This article was published in en Voyage, EVA Air’s inflight magazine in 2015.
Taitung is a place like no other in Taiwan: It’s cool, laid-back and care-free. Life moves slowly, and residents and visitors alike cannot help but be infused by its relaxed pace of life. Taitung and its surrounding areas are the perfect destinations for travelers in search of rest, relaxation and beautiful scenery.
The Taiwan International Balloon Fiesta
Every summer, hot air balloonists from around the world make their way to an area of elevated grassland a few kilometers outside Taitung City. Since its creation in 2011, the Taiwan International Balloon Fiesta at Luye has grown to become one of the country’s most popular events.
Visitors are able to take hot air balloon rides from 5.30 to 7.30 in the morning and from 5.00 to 7.30 in the evening. Tickets go on sale at 5am and 4pm, and spaces usually sell quickly. A 30-40-minute flight over the surrounding hills and valleys costs NT$9,000, but for NT$500, you can take a 5-7-minute flight on a tethered balloon.
Even if you don’t have a head for heights and want to keep your feet on the ground, the event is still spectacular. You can walk around inside an inflated balloon, and the sight of huge colorful balloons set against the green grass the brilliant blue skies that are common in Taitung at this time of year is something you won’t quickly forget.
The fiesta opened on June 27 and will until August 9.
Just a few kilometers down the road from Luye, Chulu Ranch is the perfect place to take a young family for an afternoon. Its pastureland is home to around 350 Friesians, and popular activities for visitors including milking cows and bottle-feeding their calves. Children can also take rides on ponies, and there are fun activities like racing down the ranch’s hillsides on grass-sleds.
The cows might be the main reason that people go to Chulu Ranch, but the reason that most enjoy their time is the local scenery. Verdent, rolling hills and clear skies coupled with black and white mottled cows is hard to beat.
Jhiben Hot Springs
Jhiben is known throughout Taiwan for its hot spring waters. The minerals in the water, unlike those in other parts of the country, don’t give off a strong smell. However, they will help improve blood circulation and clear up skin complaints. To take a bath, you can either check in to one of the town’s many hot spring hotels for a couple of hours or use the outdoor public baths.
If you’re feeling active when you’re here, you could go for a hike in Jhiben’s National Forest Recreation Park. With a number of paths crisscrossing the park, walks here could last anywhere between 2 and 5 hours and lead you past suspension bridges, streams and banyan trees alive with monkeys.
Only a few years ago, Dulan was just a sleepy village north of Taitung. It’s still a sleepy village, but one that’s now home to a burgeoning art community and some of Taiwan’s best surfers. For surfing, windsurfing and paddleboard lessons, contact Wa Ga Li Gong (http://wagaligongtaiwan.com/). Or, if that sounds a little too strenuous, just relax on Dulan’s clean, uncrowded beach.
The local art community is centered on the Sugar Factory, a disused sugar plant that artists moved in to years ago. It houses artists’ studios and works of art, and every Saturday night, the site hosts live music from a mixture of Western and local musicians.
Beinan Cultural Park
When builders were working on Taitung’s new train station in 1980, they uncovered thousands of ancient coffins, which, they later discovered, were part of a huge settlement that may once have been home to tens of thousands. The artifacts, including the remains of prehistoric houses, date back 2,000-3,000 years and belonged to the Beinan people.
The area is now home to the National Museum of Prehistory, which houses many of the relics dug up at the site. There are also a range of interactive exhibits to help you understand what life was like for Taiwan prehistoric settlers.
Taitung has some stunning coastal scenery, perhaps the best of which lies in Xiaoyeliou. The name, which translates as “little Yeliou,” alludes to a place in northern Taiwan that’s famous its amazing rock formations, and the geology down here is also amazing. Different types of sandstone have eroded at varying rates leaving behind pot holes, dimples, mushrooms of rock and checkerboard formations. It’s a truly incredible site, and though it may be a lot less well-known than its northern counterpart, that actually makes it even more attractive as a tourist destination since it’s almost never overcome with crowds of camera-carrying sightseers.
Taitung Forest Park
On the edges of downtown Taitung, you’ll find what is arguably the city’s most beautiful and relaxing destination. The Taitung Forest Park is a haven of peace and tranquility, and within its boundaries you’ll find a wealth captivating scenes to enjoy and unwind in. The park’s finest attraction is Pipa Lake, a wonderfully picturesque location of low-hanging trees and crystal-clear waters.
Bicycles can be hired at the park’s main entrance or from along the nearby seafront, and a lot of tourists enjoy a cycle around the park.
Tiehua Music Village
Taitung has always been known as a hotbed of Taiwanese musical talent, and Tiehua Music Village is the perfect place to watch local bands and singers perform. It’s a wonderful venue for music, a place simultaneously relaxed and alive with the energy of musicians and music-lovers. Since it’s an open-air site, you get to sit under the trees, enjoying the summer evening breeze with a beer or bottle of wine.
Music performances are held in the evenings from Wednesdays to Sundays, and on weekends, there’s also a craft market at the village. Tiehua is right in the heart of the city, but once you arrive, you’ll forget all about the rest of civilization.