This post is written by Emily Koh from our sister site, Asia 361.
Did you know that Yi Lan is most famous for its water in Taiwan? This county has a steady supply of fresh, clear water, which explains the presence of its remarkable hot springs, lakes, rivers and water parks. Apart from that, it houses special attractions that will allow you to reconnect with nature again.
1. Clear Lake National Forest Recreation Area (宜兰明池森林游乐区林)
Rich in ecology, forest landscapes, and a misty atmosphere fit for a poet, the Clear Lake National Forest Recreation Area (宜兰明池森林游乐区) is located in Yi Lan County, Taoyuan City Fuxing District Association at an altitude of about 1150 metres.
Vibes at宜兰明池森林游乐区are tranquil and peaceful, with various marsh pools and artificial lakes depicting the landscape of the mind. It was said that the late Mr Chiang Kai-shek had built this place in memory of his mother, and many poets would come to this sanctuary to compose thereafter.
This is part of a twin-art collection representing the various human states of mind（静中有动， 动中有静). This artificial sand “lake” embodies 静中有动, which means movement amidst the calm.
On the other hand, this is the other part of the twin-art collection representing the various human states of mind（静中有动， 动中有静). This lake embodies 动中有静, which means that there is peace within movement.
Looking at these classic works of art imitating life and vice versa, it is easy to immerse oneself into the tranquility of the forest, and transport oneself back to the day and into the life of a Taiwanese poet.
Address: 267 Taiwan, Yilan County, on Datong Township, village Yingshih Clear Lake Resort No. 1
Phone: 886 3 989 4106
A villa guesthouse located near the Clear Lake National Forest Recreation Area, Lea Lea Hotel (栖兰山庄) is surrounded by plenty of natural beauty, such as forest trails and cherry blossom trees.
We spent a night here and it was rejuvenating spending it amidst nature. Apart from the occasional cicadas, it was mostly quiet and peaceful.
We had our dinner at the resort, and there were some interesting dishes.
While it is generally quiet, the resort organizes activities such as a live music festival, which we caught during our stay, where their guest musician performed several instruments (saxophone, trumpet and flute) all at one go, modern and old songs alike.
In the morning, we awoke to the chirping of birds nestled within the flowering cherry blossom trees. Natural light streams into the room, making it a cosy sight to wake up to.
This place would be perfect for anyone who would like to reconnect with nature, or simply get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and experience living in the heart of the forest.
Address: No. 6號, Section 4, Taiya Rd, Datong Township, Yilan County, Taiwan 267
Phone: +886 3 980 9606
3. Yi Lan Ma Gao Cypress National Park (宜兰马告国家公园神木区)
Within the Yi Lan Ma Gao Cypress National Park is the Cilan Divine Tree Park near Lea Lea Hotel. If you’ve spent a night there, it would be a great idea to hit the roads and drive up to visit the tree shrine.
When we arrived there some time in late February, the temperature was as low as 4 degrees Celsius. It can get quite cold up there and in previous years, there was even snow on the mountain top!
Some of these trees are as old as 2,500 years. There are many treasures there, such as trees which are creatively named after famous historical figures in Chinese history, such as Si Ma Qian, Genghis Khan, Qu Yuan and Confucius! Interestingly, the physical characteristics of the tree mirrors the personality it was named after. We thought that was a really creative twist in incorporating Chinese history with mother nature, allowing guests to appreciate the age-old cypresses even further.
At the top of the tree board walk, there is a little pitstop for a lunchbox set and some hot soup and tea, which was delightfully welcoming for hikers after reaching the peak.
There is something strangely mysterious and alluringly sacred about the tree shrine. Do make a trip here, especially if you are a nature lover, or are seeking an adventure a little different from the norm.
4. Hotpot at Guguchami Museum (Tea & Rice Resort) (罗东菇菇茶米馆)
You must be wondering – what is so special about hotpot? The answer is this: extremely fresh homegrown organic mushrooms and vegetables, and pure freshwater supply that Yilan is known for.
There is a subtlety to the hotpot served here – the ingredients are ginormous and fresh, and the array of sauces served includes the local Taiwanese Sha Cha Sauce, which is made from soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chillis, fish and dried shrimp. One more thing – the hotpot is halal, which is perfect for Muslim friends.
What’s inspiring about Guguchami Museum is their aim of educating the public about rice cultivation, a trade of the past that few truly experience. The Guguchami Museum prides itself in its educational DIY activities, which involves guests in the processing and production of rice.
When we were there, we even got to try our hand at making rice crackers, which as you might have guessed, went out with a bang.
The rice grains, which had been puffed up in the process, were then made into rice crackers after being mixed with syrup.
Make this a part of your itinerary, to learn more about how the Asian staple is grown and harvested. You might also want to purchase a few packets of their Taiwanese rice, which has a unique “QQ” and springy texture that is rather unforgettable.
Address: Yongxing Road Dong Shan Shun Village, Yilan County No. 48, Sec
5. Dinner at 差不多御藏私坊
If you are an epicurean looking for some excitement, chances are that you will enjoy the food at差不多御藏私坊, which, loosely translated, means “Almost Everything Restaurant”.
While the restaurant name may be on the whimsical side, the restaurant itself is pretty serious about livening the delicacies they whip up. The appetizer, for instance, was a cold silken tofu dish topped with tiny golden chocolate balls and wasabi.
Though the portions are not particularly filling, the delicacies are tasty and will definitelysatisfy the tastebuds of those who are searching for something refreshing.
Address: Yilan County Luodong Fuxing Road, Sec 109 (Ilan Ilan gourmet cuisine restaurant)
Reservation Booking Line: 03-9552682 (appointment-only)
5. Wellspring by Silks Hotel 礁溪晶泉丰旅 (宜兰县礁溪镇温泉路67号)
When in Yilan, make sure you hit a hotspring. What better way to soak in fresh hotspring water than in the comfort of your own room?
Located at the centre of Yilan Jiaoxi and just a five-minute walking distance from Jiaxi Train Station and Jiaoxi Bus Terminal Station, lies Wellspring by Silks, an established boutique hot spring resort.
With earthy tones and a calming interior, Wellspring by Silks resort is a sanctuary within the city center. Despite the remarkable number of hotspring hotels on the same street, there is something outstanding about Wellspring by Silks – it is located at the corner end of the street, and once you step in, the atmosphere is immediately comforting and inviting.
There are some Japanese influences on the resort’s design, such as the providence of yukatas and face masks in the hotel rooms. Moreover, in each hotel room, you can find a large private bath in the balcony, where you can enjoy a hotspring bath in the privacy of your own room.
The rooms range from a standard guestroom for couples, to large family suites that can accommodate up to two families, with the help of a connecting sliding door. Likewise, the bathtub sizes vary according to room size.
Their service is impeccable and every staff is warm and approachable. Food-wise, the restaurant Mihan Jiaoxi is a contemporary Japanese restaurant providing authentic Japanese delicacies, together with fresh organic local hot spring vegetables.
Wellspring by Silks is the perfect hotel for couples and families who wish to enjoy a quiet and relaxing time together. Even for the individual business traveller, this is a tranquil city escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Address: No.67, Wenquan Rd., Jiaoxi Township, Yilan County
Telephone: +886 3 910 0000
These are just five examples of things you can do in Yilan. Yilan is truly an interesting small town with fresh food and water, which explains the organic nature of their local cuisine, as well as the genuine personalities of the locals.