IT TAKES PATIENCE AND A LOT OF PLANNING AHEAD TO VISIT LANYU. Sometimes you even need some luck. Lanyu (also known as Orchid Island) is unlike anywhere else in Taiwan. Due to its relative isolation from the mainland, the people and environment still maintain much of their natural innocence. The Dao people who lives here has the most well-preserved aboriginal culture in all of Taiwan. Even the Taiwanese tourists that flock here in summer experience some sort of culture shock.
Being unspoiled and underdeveloped means that getting here ain’t easy. You can choose to board the small propeller-driven aircraft from Taitung that sells out weeks before, or you can take the 2-3 hour ferry either from Taitung or Kenting harbor. All transportation goes on halt during bad weather and thus we are very lucky to find our ferry on schedule since they were all cancelled the day before. Expect a rough and bumpy ride, and try to stay calm when the passenger right beside you goes “all out”.
MOST PEOPLE STAY AT HOME STAYS. This is a good way to have an authentic experience and to help the support the local economy. Our brown-skinned host met with us as soon as we got off the ferry. We are staying in Yeyo village, which is just next to the harbor. Prices are normally higher on the island but please bear in mind that many necessities are imported from the mainland. So, it is best to eat as the locals eat, bring reusable utensils and bags to avoid leaving traces of pollution behind.
With ample of time to explore (we had four whole days), hiring a scooter is a must. Since walking can only take you to nearby sites, a scooter is convenient while encircling the island. Other than some activities, Lanyu is best traveled with a relaxed itinerary.
Today we went around its west coast, walking around the Yeyo and Hongtou villages, stopping for the occasional shaved ice and photo shoot. One popular sunset spot is on the Chingching fields (青青草原). Weather permitting, the sight of one great red ball of fire sinking into the ocean proves to be very fulfilling.
Sunset as seen from ChingChing fields
Local shops are often decorated with colorful murals
THE NIGHTS IN LANYU ARE VERY QUIET AND AT TIMES UNEVENTFUL. Most eateries close by 7pm, and with no 7-11 stores on the island, make sure you stock your late night snacks from convenience stores before they shut the doors. However, we were in for a lucky treat because the villagers gathered with their chairs at the neighborhood open area for a documentary showcase. Everyone brought their drinks in hand, while all waited sat anxiously for the show to start. We were the only tourists there (with our own non-alcoholic drinks), and was happy to witness such a community function taking place.
All in all, Lanyu may be a little off the beaten track for most tourists, but with some patience and a little luck, you’re definitely in for a generous showcase of its beautiful nature and culture.
Enjoying a cup of shaved ice while people-watching at a community documentary screening