On the last day of our trip to Yilan, we rented a car via iRent to explore Toucheng town for the first time. Toucheng is the northmost town of Yilan county, and was developed the earliest.
Morning coffee at Mr. Brown Coffee castle
We are frequent customers of Mr. Brown Coffee, they have several locations in northern Taiwan. Their coffee shops are usually very spacious and good for laptop work. The company, King Car, also owns the whiskey distillery Kavalan with a few awards in Yilan. In Toucheng, the coffee shops are a little grander, in two castles up on the mountain. Driving a car or a 125cc scooter would be more ideal, as the road is quite steep and about 10-15 minutes by car. We were amazed by how they just built a coffee shop in this Mr. Brown castle surrounded by a windmill and trees. After having our morning tea and coffee, we headed to the observation deck and then took a walk to the second castle.
The museum is quite new and first opened in late 2010. The architecture is unique, with a design inspired by the shape of mountains viewed from the coastline in Toucheng. The museum was built along the wetlands, and a few birds were resting close to the deck outside of the museum. We spent an hour and a half inside the museum, seeing the special exhibitions on Yilan geology and also the main exhibitions on Yilan ecology, history, and cultures.
Green onion pizza at No. 9 Cafe
Just a few minute’s drive from the Lanyang museum, we wrapped up our trip having lunch in Toucheng at this scenic cafe No. 9. We had an iced black tea and two pizzas, one is Hawaiian and the other with local flavor – green onion duck pizza (duck and green onions are both famous from Yilan). We got lucky with window seats, and we saw so many parachutes coming down from the mountain near the Mr. Brown castles.
Given our short time this trip, we didn’t get to see a few other places but I’d still like to share. Also due to COVID, the most famous tradition in Toucheng has been canceled this year.
Toucheng “Chiang Ku” (搶孤)
This is perhaps the most well-known ritual in Yilan from as early as the Qing dynasty. In July in the lunar calendar, the culture considers the gate to the living world is open and the gate closes on August 1st. Therefore, right before the gate closes, people prepare lots of food for the ancestors, gods, and goddesses to send them off. “Chiang Ku” is the part of the ritual, 10m long poles are set up with a good luck flag on top. The poles are greased up, and people come in teams to compete to reach the flag at the top.
Guishan Island (龜山島)
The island is iconic and we had a view of the island from all the places we went above. Visitors have to sign up for the island online ahead of time, and the island is open from March to November. We wanted to do a hike on the island, but weren’t able to register in time.
Toucheng Old Street (頭城老街)
Near the Toucheng train station, Heping street used to be the oldest and most prosperous street in Toucheng due to its vicinity to the river. After flooding in 1924, land transportation became popular and the street went downhill. Nowadays, some old houses are still around and local food options abound. We are planning to visit by train next time.
Having traveled to Yilan twice this year, we find Yilan a perfect destination from Taipei on a whim. The towns in Yilan have very different sceneries and surrounded by the mountains and ocean. We only got to spend half a day in Toucheng this time, and we will be back for the ocean view, Guishan island, and the old street.