Our Eva Air flight to Taiwan, as seen from the boarding gate at LAX.
After arriving in Kaohsiung, we spent the night at Helen's parents' house and then boarded a train to Hualien. It was a four hour train ride to Hualien, on Taiwan's east coast.
After arriving at the Hualien train station, we took a 45 minute bus ride to our first stop, Taroko National Park. The park's main attraction is the Taroko Gorge which it encompasses, one of the most beautiful attractions in all of Taiwan.
Helen poses in front of Taroko Gorge. The entire park is about 45 km long, and we saw about 20 km of it.
The Liwu River winds through the gorge. December is the dry season, but during the summer typhoons of 2005, the park suffered extensive damage as the water level rose tens of meters. During peak flooding, the water level was approximately the same height as where this picture was taken.
That afternoon, we hiked the Baiyang Waterfall trail. The first part of the trail passes through about 1km of dark tunnel, requiring us to use flashlights. Here we emerge from the tunnel.
Taroko is known as the "marble gorge" because of the large deposits of marble like these.
This trail and many others in the area consist of alternating ledges and tunnels.
Helen poses on a rock.
The water has a striking green color due to the mineral deposits dissolved from the rocks.
At last we reach Baiyang Waterfall. The trail was closed ahead, including this bridge, due to typhoon damage.
In the town of Tienhsiang there's a pretty Buddhist shrine on a hill.
The nuns prepare to close down the shrine for the day.
The town of Tienhsiang sits inside Taroko Gorge. Our hotel for the night was located here.
Part of this boardwalk on the grounds of our hotel was washed away by the recent typhoon.
Our hotel, the Grand Formosa Taroko.
The next day we joined an organized tour group for a trip through the gorge. Our guide, far right, told us about the geology, flora, and fauna of the park.
A magnificent view of Taroko from our trail high up on the gorge walls.
The trail includes lots of steep cliffs with rock overhangs such as this one.
The Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail, seen here, is notable because the two walls of the gorge are so close to each other.
Our group boards the bus.
The Shakadang trail starts by descending below this brightly painted bridge.
The rock overhangs on this trail are even more impressive. A common joke is that the overhang is so low because it was carved by the Japanese.
The river here winds between large marble boulders.
Another member of the tour admires the scenery.
Interesting patterns are layered into the marble, contrasting nicely with the green water.
Helen poses next to the river.
Another couple lounges on a rock.
Here, at the edge of the park, the Liwu river broadens into its flood plain before entering the Pacific Ocean.
The entrance to Taroko National Park.
An elementary school was there to sing Christmas carols that day.
The Eternal Spring Shrine is a picturesque shrine located on the face of the gorge walls.
There is a short trail to the shrine that passes through several tunnels. The shrine itself is a memorial to the workers who died building the highway through the gorge.
Inside the shrine.
A view down the gorge from the Eternal Spring Shrine.
A Taroko aboriginal woman demonstrates her weaving skill. The Taroko tribe is famous for its weaving.
A sculpture of the native Taroko people.
The Swallow Grotto, notable for its patterns of water erosion that resemble swallow nests.
A view of the precarious trail at Swallow Grotto.