First, the cast of characters:
The most efficient way to drive from Hsinchu to Yilan (“E-lahn”) is to head north to Taipei, cross the island just south of downtown in the Banciao District, pass through New Taipei City, and eventually go through the Hsuehshan Tunnel.
The tunnel is eight miles long and is one of the longest in the world. It bores through the mountains separating Yilan from Taipei.
When you arrive on the other side of the tunnel, it feels like you’re on a different island. The craziness of the big cities disappears, the air is clear, and the mountains and Pacific Ocean take ownership of the land.
In simple terms: east coast pretty. West coast not.
Our first stop in Yilan was the Lanyang Museum.
The four floors of exhibits are housed in an architectural marvel, and for less than 100nt we wandered around taking pictures and learning the history of Yilan County.
After the museum we made our way to a hole-in-the-wall noodle shop famous for its peanut sauce. It tasted like peanut butter and was good, but the uniqueness of the flavor was almost distracting for me. Luckily, Yvonne ordered bowls of mussel soup for everyone as a side, so I passed my unfinished bowl of peanut noodles to Cameron and dove into the mussels.
Our bellies full, we headed back out toward the museum; passing it, Larry turned on a side road that fit one car, then turned again onto another narrow lane that took us past an enormous temple. We rode up the side of a mountain, taking in the views of the coastline below, until we reached the peak. There, in all its glory, was the Mr. Brown Coffee Castle.
It was getting dark, and the skies threatened rain, so Larry drove us from Toucheng south to So-au, a port town where we were staying for the night.
We tried to go to a scenic overlook to see the coastline, but it was too dark, so we checked into our boutique hotel.
Everyone was tired, especially Larry, but we all went to a seafood restaurant across the street for dinner.
We dined on nearly-frozen sashimi, a popular dish of mayonnaise and shrimp with sprinkles on top (1. I’m not kidding. 2. Gross.), lamb (delicious!), and oysters.
After dinner we retreated to our rooms and fell asleep well before midnight.