Taiwan’s second-largest city is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Taipei. On the island’s eastern coast, Hualien is a pleasant city of about 110,000 souls, set between the Pacific Ocean and the looming peaks of the central mountain range. Its harbor is filled with colorful fishing boats, both local and from all around Asia. In the city itself, one of the most impressive sights in the immense, 13-story Hall of Still Thoughts, which is the world headquarters for the Buddhist Compassion Tzu Chi Relief Foundation. The austere, grey structure and its contents were meant by the organization’s female founder, Master Cheng Yen, to be a “silent lecture” on the precepts of the Buddha’s teachings. Most visitors to Hualien are attracted by the natural splendors of the nearby Taroko National Park. This scenic region encompasses steep peaks and narrow, deep-cut gorges carved from the marble mountains by the Li Wu River. Short walks within the park offer such fascinating highlights as the winding, sculpted Tunnel of Nine Turns and the serene Eternal Spring Shrine set atop a waterfall. The road between the city and the park includes a panoramic stretch along the Ching Shui Cliff high above the blue Pacific.