About Me

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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

First Time Visits To Yilan

Biking Trails, Yilan City
Dragon Boat weekend is around the corner and several sets of friends from Tainan, Taichung and Taipei are asking me the same questions. If you have never been to Yilan before than there are some "must sees" but you'll have to deal with crowds from Taipei. Holiday traffic really can take the joy out of a commute, as many of the roads into the beautiful mountains for fun in rivers, lakes or on the trail are one lane nightmares. Best to know where you're going, how your'e going and go early. Scooters rent out fast.

If you have absolutely never been to Yilan before than consider what activities you want to do. I wrote a post about visiting Yilan before and this has specific info on how to get to Yilan and some of the same restaurants I mentioned here (although Piggy's is since gone).

1. Wai'ao for Surfing or Hanging at the Beach (Easy Day trip from Taipei)

If you want to rent a surfboard than stay in Wai'ao. Rent a board at Super George Surf who is active with the local community elementary school kids in Toucheng. There is cheap accommodation and boards at Rising Sun Surf Inn, where you can camp and use their showers (because they are always booked), or try the Hi Surf. Either way check out the pizza and live music at Drifter's run by two California surfers. Many of these expat/surfers have regular beach cleanups (followed by a party) so check their Facebook events. You can also hang-glide from the mountain backdrop onto the beach. If accommodation is booked, stay in Jiaoxi or Toucheng.

Yilan County Government Building

2. Fulong (Easy Day Trip from Taipei)

Fulong is closer to Taipei so expect the crowds.  It's one of the only places in Taiwan, besides Kenting where you don't have the slate grey beaches, but golden sands. You can also rent a surf board (better waves in Wao'ao) or a SUP. For a more budget friendly option, rent a bike and circle the 27 km cape (beware the sun! Read my post on me biking the cape with my daughter). There is also the famous Caoling Historic trail you can start this hike at the next train station north of Fulong. If you are a diver there are some wicked sites my coworker frequents. Contact Canadian owned diving shop ScuBar. Nigel is a friend of a couple of my friends, I don't know him personally but he answered my questions quickly when I was considering getting my daughter certified.

3. Jiaoxi 

I would recommend to stay in Jiaoxi your first time in Yilan as there are loads of accommodation options, and all the hotels have natural mineral water pumped into their bathrooms. The best way to get here from Taipei is by bus (90NT.) Its an easy train ride from Jiaoxi to the beach in Wai'ao (3 stops north) and a nice scooter ride into the mountains in Yuanshan if you have time. Check the availability at Atayal Xiang BnB. I stayed here before when my parents visited, and Paul the owner (also a surfer) will go out of his way to make his guests feel welcomed, providing taxis and car rentals and tips for sightseeing.

The Wofongci waterfalls are a must-see. Tour buses come here so beware. If you are driving there is a nice big parking lot next to a beautiful grassy river. Its a great place to cool off after a sweaty 20 minute walk to the last platform of waterfalls. If you have time and are fit enough try the other trail to the more remote waterfalls. Its not recommended for small children. I actually did this with my daughter and my friend and his family, and at the last pool we had to leave our kids with his wife as the last 100 meters were too Indiana Jones for even the 12 year old.

Other fun things to do in Jiaoxi are to hit the fish foot spas and hot springs. Hot springs don't sound so fun in summer, but many of the spas have cooler water pools as well as hot ones. In summer, if you have kids do not miss the Art Spa Hotel. They are a 5 minute walk around the corner from Jiaoxi train station and have a 4 story winding water slide that is super fun for adults too. They also have a  playground submerged in a kiddy pool that is in viewing of the adults cool water bubble spas. A win-win for everyone in the family. If you need saunas or piping hot herbal baths they have this too.

For ladies in the winter, I recommend the Japanese style hot springs up the path from the public baths. Its almost exclusively outdoors ad hidden behind bamboos and trees and blissfully relaxing. They have a freezing cold pool, tepid and piping hot pools. Accommodation in Jiaoxi range from big hotels near the station, to smaller boutique like inns, to chain hotels like the Evergreen. But the top place to stay, if you have the money and want something romantic, with the top swimming pools and spas with sublime views of the mountains is the Royal Chiaohsi Hotel. They are just down the road from the waterfalls.

Ok let's say you've done Wai'ao and Jiaoxi before and want to see a different side to Yilan. Where do you go?

Jimmy Park, Yilan City

4. Loudong

Ten minutes out of this city, the suburbs of Loudong are over run with BnBs and minsus. Many of these places provide bikes and there are paths amid green rice paddies with the blue mountains in the bakground. Take your pick of places. My Australian friend has a place right outside Loudong city. There is Plum Blossom Lake, Renshan Botanic Gardens, several short hikes to waterfalls, tea picking and if you like crowds, the Loudong Night Market. Visiting Suo'ao and the cold springs and the beach at Nanfang'au is an easy 20 minute drive from here. If you are sick of Taiwanese food try Spice Land.

5. Yuanshan

Its ten minutes into the mountains from Yilan city and has several lakes, rivers, hiking and fishing to get off the beaten track. More tour buses are starting to discover here and roads are one laners so come early. Better yet, rent a scooter from Yilan station and check it out. Follow the river, park off the road, hike into the emptiness and pitch a tent, but beware of snakes.

If you have more time for more waterfalls and hikes, check out "Yilan Whats Not to Do"

6. Yilan City

There's not so much to do in the city per say, but it does have some great restaurants and is a central location to use as a base to explore Wai'ao and Jiaoxi to the north and Loudong and Su'ao to the south, as well as Yuanshan inland and the lonlier beach and beach bike paths of Zhuangwei.

Some great places to eat for Western Food is Slobber, just a ten minute walk from the train station, and the French restaurant Le Temps, across from the station and adjacent to Jimmy Park. Next to them is the very slow Cafe Slow Train with their delicious sandwiches and beers. If you have your own transportation, than drive or take a taxi to Balagov's Ukrainian Cafe, Tavola's for Italian, Little Mexico and the Japanese colonial Le Grand Bleu in front of Luna Plaza. Luna Plaza itself has budget dining on B1 (like Sushi Express,KFCs and lots of Taiwanese shops) and higher end dining on the 4th floor (Tasty's, Cafe Grazzi, etc.)

There are cheap hotels across from the train station as well as the Hero Hotel between Yilan Train station and the University. I've seen Taipei families "camp" on the grass of Yilan Sports Park and if that's possible, I don't see why you couldn't pitch a tent at the more sublime grounds of the Yilan County Government Building.

If camping is your thing there are "official" sites outside Loudong as well as unofficial, North American style spots (for a future post.)

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