It worked out well but it could have been a disaster. Xincheng station is a small station which is the closest train station to Taroko Gorge. The station were packed with tourists alighting from their tour coaches and tour guides leading the way for them to take the trains.
View from the 2nd storey of our accommoadtion in Yilan
Our next stay was a minsu, or Taiwanese B & B which I read about in a travel book. We checked in and promptly headed to a farm popular with Taipei weekenders, Guan Shing Leisure Farm. The farm was smaller than Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch in Hualien, but they had clams and other art and craft activities for kids.
After the farm, we headed to the Luodong night market was famous, we decided to head there for dinner on our first night in Yilan.
Spring onion pie
Sausage wrapped in pig's caul
We followed the crowd, queueing at the food stalls. Had a good time, although not as satisfying as I thought. The night market here tended to serve a lot of deep fried food, unlike Hualien where one could still buy barbecued corn and porridge etc.
Breakfast provided by our minsu (I'd admit it, I selected the minsu on the strength of their breakfast)
We got up early the next day to take the Yilan tourist shuttle bus to the Traditional Arts Center (approx NT36 for 1 adult, one way).
The Traditional Arts Center, Mandarin name: 国立傳統藝術中心, is located near the Dong Shan river area and the nearest main train station is Luodong. When we got there, I managed to borrow a complimentary stroller from the customer service. We got there just in time to watch their morning show, a parade of sorts through the Arts Center.
Performers during the parade
Performers during the parade when they moved to a staged area
The Traditional Arts Center was fascinating for both adults and children. Other than the show/parade through the Center which repeats again in the afternoon, there were shops selling supposedly unique Taiwanese things. I felt the various shops sold unique things and there weren't any 2 shops that sold the same things or same types. They had Cartoon King, a shop famous in Taichung for its paper products and I was sorely tempted to get the travel stool!
Can you spot my DD?
There were plenty of food joints, ranging from a food court to restaurants and stalls selling ice cream, pop corn and bubble tea. We ended taking a walk through the garden area of the Traditional Arts Center and checking out the 'dying arts' exhibition at the museum. It was interesting to see traditional arts like paper puppet making, embroidery, etc and their evolution in Taiwan.
We left the Traditional Arts Center for Luna Plaza, a shopping mall near Yilan train station. This is the big shopping mall in the Yilan area and has a hypermart (Carrefour), bookshop (Eslite) and the usual suspects in a departmental store. It is linked to Silks Palace Yilan, a hotel our friend had assured us had a super cool kids playarea for hotel guests.
After whiling away the time at Eslite (I love bookstores!), we headed out to dinner. Yilan is famous for 'no menu' restaurants, also known as tasting menu or omakase (for those who are used to Japanese cuisine). These restaurants typically do not have any a la carte menu for you to pick and choose from, merely menus of different price tags e.g. NTD$1500 (approx SGD$75) or NT$3000 (approx SGD$150). Arguably the most famous 'no menu' restaurant in Yilan is Glass House. We did not go there as the owners of the minsu we were staying in told us it was mighty hard to call in to book a table.
Outside the restaurant
Our menu presented at the table (but the server did introduce each dish verbally too)
So we decided to check out another place instead. After much extensive research, on Taiwanese food blogs etc (my ability to read traditional Mandarin improved vastly after doing the various readings for this trip), we eventually selected one restaurant. We were very happy with both the restaurant's food and the decoration of the restaurant itself.
DD's table setting. They provided seafood porridge for her at no extra cost and which she gulped down. It was super tasty as porridge goes (different from the Cantonese type of congee).
So happy with the food here, in fact, I believe, I was 'rewarded' by Mr effort to take over the child-rearing duties for 3 hrs in Taipei so I could shop to my heart's content (more about shopping later). Mr effort loved the sashimi here and I loved the uni (sea urchin) with tofu which was a replacement for the sashimi. Haagen-Daaz uni!
An amuse bouche they presented to us at the table. Would not have thought of pairing panko crumbs, strawberries, mayonnaise, cabbage and seaweed as a roll! They even gave a piece of the seaweed for DD for her to eat.
Both of us, being used to eating beef medium, were not used to the beef dish they served here which was cooked well-done. Mr effort didn't like the dessert they served which was a beef tomato in a slightly sweet-sour sauce, but I quite enjoyed it.
We left Yilan the next day for Taipei. We had various options of travelling to Taipei, but as we were staying in the Zhongxiao Dunhua area in Taipei, the coach was going to be more suitable rather than the train as it had a stop nearer to the Dunhua area.