Okay, so it’s not really the final days, but Saturday and Sunday were last days of freedom before class and work and responsibilities really begin. We decided that in our final weekend of lazy days, we wanted to do some solo exploring and check a few must-visit spots off our list. Our first stop was a place we’ve been wanting to go to since day one in Toucheng: Drifter’s Pizza Pub at Wai’ao Beach!
Drifter’s is an authentic pizza restaurant and bar owned by an Italian guy named Garrett, who (you guessed it), is a friend of Yulun and Ren-Hong’s. It’s become something of a hot-spot for the local foreigner population, but locals and visitors alike come flocking to their Saturday Music Nights. Every weekend, the pub hosts a local band (sometimes Garrett’s own band, The Handsome Devils) for some tunes, sips, and slices under the stars. We rolled in just in time to get treated to some country tunes by The Handsome Devils and a margherita pizza. There were even some Americans at the tables next to us! Next weekend, Drifter’s is hosting a Fourth of July barbecue that’s sure to draw in plenty of American expats and travelers like us. Hopefully over the next few months we’ll get to know some of these others who have been drawn to Toucheng from all over the world.
Having sated our homesickness a little, we decided to spend Sunday getting in touch with the local culture. Earlier in the week we heard about a museum just down the road, only a 20 minute walk from Goldfish House. After tucking into a traditional Yilan-style lunch, we decided to take the trek out to the harbor to the Yilan County Lanyang Museum and even from blocks away we could tell we’d made the right call.
The museum is a huge, imposing building that looks like half a pyramid jutting out of the harbor, all stone and glass, and it’s even more impressive on the inside. Google Maps calls it a local history museum, but it would be easier to list the topics is doesn’t cover! Inside, we found exhibits on the region’s weather patterns, ecology, wildlife, farming, religion, and so much more.
We started with their temporary exhibit, Eco-Rethink. The exhibit is a collaboration between the Lanyang Museum, the National Palace Museum, and National Taiwan Museum, all about the impact of humans on their natural environment. Inside, we found specimens of Taiwanese native species that are endangered or extinct due to human activities, like the Leopard Cat and the Formosan Black Bear. There were interactive exhibits too, like this wall full of animated fish, all designed by kids visiting the museum. One of our favorite parts was a huge globe modeled after a 16th century map of the world. Using a VR app and a cell phone, you could navigate the globe and could read about flora and fauna from all over the world as they were understood by people in the 16th century!
We eventually tore ourselves away and headed upstairs to the sprawling permanent exhibit, which takes up three whole floors. There was plenty of local history, but we also learned lots about contemporary cultural events, the county’s major exports, and even some more general Taiwan trivia.
We learned that Taiwan is known as both Butterfly Kingdom and Eel Kingdom (for its diverse populations of both species), that there are three different types of beaches in Yilan County (we made mental notes to explore them all), and that it’s rainy in the Toucheng area 200 days out of the year (the dry season is in April, which, of course, we just missed).
We spent three hours at the museum and didn’t even make it through the whole thing! It’s definitely a destination that merits a second visit, and we plan to head back to take in the parts we didn’t make it to as soon as we can. Plus, the dock behind the museum and the little pond it’s situated on are just begging to be picnicked on—I mean look at that view!
Our last day of leisure time ended with us perched on the seawall that extends out into the water from Wai’ao Beach. We saw the last rays of sunlight reflecting off of Turtle Island and watched the surfers below until they headed to shore for the night. We haven’t given up on our hopes of joining those surfers yet! But this weekend, before classes and homework and daily commutes to Taipei become our new reality, it was nice just to let it all float by us and enjoy our moments of rest where we could find them.