Exploring the Golden Fulong Route: Part 1

(This post is very VERY VERY late… but, well…better late than later! 😛 trip happened back in April this year)
 
The first time I tried to conquer Fulong wasn’t exactly a success. But that didn’t stop me from trying again. In fact, I got so determined that right after that, I decided to try again the following day.
 
The lure of Fulong, for me,  was the mystery behind its sands. I was wondering why it’s been tagged as golden. Is it really? Coming from the Philippines, I admit that my expectations were quite high.
 
So did Fulong satisfy or fail to deliver on its promise?
 
Read on and see for yourself…
 

Riding the TRA again

 
I started my journey at 10AM and took the train again. Everything was smooth-sailing up to the point when (I swear!) I got on the platform on time. But I forgot that different types of train run along the TRA. I should’ve known something’s up when the ticket I bought this time was way smaller than yesterday’s ticket.
 

 
I looked at the time on the platform and the time on my ticket. The clock ticked 10:50, my ticket was stamped 10:45. I missed my train. So naturally, panic rose up inside me and made me look for a teenager on the platform. All of my Mandarin knowledge evaporated and I was on survival mode a.k.a. Chinglish only or die.
 

I’m with my people…or at least, the people I look like. MANDARIN ON!

Fortunately, I spotted a teen-age guy and immediately asked questions. I cannot remember exactly how I began my inquiries, but the only thing I can vividly recall was how the teen trembled as he tried to find the right words to reply in English. I almost said, “it’s okay, never mind”, until he decided to show me towards the TRA’s station map.
 
Apologies for the blurry photo. My hands were having a panic attack.

He told me that there is still another train that I can ride using the ticket I bought. The final destination isn’t going to be Fulong, but it’ll be one of the stations that this train would pass by. He also told me to check out the monitor to see what time the said train would arrive. So for the next thirty minutes or so, I had my eyes glued on the monitor and kept track of the Suao train.
 

 
It turns out that riding the Local Express train means riding a blue train that resembles the Taipei MRT, only a bit smaller. Even if you miss the time indicated on your Local Express train’s ticket, you can wait for the next one and still get onboard provided it’s on the same day of your ticket purchase.
 
Inside, the seats are a first-come-first-serve thing.The train supposedly has lavatories (which I haven’t tried). There were overhead metal racks where you can place your luggage.
 
Kinda reminded me of the Pinas MRT, but ours was smaller


 
The train ride from Taipei to Fulong station took me about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

It’s quite long, which is why I initially considered reaching Fulong the day before by the Taipei-Ruifang-Fulong route. But the thing is, Jiufen (between Ruifang and Fulong) sucked up all my time with its unbelievable traffic. If it wasn’t for the traffic, Taipei-Ruifang by train is just 20 minutes then Ruifang-Fulong should only be an hour. Ideally. But this day, I didn’t want to take chances anymore. I learned my lesson and so decided to brave things, slowly but surely.
 
Despite the longer train ride, it was still a pleasant experience especially once we got to the Yilan area. The rural sceneries offered picturesque views and the number of passengers already thinned out.
 

 
Eventually, I shared the train’s cabin with just a family.
 

 
If I wanted to do cartwheels, by all means I could. But instead, I opted to marvel at the amazing views that now presented itself outside the windows.
 

 

 

 
As I finally stepped on Fulong’s train platform, I surveyed around me and realized that I am in rural Taiwan. Actually, I find that I enjoy this kind of Taiwan even more because of its laid back atmosphere and coastal scenes. It’s also fascinating to note how different the rest of Taiwan is from the city of Taipei. It’s a few hours away but everything is just so different outside of Taipei, especially the people.
 

 

 

The Bian Dang Culture

 
One of Taiwan’s popular local food is bian dang. It’s a lunch box filled with rice, boiled egg, steamed cabbag, greens, hard tofu, and Taiwanese sausage. The centrepiece of bian dang is pork or chicken stewed in soy sauce. It’s popularly sold inside the TRA and HSR, even along train stations.
 
I was pleasantly surprised to see two popular bian dang stalls setup right outside Fulong station. I decided to try the one on the right side because it’s got a shorter line.
 

The crowd in this picture mostly forms the lines queued up outside the two bian dang shops.


 

 
The line moved quickly because the store only sells pork bian dang. Once you get to the order table, all you need to say is how many you’re taking with you and tell them it’s for take away or tai dzi.
 
Left: Pork stew, Middle: Taiwanese sausage and kikiam, Right: stir-fried cabbage

Once I got my bian dang ready, I decided to eat it by the beach. I was really determined to check out the Fulong sands and make some time to discover the other places I marked on this Golden Fulong route. I walked straight ahead, without a map, only following the crowd and the signs I see on the streets which luckily had Pinyin on them.
 

 
tempted to rent one, but it was raining a bit

Going to Fulong Beach Park

 
The road to the beach was somewhat confusing. But it really does help to have a map nearby.
 

 
And to just go with the flow of people. I just went straight, saw some bike rentals on the way, and then turned right by the YMCA brick signage.
 

 

Just go straight ahead, don’t worry. This isn’t YMCA’s private property.


 
you’re on the right traaaaaaaack!!!


 
I finally found myself face to face with the famous sands of Taiwan’s Fulong beach.
 

 
I spotted this veranda nearby and heard cherubs sing. Time for lunch!
 

 
The Fulong Beach Park can be viewed for free but swimming is strictly prohibited. If you’re simply interested to get a glimpse of Fulong and just be by the beach, then this place is more than enough for you. The other part of Fulong beach, where swimming is allowed, requires an entrance fee.
 

 
As for me, I felt happily content at eating from my veranda view and chilling happily (both literally and otherwise) with my bottle of orange juice.
 
Well, I did wish I brought a beer though.
 

 

 
From the veranda where I ate, there are also paths leading to trails you can explore nearby.
 

 
Though entrance was free, the beach park was kept clean and you’re free to explore the area. The view was pretty amazing in itself and the sands remained gold-ish even if they were wet by seawater.
 

 

 

 

 

 
It’s weird to be at the beach with cold winds breathing hard on you. Despite that, Fulong beach still gave off that warm relaxing sense of being in the moment–something that viewing the sea just innately have.
 
So did the Fulong beach live up to my expectations? Yes, it did. Because for a beach park that can be accessed for free, I can’t believe it remains as clean as it did. I personally think glimpsing this place is enough to tempt you to try the with-pay part of Fulong beach where you can do water activities and swim to your heart’s content.
 
And as for the “golden” term…
 

 

 
I do get it now. 🙂
 
To be continued…

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