The Suhua Highway

This amazing drive, hugging sea-cliffs along Taiwan's east coast, is simply staggering. If you haven't had the chance to experience it, you need to get out and do it. The highway is located between I-lan and Hualien, with its northern terminus in the port town of Suao, and southern near the entrance to Taroko Gorge National Park. Allow a couple of hours, as road conditions are not conducive to fast driving, with nasty curves and climbs, falling rocks and trees, trucks, and road construction (photos from different trips -- sunny ones from 2004, the overcast ones from 2006).

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The trip commences just outside of Hualien.

Racing down mountain walls to the sea.

In 2006 we had a fine misty morning, thanks to tropical storm Bilis.

Outside of Hualien the road passes Taroko Gorge National Park.

Small towns line the road.

Bilis also dusted us with light rain the whole time.

The sea was brown from being stirred up by the storm, but the views were still amazing.

The new road is lined with concrete barriers and heavily tunneled.

It is also lined with Golden Orb spiders, who love the springy branches and open spaces.

My wife poses with a cardboard policeman intended to deter lawbreaking.

Two shots from pretty much the same location, two years apart.

wo shots from pretty much the same location, two years apart. The feeling is completely different, but both are beautiful.

The road is cut into sea cliffs and climbs up and down them its entire length (shot from 2006 above, 2004 below)

Passing is almost never safely possible, though this does not deter local drivers from gunning for Darwin Awards.

Railroad and highway each emerge from tunnels.

Climbing up the highway.

Here we stop to admire the view and take a few pics.

Your trusty writer.

On the right, the road emerges from a tunnel. It's hard to take a bad shot on the Suhua Highway.

Gravel quarrying and cement are two important industries on this part of the east coast.

A police station.

Houses along the road.

A rest stop done up in an aboriginal theme.

Inside the rest stop.

This smokestack is also done up in aboriginal themes.

The same smokestack from the other side. Note the train tracks running along the coast. The train ride is also supposed to be quite beautiful.

Looking south along this flat stretch of the road as it briefly descends out of the mountains.

Cement company infrastructure dominates.

As we drove north in 2006, we got closer and closer to the storm.

A town on the road.

The mist made all shots difficult.

Here my father tries to capture the view.

One of the great views along the highway.

The mist did make some nice effects, though.

When we reached the port of Suao, the big ships had fled in advance of the storm, and the little ones were all snug behind mountain walls.

Two views of Suao, in sun and rain.

A school. 

Famed for seafood, the town is a stop on everyone's itinerary.

My father photographs morning glories on a section of the old Suhua Highway. That nightmare road has been much ameliorated by the recent construction work.

A Taiwan naval ship leaves the harbor.

In 2004 the big ships were waiting patiently to be unloaded.

My kids pose.

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