When I first came to Taiwan I took almost any opportunity I could get to visit the East Coast - I fell in love with the natural beauty of the valleys with massive mountains to one side and the beautiful Pacific Ocean to the other. Since then, I've been up and down the coast several times through Yilan (宜蘭), Hualien (花蓮) and Taidong (台東) as well as visiting both Orchid (蘭嶼) and Green Island (綠島).
One of the reasons I love the East Coast is for the sheer amount of open space there is - the land is somewhat sandwiched between the ocean and the central mountain range, but the valley below where there are small towns is full of natural beauty and has yet to be developed in the same way that the west coast of the country (where all the major cities are) has. This means that if you want to get somewhere along the east coast, you're probably going to have to drive for quite a while to get to it, but there are always going to be a number of distractions in between as there is so much to see and do there.
With all this love I have for the area though, if you look at my Blog Map, you'll find that I'm sorely missing posts from that part of the country. I have plans to solve this problem in the near future but there are a number of reasons for this - I did most of my exploring of the east coast years ago and while I do have a considerable amount of photos from those trips, they are sitting on an external hard drive that needs some data recovery before I can get to them. The next reason is that I have a dog now so I have to be responsible and can't leave home for a few days whenever I feel like it. I can get away for day-trips but that really limits the distance I can travel.
I've tried doing day trips to the East Coast in the past and they've turned out to be extremely exhausting and not something that I want to do all the time. An example of this is when I posted about the Qingshui Cliffs (清水斷崖). Getting to the cliffs involved a four hour train ride to Hualien and then a one hour scooter ride to the cliffs and then the same on the way back. The result was a fourteen hour day of travelling.
Today's post is from a day-trip to Yilan that is not unlike the trip to Qingshui Cliffs, but even though it was really tiring and somewhat of a whirlwind experience, it was still fun and as always, the East Coast never ceases to amaze.
One of the places where I go to relax, meet friends and write blogs is a local craft beer bar called Hop In. I've been going to the bar since it first opened and have become good friends with the owners and the other regulars. A few weeks ago one of the guys asked if I dared to go paragliding. I thought, paragliding? There's nothing scary about that. So the next question was: So when do you want to go?
Plans were made quite quickly and we were off to Yilan the next week to go paragliding in Wai'Ao (外澳) which is popular for its beach and its harbour. Wai'Ao also has a perfect view of the famous Turtle Island (龜山島), a few kilometres offshore and was off-limits to civilians for several decades.
After passing the beautiful beach (that was surprisingly still busy on a weekday in late October) we drove up a steep mountain and arrived at the point where we would be taking off.
The paragliding experience in Taiwan isn't similar to what you'd have in North America - There were no hour long safety videos or excessive lectures about what to do and what not to do. I just had to sign my name, give my ID number and provide an emergency contact number. No fuss.
The weather on the day we went was absolutely beautiful but we had to wait a while because they were busy and because the wind wasn't that strong. I used the time waiting to enjoy the scenery and tried to get some nice shots of Wai'Ao with the island in the foreground as well as getting shots of my friends going before me.
When it was my turn, I asked the coach if it was okay if I took my camera with me which ended up being no problem (which surprised me). We suited up, he tightened all the straps and made sure everything was safe as well as giving me a few simple instructions about what to do and what not to do.
While gliding through the air we passed over the busy East Coast highway as well as the railroad and then quickly passed the beach and went out above the water a little bit. When we got to a certain height we shifted back towards land and the instructor told me that when we got close to the beach that I should put my feet down and get ready to standup and run so that we would have a good landing.
Overall it was a pretty fun experience although it wasn't a very long glide down to the beach. I have a friend who is a professional paraglide who works both in Hong Kong and in India and from what I've seen, paragliding with him would be a pretty awesome experience. One thing I can't compare though is the scenery. The scenery that you get to enjoy in Wai'Ao is pretty amazing and that made the trip worthwhile!
If you're interested in paragliding while you are visiting the East Coast I'll leave the contact information below. Its best that you make a reservation at least three days in advance. Don't just show up hoping that they can squeeze you in as they're pretty busy!
Wai'Ao Paragliding (外澳飛行傘基地）
Address: #95 Shikong Road, Toucheng Village, Yilan County. (宜蘭縣頭城鎮石空路95號)
Reservation Number: 0935181191
Facebook Page: 宜蘭縣飛行運動推展協會