So far, this journey has taken me to 9 countries and many cities. All of them different. Hectic, seedy, gentle, rustic, overwhelming, inauthentic, untouched, and peaceful. I’m grateful to have experienced such a range.

One of the most charming cities I’ve seen is Hualien. It is located on the east coast of Taiwan, right on the Pacific Ocean, with a population of about 100,000. It is a slow, picturesque town. The perfect place to disconnect or retire. (Tons of old people!)

But, Hualien’s charm is subtle. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking. I didn’t miss.

My Favorite Things about Hualien

The technicolor blocks. Set sporadically in fields of green. Evidence of a city planner who delights in surprises.


The red bridge. Calling all actors for a scene in a romantic comedy.


The running path. Where the river was my companion and the mountain was my guide.


The parks. I didn’t know whether to play down in the sand or stare up at the sky.


The homes. I teleported myself to every balcony.


The boardwalk. A breeding ground for fast miles and lofty dreams.

photo 5

The piece de resistance? A couch on the beachfront! My kind of people.


Can you see why I loved this place?! I stayed for 3 weeks and never got tired of it.

But I met travelers who were not impressed and I know why. 1) They never left the city center. 2) They value the big picture, not the details. And to each his own. I can understand how someone wouldn’t notice the couch, or would think it was tacky. I get it. I also get that if you can’t find delight in most things, you’ll delight in few.

Lessons Learned. The best part of a city is not the most popular part. As tempting (and easy) as it is, don’t follow the crowd. Make the crowd follow you. Rent a bike. Befriend a local. Or, jump in a taxi and ride around with no destination. Get out of the center. Explore the edges. Find the charm. It’s there.