When a representative from Lion Travel asked me if I was interested in taking a one day tour of Yilan, I jumped at the chance. Lion Travel is the biggest travel agency in Taiwan, and they’ve done a remarkable job in the last ten years of transforming the travel industry, both here in Taiwan and in the rest of Asia. Their sleek red and white shops can be found in all of Taiwan’s major cities, and their English-speaking representatives provide customer service at an international level. Anyway, I figured this would be a fun outing for me and my five year old daughter.
Our day began early, at the Lion Travel International branch located at the corner of Zhongxiao and Dexing East Road in Tianmu. After my daughter and I had fueled up (milk for her, coffee for me) and a pastry from Wendel’s German Bakery, located just across the street, we got on the bus.
Lion Travel has nice buses. The entire fleet is very new, so the interiors are clean, and they don’t smell like mildew like so many tour buses in Taiwan. The windows were perfectly clean, which is important if one is going sight-seeing. The bus driver was professional, the ride was smooth, and the temperature was always comfortable. Considering how many bus drivers like to crank the air con until you feel like you’re traveling in a mobile icebox, I was grateful for this!
We got out of the city quickly and were soon cruising along Highway No. 5 towards Yilan. It’s amazing how much more one can see from the higher vantage point of a bus. I’d driven that stretch of road many times before, but being higher up allowed me to see scenery that I’d previously missed out on. It’s also nice to not have to concentrate on driving! One thing that I should mention, is that many tour buses in Taiwan don’t have bathrooms inside. This helps keep the bus a little cleaner, but it also means you have to be strategic with washroom breaks, especially if you’re traveling with young children. Fortunately you never have to travel very far in Taiwan to find a bathroom, so this isn’t usually a problem.
After about 15 minutes we entered the Xueshan Tunnel, the longest tunnel in Taiwan, and the 5th longest tunnel in the world. 20 minutes later we were out, and on Taiwan’s beautiful northeast coast.
Our first stop was the Wufengqi Waterfalls (五峰旗瀑布) in Jiaoxi, one of Yilan’s more famous landmarks. Now as someone who grew up close to world-famous Niagara Falls, it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to waterfalls.
Wufengqi was nice, but it isn’t awe-inspiring or anything like that. It’s just nice. There are three waterfalls, the first two of which are fairly easy to reach, but the last one requires a bit of effort to reach. I lacked the ambition to hike all the way to the uppermost one, but my daughter and I enjoyed ourselves at the middle-level falls. The vegetation is lush, the water is cool and clean, and perfect for splashing about in. It should be noted that the volume of water coming down has a lot to do with how much rain there’s been, so if you’re coming after a dry-spell as we did, there won’t be quite as much coming down.
Along the path to the waterfalls, you will encounter some vendors selling some locally produced vegetables and foodstuffs. The wild honey is particularly good and has a strong flavour to it, quite different from what you’d get in a store. It’s worth picking up a bottle if you’ve got space in your rucksack.
After this, we got in the bus and were dropped off at Yilan’s largest shopping mall, Luna Plaza, to find our lunch. While Luna Plaza has a wide variety of restaurants on the fourth floor, and the usual food court offerings in their B1 level, we decided to head out further afield in search of some of Yilan’s more famous delicacies. Our first stop was Zhengchang Xiaolongbao (正常鮮肉小籠包), one of Yilan’s more famous dumpling restaurants. The skin of the dumplings is delicate, and the minced meat and vegetable stuffing inside is delicious. Dipped in a mixture of soy sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, and oil, and this is a fine meal for any daytripper! And at only $60NT for a steamer basket of ten dumplings, dumplings is the obvious choice. (I felt truly sorry for one of my fellow travelers who chose to eat at McDonald’s.) Next up was Heidian Shaved Ice, where we had their signature shaved ice treat. Perfect for a hot day!
After lunch, and feeling comfortably full, we got back on the bus and headed to Baimi Clog Village (白米木屐村) where we got to watch the traditional art of wooden clog making, and even participated in a DIY souvenir clog-making workshop. It was a little kitschy, but my daughter enjoyed it, and I was happy not to have to walk too much after such a big lunch.
Next on our itinerary was a stop at the coast to see a rock formation known as Tofu Rocks, because of its purported resemblance to simmering lumps of tofu in a pot. I wasn’t convinced, but I was more than happy to be able to walk along Yilan’s beautiful coast for a bit. For a good example of Yilan’s beautiful coastline, you might also consider visiting Beiguan Tidal Park, just north of Toucheng in Yilan County.
Last on the list was a visit to the Luodong Forestry Culture Park (羅東林業文化園區). In the past, because of the prosperity of the logging industry, Luodong became the distribution of Taiping Mountain wood, contributing to the later economic boom in the region. Nowadays, though, this recreational area not only teaches visitors about the history of forestry in the area but also is a great place to hang out and relax. You can take a walk around the lake, explore the contents of the cultural center or check out some of the different trains used in the timber industry of days gone by that are displayed through the area. This was an enjoyable stroll through a nicely shaded area, and was a great way to finish the day. My daughter had a great time climbing the trees with some of the other kids that she met on the tour:
All in all it was a great day. The people at Lion Travel had put together a good, age-appropriate activity for the people participating. We all left the bus with some good memories and some new friends. Thanks, Lion Travel!
Address: No. 152 Zhōngshān North Road Section 6, Shìlín District, Taipei