Monday, March 07, 2011

,

My first trip to Yilan City

3/07/2011 Taiwan Explorer

Ilan City 宜蘭市 (officially Yilan City) is the biggest city on the northeastern part of Taiwan, located close to the beautiful East coast. I wanted to visit last year, but we didn't get the chance, because we chose to see some other cities on the western part instead. I have to say that Ilan really surprised me. Once we entered the Ilan plain, I was just stunned how beautiful the area is. While driving on the highway, you can see a plenty of rice fields on the left and right and the Pacific ocean right in front. The marvelous view was interrupted by the magnificent Guishan island 龜山島, which looks like a giant turtle (hence the name 龜). When we finally reached Ilan City, I was surprised again, but this time not positively. I didn't mind, that there wasn't that much to see in terms of history or modern architecture (things I'm interested in), what made me feel a little uncomfortable were the stares and the hellos, that came from everywhere and from all kinds of people, young and old. I don't mind, if one or two people do that, but if it's done so many times like in Ilan City, it becomes a little bothersome. I had no idea that a blond Caucasian man attracts so much attention here, that's definitely more than in any other place in Taiwan I've been so far. Something I can really praise is the food, which would be the number one reason for me to revisit Ilan City and county.

Let me show you some images from our trip and share some interesting things, that happened to us that day:

First let me tell you how to go to Yilan City from Taipei? We bought the tickets at Taipei Bus Station (near the Taipei Main Station). You have to go to the 4th floor and buy the tickets there, close to where the buses are waiting to depart. We paid 129 NTD per person, which is around 3 Euros.

This was the bus.

We passed by Taipei 101 and I had to take a photo. It was so warm here, so I chose to wear short sleeves and sunnies. But once we came to Ilan, it was grey and cold. I felt duped.

The ride to Ilan City was 1h and 20min long. The buses for this route are new and very comfortable. The highway was built in recent years and is full of road tunnels, of which the 12.9km long Shueshan tunnel 雪山隧道 is not only the longest in Taiwan, but also one of the longest in the world. I stopped the time and we needed exactly 10 minutes to pass through that tunnel. It was amazing.

And then we finally arrived in Ilan and saw the beautiful Ilan plain 宜蘭平原.

These are rice fields. Photo taken from the bus on the highway.

Regional office for the Taiwan Railway Administration.

This is where the bus dropped us off. It's not the central Ilan City, we had to walk for 10 min.

Someone told us to walk this way, the main railway station was near.

This is the newer part of the main railway station. The city center is on the other side.

The only way to come to the other side is the underpass, that connects various platforms. If you want to pass, you need to tell that to the officer, that checks tickets. He will give you a small ticket, which you give to another officer on the other side. The railway station in Ilan is probably the most beautiful building in the city. The whole area is very neat and it's obvious that a lot of effort was put into making it appealing to tourists. Inside the station and in the former rice inspection office there is a lot of information available to foreign visitors.

Former Rice inspection office from 1930, neatly renovated.

We decided to walk further and see what the city has to offer.

Zhongshan park with a beautiful paifang.

This is an old bank.

And this is the newest department store called Luna Plaza (homepage). There's a big Carrefour in the basement area, which was crowded, most of the upper parts are fancy boutiques and there were less people.

We were given information by a passer-by that there's a beautifully restored Japanese styled house nearby and decided to visit it. Luckily, it was just next to the big shopping mall.

The building, which is today called Memorial Hall of Founding of Yilan Administration is the fomer Official Residence of the Japanese magistrate of Ilan. The original building dates to 1900, but was meticulously restored in 1997 and is today a big attraction in Ilan City (source). We paid 30 NTD per person and walked around the garden and inside the house, which is turned into a museum. Definitely worth a visit.

After walking around the Japanese house, we headed to the central area.

The First Commercial Bank.

We peeked in a temple.

Then we went into a familiar side street.

My girlfriend used to visit Ilan City in the past for several times and always wanted to try a very famous and popular noodle stall. And that day we were very lucky, because it was open and not very crowded. We decided to give it a try.

I would never think, that this stall makes such amazing noodles.

Even though it was a cold afternoon, people were queuing for the food here. I've also seen a white girl enjoying the food here. So I figured it has to be great.

Ta-dah: Let me present you the best noodles I've ever tried in Taiwan so far. The sauce is really really delicious and the noodles are top as well. I highly recommend you to visit this stall, if you happen to be in Ilan City, but you need to be lucky, it's not open all the time.

After we finished the tasty noodles, we passed by this Presbyterian church. If you want to find that stall, just come to the church, they're located in the same street.

Another interesting building.

Actually we wanted to go back to the railway station and head to the famous Luodong Night Market 羅東夜市, which is located in the nearby Luodong 羅東, the second biggest town in Ilan County, but then my girlfriend spotted a night market and we decided to check it out. It's called Ilan Dongmen Tourist Night Market 宜蘭東門觀光夜市, located under a bridge in an area, where the former East Gate (or Dongmen 東門) used to stand.

The name of the market written on the bridge.

We had no idea, that the night market has so much tradition and offers a great variety of tasty and affordable food. We really liked all the snacks we tried and I highly recommend this market to everyone who visits Ilan City. It was probably one of the highlights of the day for us. But I have to add that I garnered most stares and hellos here. I felt like all eyes were on me. And it was here, that an uncle tapped on my back and asked me where I was from (in English). Sure, some of it was cute, but most of it was very weird, especially when people pointed fingers at me and laughed. I generally don't like to be in the center of attention, but I can't avoid that in Taiwan. I am different, I know that. I am also used to a certain amount of stares, but Ilan was definitely a challenge, because it was more than in any other city. I was actually a little relieved, when we came back to Taipei and everybody minded their own business.

Images from the night market.

This part was still empty, because we came early.

This was really a great trip, even if it was very short and limited. I know there are so many beautiful spots in the Ilan plain or the whole Ilan county and I can't wait to visit again on a warmer day with blue sky and with a great camera. I want to take many photos and blog about specific things in and around Ilan City. I want to thank my girlfriend for being my guide and answering the hundreds of question I asked her during this (or any other trip). She's really patient and tries her best to explain Taiwan to me, I feel very blessed and lucky.

Waiting for the train