First, the cast of characters:

Cameron, me, Larry, Yvonne. We're a good looking group.

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 mountains are prettier in person... when you can see them.

The tunnel is eight miles long and is one of the longest in the world. It bores through the mountains separating Yilan from Taipei.

On the way back to Hsinchu, it took us 20 minutes to go through the tunnel thanks to traffic. I didn't time us on the way there, but I did ask, several times, "We're STILL in this tunnel?"

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.

Here's where Cam and I argued about my pronunciation of "dock". He claimed I said "duck" and said he felt sorry for my future children. I told him I was sorry he was Canadian.

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.

Yvonne and I took more pictures of the building than of the exhibits.
Trippy perspective, right?
I imagine the architect was a big fan of MC Escher.
We're on the second floor. You can see the escalator that takes you to the fourth. There's a walkway from the third floor to the other side of the building... which I just realized we never crossed. That's Cam in the corner. That's Cam in the spotlight, losing his track of time.
Yvonne and I were taking pictures of an old map when this kid shoved in front of us and started fiddling with the exhibit. Then he ran off and tried to pull the fire alarm. Go go gadget ADHD!

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.

When we left the noodle shop, we passed this building, and I grabbed a quick shot. Taiwan is incredibly colorful, with even the dilapidated buildings painted bright colors.

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.

This architecture sticks out like a sore thumb in Taiwan. The entire building is one big coffee shop.
The view from the castle grounds: you can see the Lanyang Museum to the right of the lake in the center of the picture.
Larry was exhausted from driving all day. He was probably tired of Cam and me bickering like adolescent siblings all day, too.

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.

It was a scenic one-hour drive. Near Wujie the sun set, and the rest of the drive was dark.

We tried to go to a scenic overlook to see the coastline, but it was too dark, so we checked into our boutique hotel.

Notice the light switch outside the room. Whenever I went to Yvonne and Larry's room next door, instead of knocking, I turned off their lights.

Everyone was tired, especially Larry, but we all went to a seafood restaurant across the street for dinner.

Conveniently located next to Mick's World. (I took this the next morning.)

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.

Anytime we left the building, we had to take the key back to the front desk. With this keychain, I don't know how we would lose the key, but they made sure we didn't have the chance.