I’ve been planning (or let’s say tempted) to visit Taiwan several times last year, ever since they have lifted visas for Filipinos entering the country. I came close to booking a flight during one of the local airline’s seat sale but unfortunately, things didn’t really worked out as planned (dreamed). Good thing, before 2018 came to a close, I got a chance to visit Taiwan, though not the capital, I still got to explore country’s northeastern town, Yilan County.
To be honest, before being invited to explore Yilan, I really didn’t have any idea what to expect in Yilan. Is it a city buzzling with tall buildings, a small quaint town infused with a smell of rice noodle soup everywhere or a town close to nature where every environmental enthusiast will be happy visiting?
Here’s my attempt to tell you what are some cool and awesome things to do when you visit Yilan.
First and foremost, let me tell you some facts about Yilan:
Yilan is situated in Taiwan’s Northeastern coastline. Our local guide mentioned that Yilan is regarded as Taiwan’s backyard or backyard garden because it is surrounded by ocean and mountains, making it a nature-destination trip especially if you are coming from a busy city like Taipei.
It Is a famous tourist destination for a lot of local Taiwanese and currently getting some buzz from foreign visitors as well, thanks to the Hsuehshan Tunnel, Asia’s second longest highway tunnel. This tunnel helped in reducing the driving time between Taipei and Yilan to roughly an hour.
HOW TO GO
Traveling to Yilan County Is very easy if you are commuting directly from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. You can hop on a bus, train, private car service or even ride a ferry. For our trip, we rode the express bus located at the Taoyuan Airport grounds. We didn’t prebook our tickets and just bought it right at the counter (I don’t know if it is wiser to prebook during peak seasons—probably yes). Our oneway ticket costs NT$168 which is roughly around 5.50 USD.
Travel time is about 60 – 90 min.
For more information about traveling to and around Yilan check out the linkbelow:
WHERE TO STAY
During our stay, we stayed at 2 hotels which both got good points in my book.
GRAND BOSS HOTEL
Located at the heart of Yilan, just walking distance from some of the famous spots in the city is very ideal to those who are traveling and want the most out of their short stay in Yilan. Because is it accessible to many famous spots, it is will make exploring the city feels like a breeze (and you will save up with taxi fare — which can easily pile up and ruin your budget).
It is directly opposite to one of Yilan’s night market which means, unlimited milk tea is just a walk away.
Another hotel we stayed at is a bit farther from the main city action. When we arrived at the Shandori Hotel, we ended up having a staycation and all plans of exploring the neighborhood went down the drain.
What I like about this hotel is its peaceful surrounding. You’ll have views of paddy fields on one side and mountains on the other, this will make you appreciate Yilan as a “nature – green” county.
Shandori Hotel also got it’s own public bath (like the Japanese Onsen) which is perfect during the cold season. YEY!
Note: I love my room!!! It is spacious and very minimal-contemporary
WHAT TO DO
Agrioz Candied Fruit Factory & Museum
A factory, café and museum in one. Agrioz Candied Fruit Factory boasts its tasty fruity sweet treats. When I saw that we are visiting a candy factory I wasn’t really expecting candies made from fruit preserves, that is why I was surprised seeing bottles mini-oranges (Kumquat)—-candy?
You can also book a DIY session to create your own sweet kumquat preserves which you can give as a gift to your loved ones back home
Dongmen Night Market
Taiwan is famous for its night markets and we are stoked that our hotel (Grand Boss Hotel) is just a walk away from Dongmen Night Market. Literally every night, we had our night cap in this night market.
You will find several Taiwanese delicacies such as stinky tofu, taro milkshake, lots of noodle soup stands and of course milk tea vendors.
Aside from food, you can also find a retail shops selling clothes and electronic accessories.
You can find food and snacks along Shenghou Street, while clothing and general merchandise stores are mainly on Hemu Road.
The Jimmy Square
Probably the most iconic destination in all of Yilan. If you ask locals what to see in Yilan, Jimmy Square will definitely be one of the places they will recommend. Situated around Yilan (Railway) Station, this (very) instagrammable square is a theme park showcasing scenes and characters from books published by Yilan born author Jimmy Liao.
As someone who isn’t familiar with his works, there are captions that describes the different sceneries represented in the park. I love how whimsical and at the same time you will sense a deep meaning in all scenarios. “Ramdam mo yung hugot.”
Taiwan Theater Museum
The Taiwan Theater Museum is the first museum in Yilan and also the first theatrical and opera museum in all of Taiwan. Knowing these facts make visiting this place already worth while. Aside from costumes and theater history, it also houses a puppet museum – if you love puppets you will find several types here from finger to string ones (if you are scared of marionettes, this place can be a little creepy haha—you’ve been warned).
We really enjoyed our visit here as we were able to perfume (if you can call it a performance) in front of local children on a school field trip. We did 2 performances, one doing a puppet presentation where I can only say NI HAO…and the other one, a more theater/ operatic performance where I can also just say NI HAO (while wearing a traditional Taiwanese Opera dress).
Yilan County Government Office
Probably one of the most beautiful government offices I’ve seen so far. We went to the Yilan County Government Office to talk in a small symposium about several strategies to help Yilan’s tourism and we were surprised that aside from servicing government related paper works, you can also tour this government building and be amazed with its beauty. In fact, our guide said that there are several wedding photo shoots being done here.
The Yilan County Government Building It is also the location of Yilan County Historical Museum and the annual Yilan Christmas Decoration.
Yilan Distillery is the oldest distillery in Taiwan. Aside from being a distillery and a factory, it is also a museum showcasing its wine production. We spent almost half of our day touring around the museum grounds. We tried smelling different types of wines and also got to try some of their alcoholic products (including a wine marinated sausage—yum!).
Yilan Literary Museum
Just a walk across the Yilan Distillery, you can find the Yilan Literary Museum. Built in a traditional Japanese Architecture, the Yilan Literary Museum was built to provide written resources to understand Yilan’s rich culture.
The interior is very zen and cozy, staying true to its Japanese inspiration, you can just sit down, enjoy a book and drink a cup of tea.
Memorial Hall of Founding of Yilan Administration
Located side by side with the Yilan Literary Museum, the Memorial Hall of Founding of Yilan Administration also retains its Japanese Architecture as a reflection of the history behind the city’s founding. Built by the former Governor of Yilan Prefecture during the Japanese Colonial Period, it served as the official residence of the head of the local government.
I’ve been seeing the Lanyang Museum in several posters during our visit at the Country Government Office. I got so intrigued on what this modern structure is. So on our way back to Taipei I got excited when our van stopped at the Lanyang Museum ground, though we didn’t have time to visit and explore inside, the exterior architecture alone is already a site worth to visit.
According www.travel.yilan.tw , The Lanyan Museum is housed in a building that exists in harmony with the earth. The permanent exhibitions inside are divided into mountains, plains and ocean. These exhibitions display Yilan’s geography, culture, history and diverse natural resources.
Qingshui Geothermal Park
Yilan is famous for it’s hot springs and one of the places that is widely visited by local and foreign tourists is the Qingshui Geothermal Park. It is a bit of a drive from the town center (I am not really sure how long because I fell asleep on our way there—our guide said around an hour drive).
When they told us that we will be visiting a hot spring, I first thought that I needed to bring my swimsuit, but, Qingshui offers a different hot spring experience. Instead of soaking your body, you’ll be boiling eggs and sweet corns in sulphuric water that can reach up to 95 degrees Celsius (yheap…pretty hot).
There are areas where you can soak for tired feet and enjoy a warm dip to fight the cold weather. They said that because it is sulphuric water, it is good to you skin just like an Icelandic thermal bath.
With our short stay in the county, it is amazing the number of attractions we were able to visit. Surely Yilan has a lot of things to cover. Imagine just an hour away from Taipei and you will experience an adventure different from what a buzzling metropolitan can offer.
This trip is in collaboration with Yilan Tourism (Awesome Taiwan ). Follow their instagram page @travelyilan and our trip at #travelyilan . All editorials and photos are my own unless mentioned or sighted from sources.