short walk from Chang Chun. If you are on a budget and just need a filling meal this is the place to come. It would also be possible to take a bin dang (lunchbox) with you as an alternative to the Loving Hut sandwiches, but I find these meals don't keep so well as sandwiches (especially once dried and sauced-based foods mix), must be carried upright, and will leave you with a dirty container to carry around until you find a rubbish bin, which are few and far between in Taroko Gorge.
|Zhu Pai Vegetarian, 130NT|
857 Zhongshan Road
03 846 5858
No website, Happycow page