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Hualien (花蓮; Huālián), together with its suburban twin Ji'an, forms the east coast's largest population center. With a vast range of great dining, bargain-value lodging and transport possibilities, it's commonly used as a base for visiting the upper east coast, including Taroko Gorge.

The central grid of streets can feel rather formless, but is full of color and life. Meanwhile, around Meilunshan Park (美崙山公園; Měilúnshān Gōngyuán) and the harbor area, you'll find landscaped parks and a riverside bike route leading to an oceanfront area with several boutique hotels. East, beyond an industrial district of marble cutters and cement factories, there's a more peaceful bay front area at Qixingtan.

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