. I practically fell in love with hualien right then and there because all we had been hearing for the past month was Hotel California, Kenny G, and a slew of chinese pop songs. I instantly had to comment on her keen choice of music and we casually drove to the hostel in smooth luxury. Ya-Chen speaks english and we later found out she lived in the states for about 4 years, in LA of all places. She was extremely chill and helpful and nice the whole ride over and this was to set the tone of our stay with her. Once we arrived at the hostel we met one of our roomates who we definitely got to really know well, Shyou wei (or Sarah for short) and we all just hung out that night. We found out that Sarah had been there about 5 nights already, and that her and Ya-Chen were pretty buddy buddy. We all just sort of clicked. I mentioned that Mike and I hadn't eaten anything and could we have a recommendation for dinner. Ya-Chen was just about to shut down the hostel and suggested a place where we could not only eat some good food, but also have a proper drink. So the four of us went there shortly after and this place was right on the beach! It was beautiful there, the temperature was slightly warm, the food was great, the drinks were plenty cold, and the company was awesome. Sarah doesn't drink and Ya-Chen was the driver so we all decided to keep it to one or two drinks. We got to know one another for quite some time and after about 3 hours of lounging outdoors we decided to go back. That's when Ya-Chen suprised me again
. When she got in the car she took out the Jack Johnson we were grooving to and put in Antonio Carlos Jobim, my all time favorite brazilian artist. I just about jumped out of my skin to hear that music after such a great night. After I praised Ya-Chen's taste in music again, she offered to take us to the beach. We were all down for that idea, and all of a sudden we were at the other side of the pacific ocean watching the waves break under the bright moonlight. It was absolutely amazing! The four of us just sort of hung out there for another hour or so totally having a good time and laughing till we were all pretty well tired and decided to turn in. So that was our first night in Hualien.
During out time in the beach that night we told the two girls that we planned on going to Taroko Gorge the next day. Ya-Chen suggested we rent scooters for the trip and then we invited Sarah along for the ride. When we did that she was so excited she literally jumped up and down and clapped. This was actually extremely helpful because Mike and I forgot that we can't speak Madrine and since Sarah is from Singapore and is of a chinese family, she hooked it up. So Sarah, Mike, and I woke up and went in search the place Ya-Chen told us to rent scooters from. Ya-Chen couldn't join us since she had to run the hostel but she's been there countless times. We got the scooters pretty quickly and then set out for the gorge after we filled up on petrol.
The ride over was a lot of fun, it was really scenic and the whole ride through the gorge was so amazing that I can't even to describe it in words. I'll attach a whole bunch of pictures though and hopefully that will tell the rest of that story. We ended up staying the night in a catholic hostel within the belly of the gorge and then set back out for Hualien the following day. Yeah, we ended up staying in Hualien a total of three nights and just hung out with Ya-Chen and Sarah the whole time. Sarah took off a day before we did to Taipei and that day we made plans to meet up with her there since we had to go back for Taipei 101 and our flight back. We said our temporary goodbyes and shortly after Ya-Chen told us that she was tired of the hostel and wanted to go to the beach and would we like to come along. You know we couldn't turn that down! So she closed up shop and left her cell phone number on the door for anyone arriving to contact her, then we took an hour and a half drive down the scenic as hell east coast of Taiwan to Jici (pronounced Ji-chi) beach. The beach was beautiful, the weather perfect, and brazilian music and Jack Johnson the whole way! Ya-Chen never got called and we all just enjoyed the waves and beauty of it all. I still really miss Hualien and if any of you ever decide to go to Taiwan, you really owe it to yourself to check out this little known jewel of Taiwan. We all came back, got some more food and relaxed from the hard day of relaxation. The next day we had to leave, so we wrote on her famous wall of traveler's messages (kinda like a year book page but on a wall) and thanked Ya-Chen for everything. We hadn't realized it but everything we did with her aside from that first dinner was a service that she normally charged her guests for. I suppose she just dug us as much as we dug her and in the end I highly recommend this hostel to anyone. It really is the best place we've stayed at (for hostels at least) so far.
Before I start a small aside, people in Taiwan are really nice and most speak a degree of english. This made Taiwan really cool for us, since it meant that we could actually get to know locals and the the skinny on things to do that weren't all ready listed in some lonely planet (which we didn't have anyway). For some reason or another, Canadians can be found in droves all teaching english. Seriously, we must have met at least 10 of them and you know that all of them have friends from Canada doing exactly the same thing. I actually felt exotic being an American and all, and when that didn't feel exotic enough, I'd just say I was mexican. So anyways, we get over to Hualien and Ya-Chen, the lady I spoke on the phone with was there within ten minutes to bring us to the hostel. This is where my love for Hualien began. She arrived in a brand new Nissan SUV of some sort (the X-trail to be exact) and when I entered she was playing this loungy swedish music that definitely had been influenced by brazilian bossa nova