No doubt about it: My timing sucks. Oh well.
I was still able to see some things the first day, before the typhoon got angry. One nice place was Jinzheng Shan, a mountain with many, many of those gold flowers you can find in some soups. The flowers weren’t blooming yet, but the view was still great – mountains on one side and the sea on the other. It reminded a little of the overlook at the top of the Tsaoling Trail. To get there, go south from Zhiben to Taimali. The entrance is by the gas station. The road up the mountain is very narrow. I saw an ad for rooms somewhere up there for NT$700 per night; but no one was around to provide more info.
My wife and I stayed in Zhiben at the mysteriously spelled Dong Tair Hotel (that’s dong as in east, and tair as in Tairpei, Tairwan). The room, which cost NT$2,500, was large but nothing special. The hotel’s spa, however, was quite good, though it lacked a proper sauna. (Non-guest admission: NT$300.) I don’t know how this compares to the five-star’s spa, because the typhoon kept us from checking it out.
We tried both of the lunchbox stores in Zhixiang and decided the one on the right when facing the station is the better of the two. Just NT$60 at both places.
The best part of the trip was the drive between Fuli and Donghe on Highway 23. (
Some of the other mountain roads were blocked by rocks after the typhoon.) Beautiful, beautiful scenery. And the one good thing about the typhoon was that the rains it brought made the waterfalls look fantastic. There’s a gov’t-run hotel at km-marker 24.5. Although I didn’t go inside, some of the rooms (NT$2,500 or so) have what must be a breathtaking view. I will definitely stay there if I’m in the neighborhood again.
And of course the coast road was a great drive. Bring your own music, cuz the mountains play hell with radio reception.