Although I have been to Taiwan quite a few times with family, I’ve never really had the chance to explore other cities on the island. When my mom’s sister asked me where I wanted to go for the day, I suggested to go to Yilan because it was a city I haven’t really explored before. After visiting, I definitely wished I could have spent a few more days taking in all what Yilan had to offer! There’s quite a bit you could do, but you can also get a lot out of a day trip as well.
To start off our day, my mom’s sister and I left Taoyuan City and started to drive to Yilan by car. I was very grateful that she drove me around for the whole day, or else coordinating transportation would have added significant travel time from place to place. However, if you do not have someone to drive you around, I would recommend taking a train to Yilan (travel time significantly varies depending on where you are in Taiwan) and then relying on buses or taxis to take you around the city.
We hit morning rush hour traffic on the way to Yilan, but it wasn’t that big of a dent in our itinerary. The drive was very scenic and included going through numerous tunnels, including one that was around 10 km long! After a good 1-2 hours, we got to Yilan.
Our first stop of the day was Lanyang Museum, which was a museum that highlighted some of Yilan’s and Taiwan’s history. I thought it was very interesting to see how Yilan developed, as well as what aspects brought it to what it is today. The museum is set in a somewhat linear fashion, so it was easy to navigate. You could easily speed through the museum or take your time.
After visiting the museum, we visited the National Center of Traditional Arts, which I wasn’t sure what it exactly was but it seemed like a cultural/shopping site. It somewhat reminded me of a mini cultural theme park. The place is quite big, so you might want to carve out some time in your schedule if you fully want to explore the site. One part of it is lined with shops selling various Taiwanese food and souvenirs, while another part highlights the culture of Yilan coupled with a garden area. You could even go for a boat ride if you wanted to.
We spent our time just walking through the shops, trying some free samples, and taking pictures of the garden/park area. My mom’s sister wanted to take a rest at some point, so we stopped by a coffee shop while I went to explore a little more. We finished the day by watching a show that involved men doing various acrobatic/impressive acts that required great physical strength. It’s hard to put into words, but I was very impressed. Then, we went to a small tea shop on the way out of the complex. My mom’s sister spent quite some time inside the tea shop, and I didn’t blame her. The tea shop sold very cute tea sets of all sizes, shapes and designs. I would have bought one for my mom if I had room in my backpack, but my mom’s sister ended up buying a set.
We started to make our way to the Luodong Night Market, which is supposedly very famous and constantly frequented by locals. Once we got there, I was overwhelmed by all the food that was being sold - you could easily eat 10 different things and still feel hungry! We started the adventure by going to a specific stall that my mom’s sister knew that sold a very good soup. We arrived a little earlier than the typical rush hour but there was already a significant line for this particular stall! I guess you could tell when a place is good if there’s a big line when there’s lots of alternatives around you. Once we got seated, we were served relatively quickly and wow it tasted great! I could go on about all the places we went to, but I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
After stuffing ourselves at the market, we started to make our way back towards Taoyuan. The drive back was significantly quicker because there was less traffic. On the way back, all I could think was how I wanted to return someday - until next time!
SIDE TRIP: TAIPEI AND SURROUNDING AREA
If you have the chance to see Taipei more, I would recommend these sites in addition to the top sights you could find by running a search on Google:
Jiufen Old Street - The views are beautiful, and the old street has lots of food and souvenir stalls. There’s quite a few things to try! My friends and I ended up eating lots of food and walking around the old street, which included taking pictures of the view (including the parts in Spirited Away). We took a local bus from Keelung to Jiufen, which was a more unorthodox way than taking the train, which is what people typically do.
Keelung Night Market - I would recommend coming here if you’ve already been to the major night markets in Taipei. There’s lots of food that you could get that looks extremely tasty. I would say my favorite stall was a man that would skin and chop up an entire chicken and would add a few sides (fish balls, broccoli, etc) if you wanted. You could choose as much or as little as you want, and it was very good for a reasonable price.
Fishing for shrimp - Basically, you pay to fish for shrimp! You pay an initial entrance fee and a fee to rent fishing poles, bait, and the amount of time you want to fish for. The shrimp are essentially inside a rectangular pool, with people surrounding the edges with their fishing poles. Waiting for a bite is a little boring, but the real excitement is when you catch a shrimp and it is squirming all over the place! I didn’t catch any (I was very close) but my friends caught quite a few. After your time is over, you can take your shrimp and cook them inside an oven where you can then eat it. Overall, it was a great and fun experience!
Tainan is in the southwest part of Taiwan and is well-known for the Anping Old Fort. Its Garden Night Market is highly recommended as well as it sells a wide variety of local delicacies.
An island paradise in the Philippines, Puerto Princesa also has a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Subterranean River National Park, which attracts many to the city.