I can’t say that I had particularly high expectations the National Center for Traditional Arts (國立傳統藝術中心) when I visited it during my trip to Yilan, but I really enjoyed myself there.
The center’s beautiful 24-hectare campus is located on the banks of the Dongshan River, and features a colorful mix of traditional and modern Taiwan architecture, painting, calligraphy, sculpture, handicrafts, and food. Regular music, drama, and operatic performances are held in various venues throughout the complex, and boat rides along the gentle waters of the river run throughout the day.
A number of old residences, temples, and other structures from the surrounding area have been moved brick-by-brick to the center and reconstructed there. There is also an “Old Street” lined with stores selling traditional snacks, toys, clothes, and other blasts from Taiwan’s past.
If you’re interested in experiencing Taiwan culture, the National Center for Traditional Arts is well worth a trip. It’s relatively easy to get to by road or public transportation, including a shuttle bus from the nearby Luodong Station. There’s even a hotel there if you want to stay the night.
Suao (蘇澳), the final destination of our trip, is a major cargo and fishing port further down the east coast of Taiwan. The main harbor was packed with working fishing boats and, not surprisingly, there were plenty of seafood restaurants on the quayside to choose from when it was time for lunch. For me, however, the highlight was the Nantian Temple, which has two rather magnificent gold and jade statues of Mazu, the goddess of the sea. With its bustling atmosphere, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the most famous Mazu temples in Taiwan.
In theory at least Suao is just an hour and fifteen minutes way from Taipei by road, but the journey there can take a lot longer in summer due to heavy traffic. The train takes around two hours.