Party in the Back – Dulan, Taiwan

If you think of Taiwan as a mullet, then the west coast is the front (all business) and the east coast is the back (where one is most likely to find a party).

Most people in Taiwan live on the west coast. There are many different cities and towns, but the impression you get while travelling through the western side of the island is that of one one sprawling, endless city. There are beautiful mountains in the distance, if you can see them beyond the ever-present veil of rain, or more often, smog. But up close the cities appear ugly, with drab, shapeless concrete buildings seeming to hunch over one another.

The east coast is where the Taiwanese go to have fun.  Its scenic, with mountains and the ocean. And most importantly, its more laid back.  In Hualien, some of the staff at our hostel recommended we head south to a beach town called Dulan.  There wasn’t much information on Dulan’s Wikitravel site (aside: we use Wikitravel for everything while on the road.  Asia changes so fast that Lonely Planet type books are immediately out of date and often quite inaccurate), but it was enough to make us curious.  So we took a 2 hour train ride south to Taitung, then caught a cramped 30 minute bus ride to Dulan.

The mountains and tropical vegetation make for a gorgeous view on the main street in Dulan.  Notice, no smog! Such a welcome change.
Nice views of the Coastal Mountain Range from Dulan’s main street.
The heart of Dulan is its beautiful black sand beach. Unlike the beaches further north, Dulan’s water is great for swimming. But the real reason to go down to the beach is to surf.
Waiting to catch a wave.  Surfer culture is alive and well in Dulan, giving the town a lazy, relaxed feeling.  
Neither of us have ever tried surfing, despite our best efforts so far this year – we’ve been to a bunch of surfing destinations, only to find out each time that we arrived in the wrong season. In Dulan, we found out that while its not the best season for surfing (that would be winter), the waves right now are ok for beginners.  So we signed up for a surfing lesson with Mark from Wa Ga Li Gong Surf Hostel.  Mark is a South African who has lived in Taiwan for 14 years. He and his family run the hostel/pub/restaurant, and he teaches surfing lessons.
Because of the insanely hot weather, the surfing day is broken into two sessions – 7am to 10:30am, and 3:30pm to dusk (around 6:30pm). Its just way too hot to be out during mid-day. 

The lesson was the morning of our first day surfing.  Mark was awesome, and spent lots of time talking about safety and the importance of knowing the beach you’re surfing at. He even gave us some tips for things to look out for and ask about in Sri Lanka when we hope to next try to surf. Mark is a stereotypical surfer dude, and talks exactly like you’d expect.  Doug was pretty pumped to have been called “brah” by an actual surfer.

So it turns out that 6 hours of being crushed by waves while trying to surf is a lot of work.  If only we knew how sore we would be later that day, and the next, and the next…

Dulan’s beach is on the Pacific Ocean, so the biggest waves when there is a Typhoon somewhere to the east.  Thankfully there are no typhoons active now, so the waves were on the small side. We ate enough sand and drank enough salt water as is.

Paddling out past the break. Its impossible to keep sunscreen on because of all the waves and friction from sand, so everyone goes out in shirts and sometimes pants.
Trying to stand up.  We’d like to think our yoga helped out here, because its all core strength and balance.  We surfed for 2 days, and Emily stood up 4-5 times and Doug stood up once. 
Paddling hard to get up to speed.  This was definitely the hardest thing to learn, because you need to paddle really, really hard to even have a chance of catching a wave. And if you miss it, you might get dumped head-first into the water/sand (rather ominously called “tombstoning”).
Catching a sick wave….or about to wipe out face first.  It makes for a great picture though.


One of the best things about Dulan’s surfing scene is the people.  Surfers aren’t always known for being welcoming to newbies.  Mark told us that in many places, surfers are not so keen on sharing waves with people who clearly don’t know what their doing.  But in Dulan everyone was really friendly, and there were plenty of learners all out together.  We lucked out with a great place for our first time.


Taking a well earned break.

We stayed at Wa Ga Li Gong Hostel, and met a bunch of people who were staying long term in Dulan to keep surfing as much as possible.  Its a tempting prospect, but we have a flight to catch in Taipei in a few days so we reluctantly have to move on.

And a big thank you to Blythe and her family for giving us a lift back to the Taitung train station! If you end up checking out this blog, feel free to look us up and stop for a visit next time you drive through Ontario!

  • Doug and Emily / July 14, 2017 @ 6:36pm / Joe’s House, Dongshi, Taiwan



4 thoughts on “Party in the Back – Dulan, Taiwan

  1. This may be the best intro for any blog post ever!
    Very happy that the two of you had a chance to try surfing. We had plans to go the first time I went to Australia but weren’t able to make it. I lived vicariously through you 🙂


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