Bring Your Backpack to Yilan
The county of Yilan is often overlooked by travelers visiting Taiwan. Many just pass through on their way to Taroko Gorge and destinations further south along the eastern coast. But in fact there are many reasons to make a stop in Yilan and discover the beauty of this predominantly rural county. If you are traveling on a tight budget, you don't even have to worry about a place to stay, since there is a very special offer available to you.
Text / Kurt Weidner
Photos / Forte Management Team, National Center for Traditional Arts
You can stay at the elegantly designed Dong-shan Villa, right inside one of Yilan's biggest draws, the National Center for Traditional Arts (NCTA).
Apart from the attractive price there are many more reasons for staying at Dong-shan Villa. Part of the large NCTA complex, which features traditional buildings that have been relocated brick by brick from their original locations, exact replicas of well-known structures, and modern architectural creations, the hotel's buildings are constructed following modern concepts with traditional elements integrated.
Black roof tiles, red bricks, and wooden railings give the buildings a warm and inviting feel. You can walk around to enjoy the scenery, which includes ponds and pavilions, or enjoy the views from the stylish guestrooms.
For more information, call (03) 960-2121, or send a fax to (03) 960-2020. Dong-shan Villa is located inside the NCTA, at 201 Wubin Rd., Sec. 2, Wujie Township, Yilan County.
National Center for Traditional Arts
The NCTA formally opened its doors to the public in January 2002. The center was built to create a place where the traditional-crafts skills of Taiwan could be preserved and where different types of performing arts could be promoted. The center conducts various research activities and helps in educating the public in and cultivating a deeper appreciation for the arts. The NCTA thus provides a solid foundation for discovery and enjoyment of the different art forms that are part of traditional local culture.
The first thing you will notice upon entering the NCTA are its buildings. You'll find modern buildings that incorporate the latest architectonic ideas, traditional structures and replicas of traditional buildings. The soothing instrumental Chinese music playing in the background while you walk around adds to the artistic atmosphere.
The center, which stretches over an area of 24 hectares, features more than 20 scenic spots to visit, and one day is hardly enough to take in and appreciate it in full.
Among the highlights of a tour are the Opera Stage and Wunchang Temple, both richly decorated, featuring amazingly detailed carvings. Wunchang Temple is actually the first temple that the Taiwan government has ever disassembled and relocated. Folk Arts Boulevard, a street with two-story buildings located on both sides, is a great place to investigate the vibrant handicrafts available in Taiwan. Local arts and crafts products are on display, some even made in front of your eyes. You have the option to buy truly unique items made in Taiwan and you can even make your own piece of art, as the place offers do-it-yourself sessions.
Two other old buildings, Guangsiao Hall and the Huang Jyu-ren Residence, allow you a glimpse of the way the Taiwanese lived in times past. A family surnamed Chen originally used Guangsiao Hall, which was constructed 1921~1924, as a sacred place to pay homage to the family's ancestors. The ancestral hall is one of the numerous buildings relocated from elsewhere, and features many simple and interesting woodcarvings within.
After visiting the "hardware" of the NCTA, how about some stage entertainment? There are numerous top-quality performances that change from month to month and are held at the different sections of the center. Both entertaining and educational, the performances cover a broad range - dance, drama, music (both vocal and instrumental), ceremonies, and rituals, with many featuring special accompanying lectures and exhibits. In addition, the NCTA has instructional programs where renowned artists are invited to hold workshops during summer and winter school breaks. The workshops may last anywhere from seven days up to two weeks, and are held at the Crafts Education Center.
Depending on the chosen theme for the month, the NCTA showcases different events. Past performances and workshops have included formal tea ceremonies, time-honored temple rituals, traditional aboriginal dance, elaborate Chinese opera, and exciting action by acrobatic street performers. To obtain more information about the performances, check out the monthly program and available workshops on the NCTA's website (program in Chinese only).
Tickets: For those who are not staying at Dong-shan Villa, entrance tickets are NT$80. Reduced tickets at NT$60 are available for members of groups of at least 20.
Hours: Opening hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Guided Tours: There are scheduled tours during the weekends at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. The tours are in Chinese but English and Japanese tours are also available (advance notice necessary). Guided tours are also available for large groups (bookings need to be made 7 days in advance).
How to get there
- By Train: From Taipei Railway Station, take a train to Luodong station. The fastest train makes the trip in about two hours. From the station, take a Kuo Kuang Bus Co. coach headed for Nanfangao or Yueming Village. Tell the driver that you want to get off at the NCTA.
- By Bus: There are two bus lines that head down to Luodong from Taipei. The first one is operated by Kuo Kuang Bus Co., the second by Dragon Bus Co.. A one-way ticket to Luodong costs NT$200 (Kuo Kuang) and NT$260 (Dragon Bus). From the Luodong terminus of each company, take a Kuo Kuang bus to the NCTA (see above). The ride from Taipei takes about three hours, depending on traffic.