My visit in Yilan, where brooks and streams offer an endless source of renewal for the nutrients in the soil, making it a breadbasket county is a swift action packed adventure, from the incredible sights to lush tea fields; this is a country teeming with diversity.
Yilan offers the picture-perfect set to slow down and appreciate the countryside at its best. The highlight for me is the superlative food that has taken over its culture. When travelling, I have to indulge in the delightful cuisine that each terminus serves up!
Yilan gazes out to the sea on Taiwan’s Northeast Coast, with crags on the three other sides creating an exceptional geography that has cherished a similarly idiosyncratic ethnic landscape.
The county is home to Asia’s second lengthiest highway tunnel, the Hsuehshan Tunnel, which has abridged the driving time between Yilan and Taipei to less than fifty minutes.
We head to Silks Place Yilan which also happens to be the only global 5-star hotel in Yilan’s city center. The Red Lantern restaurant here is famed for the Cherry Valley roasted duck and traditional Chinese cuisine. Their ridiculously opulent version takes the roasted duck dish to the next level.
It features a whole duck roasted for precisely forty five minutes, left to cool for another five, and straight away set table side. Red Lantern’s legacy of roast duck preparation, using open ovens and non-smoky hardwood fuel such as Chinese date, peach, or pear to add a delicate resonant flavour to the skin, was formerly earmarked for the regal families.
How about some whiskey?
Very few know the brewing industry in Taiwan. On the bestowing list of World Whiskies Awards 2015 and 2016, the finest single malt whiskey is not from Scotland or Ireland as you may predict, but Kavalan Whiskey Distillery in Yilan, Taiwan.
Right from the distillery entrance, I see lots of scrapped oak barrels (that have been treated with high temperature flaming) being placed along the pathway and painted in different patterns. I am lucky to witness heat treatment on oak barrels from behind a huge glass window.
Through the touring route in the winery, I see the instruments of distillation. For those who don’t know ‘single malt whiskey’ translates in to the fact that the whiskey is completely brewed by a solo distillery, so the impenetrable barrels would be unswervingly transported to the storage cellar until entirely fermented.
After the touring and back to the hall, I get to drink a palate of numerous kinds of whiskey brewed here for free. For guests who do not take alcohol, the second floor offers a glass-walled area, permitting them to gawk on this pride-worthy distillery of Taiwan with a mug of coffee.
BEST PLACE TO STAY: The Herb art Hotel Luodong branch. Located in the center of Luodong township; it is a 3 minute walk to the Luodong night market and approximately 7 minutes to the train station.
The Xing Yuan Tea Garden is a famous place to visit in the Zhong Shan village. What makes it a striking sightseer terminus is that the young couple who run the show have made an amazing effort to generate an awareness in their tea farming and educate visitors about their pesticide and chemical free tea gardens.
Whereas a regular garden visit can get wearisome and rather expected, the farm has come up with their own exclusive happenings to benefit stirring up an interest. At the garden I make my own pillow case with tea leaves and bags and also get to be a part of an entertaining session on how to make your own green tea flavoured ice cream.
Eating real food is so easy in Taiwan. I am not even desirous to grip a hot dog, chocolate or bag of crisps thanks to the numerous inventive options accessible on the streets at all night markets.
At the Luodong night market, I settle on fried fish balls…neat and satisfying. We also try tender pork chops, with parcels of vegetables and sticky rice methodically enfolded in leaves. Finally, I am fascinated by the braised meat stalls and I order some. I team it with a feisty local Bubble Tea.