Yilan, Taiwan

Labor Day Getaway for Fresh Mountain Air

The past four months were a whirlwind of exploring new places (Tasmania & Kyoto), hosting family and friends in Taiwan and squeezing in some of that work stuff to make it all possible.

Come April, the only hiccup was a 3 week bout of apartment construction that coincided with a 3 week bout of bronchitis that had Passionfruit in bed for most of it. She finally beat it by turning the apartment in to a sauna which tested the marriage, but it worked.

Something about a water leak in our bathroom that required jackhammering the floor away.

Labor Day is May 1st here so we had a long weekend to play with and a messy, busy apartment to escape. Adults get the day off, but kids go to school. HA! The other motivator to jet off was the air quality index (AQI). It was crap on the west side of Taiwan (where 90% of the population lives, like us). The east coast is often cleaner (less people, less industry). We check air quality almost daily via this free app and you can too. If you live near any industry, traffic and/or coal-powered plants it’s something to pay attention to.

The dark side
View from our balcony that weekend with a terrible AQI measuring 210 pm 2.5. Not so great for bronchitis recovery. This was taken in the late morning (not at dusk).
Different day, but taken at the same time of day! Luckily these days are more common.

Off to cleaner & unchartered pastures

For such a relatively small island there’s a lot we have not seen in 2.5 years. You can fit 3 Taiwan’s inside the state of Oregon and we only scratched the surface there in 7 years. In the northeast nook of Taiwan, there’s a county called Yilan that has cliffs, plains and beaches. From what we knew, we thought it would be a nice weekend jaunt:

#1:  the beaches attract surfers

#2:  there’s good hiking

#3:  it’s famous for hot springs, specifically the town of Jiaoxi

#4:  air quality is typically A+

#5:  there’s a tasty brewery called Jim & Dad’s (Taiwan’s version of Double Mtn. in Hood River)

Cruising in the Fog

It’s about a 2.5 drive from Taichung (where we live) to get to the town of Jiaoxi in Yilan then another 2 hours inland to get up in the mountains. The roads are extremely narrow, steep, hairpinny and shrouded in fog so it was slow rolling. However, the cool misty fresh air made it all worth it. Nothing feels better on lungs recovering from bronchitis than cool misty air.

Driving through the valley towards the mountains is a massive river bed that’s used for growing vegetables (when the water levels are low). Cabbage and watermelon are in season right now and they’re as large as toddlers.
Thick fog reduces driving to a crawl.

Silky Hot Spring Skin

As promised there are natural hot springs piping out of the earth. We made a pit stop at a public bath called Jiuzhize 鳩之澤溫泉  – enjoyed a gender separated soak which left our skin feeling soft and silky.

Why we come here:

“very secret knacks” to fantastically palatable eggs:

Next to the human hot springs is 284 f degree water bubbling out of the earth – apparently perfect for cooking eggs and corn.

Grab a basket and get cook ‘n!

Hot spring eggs in a basket
Includes a complimentary facial

Largest high mtn. lake in Taiwan

We decided to hike the Cueifang Lake Circular Trail because it was remote and quiet. This lake sits at 1,840 meters (6,036 f).  When we approached the “view” we saw nothing as it was socked in, but within minutes it lifted and we got to see this. Honestly, we were just happy to breathing fresh air and be amongst the trees.

Low water levels this time of year. Come fall the typhoons will change that!

The high mountain climate reminds us of Portland (mossy and cool).

Hiking reward

Jim & Dad’s. Ordinary to most of you, but absolutely intoxicating to us foreigners living abroad
Brewery & creamery because why not?

Back in town

Our hotel was in the small, chill town of Jiaoxi which is known for its hot springs. We booked 2 nights at Just Sleep hotel where every room has a large stone tub for private hot spring soaking and public soaking rooms inside and outside. Most hotels in this region provide such amenities plus a breakfast (average $75-100 a night for a nice hotel).

The town has several beautiful parks with meandering pathways to public hot springs and opportunities for foot soaking and fish kissing of the feet. Generally speaking, the parks in Taiwan are safe and clean and open 24/7. Have yet to encounters the “creepy man”, nudity, homeless, drug addicts or gangs of unruly teens. It makes for pleasant walks.

One of many free hot spring foot soaking pools
We enjoyed the Jiaoxi Hot Spring Park the most – which is a public hot spring (礁溪溫泉公園-森林風呂) located in a public park and run by the government. These are tax dollars we support! It has gender separated bathhouses, no clothing allowed and multiple soaking tubs of varying temps. Pickles said the men’s had a pool that was 49c (120 f)!  In terms of environment and quality, it’s the closest to the Japanese hot springs we’ve experienced. Did you know that many of the Taiwanese hot springs were developed by the Japanese when they ruled Taiwan between 1895 and 1945. Highly recommend this one. Only $150 NT/pp ($5 USD).
The hot spring tub in our hotel with an urban view
Styling in the cozy hotel yukata

Dr. Fish Spa

This is REALLY popular all over Taiwan, but particularly in this town. Basically you allow the garra rufa, the toothless fish, often called Dr. Fish to “eat” dead skin off your feet. Some looked big enough to suck a big toe right off and that’s sort of what it felt like. We paused during the feeding frenzy… wondering if the fish may be starved so customers get a good nibbling…. which lead us to the PETA site which gives a thumbs down and for good reason. We feel bad now.

Look at the size of that mouth!
This expression captured the sensation

The Natural Foot Spa

The last day we did a short hike which leads one up alongside the Houdongkeng Waterfall (猴洞坑瀑布) and then to several beautiful crystal clear soaking pools. We rock hopped and got a natural foot nibble by the local fish. We shall return when the 100+ degree days of August arrive.

Sand Castle Competition + Dip

On the way home we drove slightly out of the way to check out Fulong Beach for a swim in the ocean (it was a cooker of a day) and to see the International Sand Castle Competition. Blew the pants off the Stone Harbor, NJ drippy castles that’s for sure. Some favs:

By Willem Frederik Stijger (Netherlands)
By Songmu Yuzi (Japan)


We crammed a lot in a 3 day, 2 night weekend and report that Jiaoxi, Yilan is a great place to escape the city life! It has it all… mountains, rivers, beaches, hot springs, pulled pork sandwiches, craft beer and ice cream. Four thumbs up from P&P.


My sister, Tatiana and her husband, Joe, live in Shekou, China, just a short 1.5 hour flight from us in Taiwan (our countries don’t get along, but we sure do). They both teach English at an international school and recently published this short film about their 3 week holiday bike trek through rural China. It’s filmed and produced by Joe with Tati as adventurer/actor/hot pants connoisseur. We may be biased, but we think it’s fantastic. It’s a rare peek in a not touristy area of China. Spoiler alert: we hope to see more films once they relocate to the beautiful island of Jeju, South Korea this August for new teaching assignments!!

Cheers to the onset of summer and lots of fresh air!


Pickles & Passionfruit

P.S. Did you know we’re still publishing our Taiwan Observations?

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3 thoughts on “Yilan, Taiwan

    1. Thanks, Lucie! And I love reading your blog! Keep the adventures coming and remember, you’re always welcome here, anytime!

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