Note: I was lucky enough to visit Yilan in May 2013. While I spent two days in Yilan City and Yilan County, I believe that a one-day trip from Taipei will suffice for most starters. In this post, I will outline a suggested itinerary, though be warned that I have not tested it for its suitability in real life conditions. Hence, expect some hurdles and inconveniences if you choose to follow my suggestions.
I’d recommend you to reach Yilan by 9:30. Hence, take a bus at about 8:15.
My classmates and I took a bus from the Technology Building MRT Station on the brown Wenhu Line, and it drove us to the Luodong, Yilan County. The bus cost NT$114 one-way, and it took about 1:10 hours on a Saturday morning. (Note: With Taiwan’s well-maintained and extensive system of long-distance bus routes, I am confident that there are other routes, starting e.g. from Taipei Main Bus Terminus next to the Main Station, etc..) While a seat or two may be available on the spot, it sure doesn’t hurt to purchase tickets in advance. The ride will mostly lead through a tunnel (system), so you may catch up on some sleep.
Spend the Morning at the National Center for Traditional Arts:
The National Center for Traditional Arts showcases traditional artifacts, costumes, products, architectures, and generally speaking: traditional culture, of Taiwan. I recommend this place for everyone who is attracted to Chinese culture, particularly if you have not had the chance to visit the Chinese mainland!
There should be a shuttle bus from Luodong Bus Terminus to the National Center for Traditional Arts, so it’s easy to reach. Alternatively (depending on the size of your group), a taxi should set you back by about NT$200, so that may also be an option.
Expect to spend about 2 hours in the park if you don’t want to visit the performance, or 3 hours if you wish to visit such a performance. Stroll along the main (shopping) street, but also make sure to visit the House of Huang and the Exhibition Hall.
Onwards to Wai-Ao Beach
Depending on how hungry you are, make sure to refill your empty stomach either at the National Center for Traditional Arts, at the Luodong Bus Terminus / Train Station, or once you arrive at Wai-Ao. Note, however, that this trip takes about 1.5 hours if you’re lucky (i.e. little waiting time, going to Luodong by taxi). Alternatively, you can go there in about half an hour (23.4 km) by Taxi, though I’m not sure of how much that would be. If you go by train, get off either at Wai-Ao station and walk southwards (e.g. along the beach) or at Toucheng station and walk northwards. After a 20-minute walk you’ll arrive at the Lanyang Museum, and you may also grab some seafood at the nearby pier(s)!
Lanyang Museum – or: Museum of Yilan
The Lanyang Museum is housed in a hyper-modern building, which for its architecture alone rightfully attracts visitors. The exhibitions feature everything about Yilan’s history (and Taiwan’s history in general), and they are rather targeted at a younger audience! Most exhibits come with English explanations, and it’s a fun way to spend an hour or two!
Onwards to Luodong Night Market
While it may not be particularly late (maybe around 4pm, depending on how quick you were before), you may get ready to visit the famous Luodong night market. I don’t know why, but I get the impression that Taiwanese people love to advise me on going to different night markets in different cities: “Oh, so you’re going to this amazing city full of history, modern buildings, nature, and culture? Be sure to check out the night-markets, it has really great food” Just kidding, I actually enjoy going to the night market as well, and this night market is surely a prime example for every visitor!
You can reach Luodong Night Market by train, but note that this night market is not located in Yilan town, but again in the county. That is, take back a train to Luodong station (remember, where you arrived Yilan first, and where you might have boarded a train to the beach) and follow the crowds for the direction (or ask at the information counter).
The Luodong Night Market prides itself of various local delicacies, including Three Meats(?), Duck Meat, and a local desert.
For a more detailed review though, be sure to check out this post on MyKafkaesqueLife. If you’re already full (or still hungry, that’s ok!), you may wish to walk along the little park which is in the middle of the night market. It also features a shrine/temple, and there may be some music performances (esp. in the weekend)!
Back to Taipei
After you’ve browsed through Luodong Night Market and filled your empty stomach it’s time to go home to Taipei. Again, walk through the train station and get to the bus terminus. However, you might want to book your tickets in advance (and also check when the last bus departs for Taipei), though that should not be a problem to do upon your initial arrival in Yilan.
What could also interest you:
Taiwan’s Cat Village near Taipei
Taiwan’s Rainbow Village near Taichung