Weekend in Yilan

0730 comes early in Taipei, especially on a weekend! But last Sunday, I’d agreed to meet other co-workers at the Sun Yat Sun MRT, exit 4, at 0730 for a bus trip to the NE part of Taiwan: a town called Yilan (ee-lan). I left the apartment at 0700, walked down Tong Hua and left on Xinyi. A few blocks down I turned on Guangfu S. road and 15 minutes later I saw SYS exit 2, but where was exit 4? hmmmmm And then I remembered the MRT tunnels underground and descended into exit 2. And there is was: a sign pointing to exit 4, blissfully in a warm and dry environment.

The bus trip to Yilan took a little over one hour, through many long tunnels. Our first stop was the Rabbit pencil factory! Yup, good ol’ fashioned wood-and-lead writing instruments!

The Rabbit Pencil Factory logo in pencils

You can imagine that it’s a popular place for the Elementary school crowd. Sitting in small schoolkids’ desks, we were shown a movie about how the pencils are made. It was all in Chinese but I got the gist of it. Then we took a tour  (also in Chinese) through the ancient factory.  It was interesting watching the raw material, Chinese cypress, being molded into bright, shiny pencils. I cracked up seeing this sign on one of the machines:

Is there an "incoherent" machine somewhere?

Next stop: DIY pizza! It was lunch time and everyone was hungry. We waited our turn to turn a blob of yeast dough into a handcrafted feast and watch it bake in a wood-fired oven. Yum!

who knew making pizza could be so fun?

Our final stop in Yilan was an orchid farm! How wonderful to step into a botanic wonderland! We got a tour (yes, again in Chinese but this time I was assigned a translator!) We wandered through greenhouse after greenhouse, each one filled with beautiful blooms and tropical plants! (You know how expensive orchids are in the States? Not here! I bought a lovely light green orchid, a pot to put it in, and a small Hawaiian anthurium for 300NT – around 10 dollars USD.) On the drive back to Taipei, we were told the farm had given each of us a lovely white orchid plant – wow!

Yilan hothouse

Wanna guess what the cost for the entire trip was? The bus, the tours, the pizza….500NT (~16.00US). Gotta love it!

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…

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