The week before the last, Taiwan celebrated National Day (10/10). The public holiday fell on a Thursday, but NTU has flexibly-adjusted holidays, so that means Friday is also a holiday (in exchange of having that week’s Friday lessons on the previous Saturday).

Given that it has been and will be the only public holiday and long weekend in months to come, many train tickets to other places in Taiwan have been fully booked in advance, and accommodation for groups were also hard to find, as many people already planned domestic travels during the same period.

This was partly the reason why we decided to go to a nearby city – Yilan – since there is a train (区间车) whose tickets are not bought in advance that goes there. The train comes in one-hour intervals at times so it’s best to check the schedule if one is taking this option!

Crowd at Taipei Main Station

Despite it being a public holiday, we managed to get seats on the train after about 20 minutes as many people alighted! It took about 2 hours before we arrived in Yilan (bus would have been faster normally, but traffic jams were our concern).

We also got to see a little of the countryside flair of Taiwan on the train.

Paddy fields and short houses
The sea

After arriving at Yilan station, we went to the nearby tourist information center to take a brochure or two on the recommended places to visit and eat in Yilan. After which, we went to check-in to our Airbnb.

The Airbnb was a house with 4 storeys, and nearly every room in the house was rented out. We wondered how lucrative this business might be for the owner once we settled down in our room on the top-floor.

Sadly, I didn’t take any pictures so here’s one from the room listing.

Small but comfy room

After putting our bags down, we started our exploration around Yilan. Some of the places we spent a longer time on day 1 were:

Yilan Brewery

“Liquor is a kind of highly nutritious beverage”
Visitors can smell the different liquors here
Gold in Sorghum liquor (高粱酒)
Group picture in front of a random fancy tea house

Luodong Night Market

Luodong night market is one of the biggest and most popular night markets in Yilan, so we actually went there twice on our 3-day trip.

The unusual thing about our first visit was that we saw cats for adoption in the middle of the night market. There were also some more active cats out of the cage, playing with potential owners.

Cats for adoption

One of Yilan’s specialty is their green onions, and they put it in a lot of their food products. From biscuits to pancakes to skewers, it’s likely you’ll see ‘三星葱’ beside the names of many foods we are familiar with.

One of the stores had an extremely long queue, it took about 40 minutes before we could get our hands on one of their famed Sanxing onion bun (三星葱包)!

The store with the longest queue in the night market

There was also another store with a long queue, and an astonishing 4.9 ratings out of a few hundred reviews on Google Maps.

Oversized pearls with filling inside

While both were nice, they didn’t seem to live up to the hype so if the queues are long, I would think it’s fine to just skip them!

Surprisingly, we didn’t witness any special activities on the streets in celebration of National Day, though we might just have been in the wrong regions.

So far, the view in Yilan had been pretty different from what we are used to in Taipei. The city is definitely quieter and darker at night, and we took the opportunity to admire the stars. The houses are also generally shorter and more spaced out, and prices are just slightly lower than what we see in Taipei. The next two days we explored many more places, but that’s for another time. Till then!

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