Taiwan Tales Day 9 – Sunrise at Lyudao’s famous hot springs

Day 9 of the epic Taiwan Grad Trip – we endured a bumpy ride to Lyudao, and then spent a day driving around the little island. This day would see a super early 3am start as we dragged ourselves out of bed to head to the famous Zhaori Hot Springs for sunrise.

Sunrise at Zhaori Hot Springs

At 3am+ before the sun was out, the road was absolutely pitch dark and there are no street lights whatsoever, just the light of our car’s headlamps. There are barely any road barriers as well so one wrong turn would mean plunging into the sea.

Zhaori at that time was open 24 hours (Update: not these days, so don’t go too early) and of course no one was around at that unearthly hour. What I loved was the sound of the crashing waves right next to the hot springs, one of very few saltwater hot springs in the world.

There are 3 outdoor man made pools – Cool, Hot and Pretty Damn Hot. The temperature of Hot was just nice for me, and there was where we settled, with great spots facing out to the ocean. Good thing too, because later on as the sky got a little lighter, a coach or two came, unloading a bunch of loud Chinese tourists into the pools with us, boo. There goes the neighbourhood – we were just starting to soak up the peace.

Taiwan Lyudao Zhaori Sunrise Collage
I popped in and out of the pool to snap pictures of the sun as it rose. It was VERY nice. (Other than the rowdy tourists in the pool with us)

Sunrises are kind of amazing, in that you don’t normally consciously take notice of the sun’s movement across the sky, but it is so evident when you are taking a lot of pictures, and it’s just amazing to think that all this is happening because it’s actually the earth rotating. (I’m easily impressed, I know)

Most of the tourists dispersed once the sun was high in the sky, but a quick time check showed that it was only about 6am. We headed over to a corner of the hot springs where there was a stone trough and the boiling hot spring water was pumped up into it. We had bought some eggs the previous day to cook, as advised by our hostel owners, but we had totally forgot about utensils. Luckily, we scrounge up some nettings in the area around left by other hot spring cooks which we used to lower the eggs into the trough.

Hot Spring eggs are different from normal hardboiled eggs, because the salt water doesn’t exactly reach 100 degrees when it boils, so the resulting egg is a lot more springy than a normal hardboiled egg like the sort you get with Japanese Ramen, absolutely FAB. We saw prawn shells around the area, and apparently veggies are also popular for hot spring cooking!

We ran into a group of cute Taiwanese girls, the ONLY other people in that hot spring who were even close to our age – they were on their grad trip too! We shared an egg or two with them, they were really sweet.

Taitung Lyudao Hot Springs Me 2007
Slightly awkward sunrise selfie

It was quite a lot brighter at this point, and you could see that beyond the hot spring pools, there were these natural inlet bays where the hot spring water mixes with the cool sea water, resulting in the perfect temperature water to swim in because you didn’t get too cold or too hot. I could hang out in these pools forever! Some even had little fish which got swept it in with the water…

Zhaori Hot Springs is probably my all-time favourite hot spring, and I hoped to revisit it again one day (and I did, 9 years later on my Career Break!)

The tiniest airport

We left the hot Ssprings at about 7am – the sun was high in the sky and it felt like afternoon already somehow! We drove around looking for the elusive historical prison that we missed yesterday, and turns out we’d driven past it several times but never realized what it was. doh! It only opened at 8am though, and that was too late for K and J who were heading back to Singapore. K would be back again, though that was it for J…

They were headed back by plane though – no more terrible ferry rides for K, who had been immensely sickened by the trip over! There are 3 Taitung-Lyudao flights every day, and it’s only a 5-10 minute hop by plane, as compared to the half hour (or longer, depending on the current) ride by ferry.

We headed back to wash up while the 2 of them packed, and though the airport was right next to our hostel, we drove the 100m over to the smallest airport I’ve ever seen in my life (at that point at least). You still had to do the usual stuff like check-in, and check-your luggage through and get stamped through customs, just that all that was happening in this same, tiny area. The flight was super delayed, only leaving close to 10am, and C, P and me stood by the fence and waved madly as this tiny little propeller plane took off with our friends.

Taitung Lyudao Daily Air Plane
K told us later that the plane sits just 12 people, and before you even realized it, you were back in Taitung airport

Re-exploring the island

So it was down to the 3 of us – K had been master planner of the trip, and she and J were far better in Chinese than the rest of us so it would be an interesting few days before K came back to meet us in Kenting. We headed back to the hostel to settle our next days plans when we left Lyudao, and our awesome hostel owner Xiao Lan Jie helped us immensely, arranging accommodation and pick up from the ferry to Taitung at a tea plantation! We were pretty lucky coming to stay here…

We grab some lunch – Lyudao’s famed deer meat with some noodles – before exploring the island. We’d seen more of the island already, but had yet to explore the west side. Also, so far we ‘d always been travelling in the clockwise direction, so this time we decided to drive the other way. Ooh, how exciting~

Taitung Lyudao Dabaisha Me
Yup look at me being all… ponderous

First stop was Da Bai Sha, or Great White Sand if you translate it directly. It might look like a normal sand beach, but what makes this beach special is that most of the beaches on Lyudao are rocky ones.

We passed by the Hot Springs again and stop there, heading up to a lookout point we had spotted earlier which overlooked the hot springs. Great view from up there – it’s a climb up a flight of wooden stairs, and bam you’re suddenly on this grassy and super windy knoll. It was apparently some sort of battle look out point before, as there was a shelter there. It’s called Fan Chuan Bi, and is a headland that offers a fantastic ocean view. We lolled around the area just chilling out for awhile.

After that we head back to the Sleeping Beauty/Pekinese Rock lookout point, where we break out the noodles for a good lunch while soaking in the view. I brought along my book for a sketch

Taiwan Tales Xiaochangchen
Me on a sketchy sorta day

It was a little less sunny today, so the waters were a little less blue, but no less beautiful!

We headed back towards where the Historical Prison would now be open, and discover a tiny, steep little road that headed down into a little valley called You Zi Hu, which was a preservation of the first village settlement on Lyudao. Amazing~ We walked around a little, and were very glad we didn’t run into anyone else when we left, because that road was only wide enough for one car.

Finally, we ended up back at the Historical Prison which was now open. It’s now a Human Rights Memorial, and is one of the singularly most depressing places ever. I wonder if it’s just how it’s built, or that the walls just soak up all the despair of prisoner’s now gone, because just walking into that building was a serious dampener. It’s rows and rows of now empty cells and lists of political prisoners who must have spent a long time there – I was pretty happy to leave!

We drove back to the hostel, on the way discovering an elusive shop we had ‘lost’, but even after we finally went in, we didn’t buy anything from there. We couldn’t figure out where to return the car to, so awesome Xiao Lan Jie offers to do it for us. It’s a quick dinner in the village and an early night after a very, very long day. We would finally leave Lyudao the next day, sadness!

Want to read more about my Taiwan Grad trip? Check out the previous days on Lyudao or see what happened next when we went to Taitung.

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