Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taroko Gorge: Tunning Vistas, Spiritual Treasures ; Taiwan's Secret Candidate for Eighth Wonder of the World

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Taroko Gorge: Tunning Vistas, Spiritual Treasures ; Taiwan's Secret Candidate for Eighth Wonder of the World

Article excerpt

Few of those hordes of blue-suited businessmen visiting Taiwan from the West ever leave the hustle-bustle of the capital city of Taipei.

Given its throbbing business atmosphere, remarkable shopping, eye-popping National Palace Museum, and the best Chinese food in this or any galaxy, that may be understandable.

But to those who have both the time and adventuresome spirit to trek the wildness of Taiwan's east coast: Fasten your seat belts and get ready for a dramatic change of venue.

Here you can enter those Chinese scrolls you've seen in museums and Art History 101 textbooks. In living 3-D you're able to walk in a land of vertical precipices boasting more nooks and crannies than a six-pack of Thomas's English muffins.

I took a 30-minute flight from Taipei to Hualian on a warm and clear day enhanced by a streaked sky the color of pale-blue raw silk, ideal weather for exploring the wonders of Taroko National Park.

At first glance, Hualian has the humble appearance of a small, working-class town. But the real story lies at your feet. Creamy- white marble sidewalks, the color of wet tofu, hint at treasure concealed in them thar hills. For beneath the green, tree-shrouded mountain patina lies a trove of marble and granite that locals have mined for hundreds of years.

I boarded a bus for a12-mile tour through the narrow, picturesque ravine.

The sinuous road snakes along midway up 3,000-foot craggy cliffs that soar high above the Liwu River. The rushing water continues to etch out the gorge as it has for millenniums.

Sheer marble and granite formations tower hundreds of feet into the mist. Ancient Ami aboriginals, in a gesture of understatement, named the gorge Taroko - "beautiful." And even today, no tacky shops or eateries mar its raw beauty.

The narrow road continues through long, dark, man-made tunnels only to open onto bright, blinding vistas of staggering beauty. …

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