As camping season draws swiftly to a close, I want to share this particularly beautiful spot with you – make it your last of the season or put it on the list for next year! I’ve been wanting to go camping since we arrived in Taiwan, alas camping is one of those things for which you need a lot of gear, and the gear is one of those things for which you need ample storage space (and a car!), which we lack. But the gods smiled upon me and I was invited by a friend, who was able to borrow all of the supplies we needed (thanks, Seiko & friends!).
We took a little road trip down to Yilan, on the northeast coast between the mountains and the ocean. I am absolutely delighted at any chance to drive through Yilan, a land sprawling with rice paddies. At this time of year they have been planted and green shoots have sprung up. They appear as fields broken up only by a raised grid of roads and the houses that sit serenely in the middle of the paddy, almost like a castle surrounded by a moat. The houses here are much larger, with long driveways connecting their little islands to the roadways.
Before heading to the camping site, we made a stop at the Atayal Life Museum. Inside they have several exhibits where you can learn about the life and culture of the Atayal people, one of Taiwan’s largest indigenous groups. They are thought to have migrated to the island approximately 7,000 years ago, and live mostly in villages around the Hsuehshan Mountains (雪山山脈). According to their oral history, this particular Atayal settlement goes back at least three hundred years. Historically they have been known for their fierce warriors and superior skills in weaving. They have a fascinating history of facial tattooing, a practice unfortunately ended by Japanese colonial powers.
In the 1920s, after the Japanese completed the Forest Railway connecting the city with the mountains, life changed drastically for the Atayal tribe. The TaiPing Mountain Lumberyard became one of the three biggest in Taiwan. The growing influence of colonialism, transportation, a growing population and the logging industry meant they had to adapt to new ways of life. Logging practices were eventually banned in the 70s, and today the Atayal people care for much of the surrounding lands and forests, promoting sustainable practices, eco-tourism and outdoor recreation.
Currently (and through June 30th) they have an exhibition of the work of local artists, many of whom paint alluring landscapes. To look at their paintings, I felt like I was seeing the surrounding mountains through the eyes of someone intimately acquainted with them, discovering their secrets. At each exhibit there was a stamp, and once we filled out our booklet we were able to receive a prize – our choice of a handmade bracelet (which has since become part of me). And of course I couldn’t stop myself from buying a beautiful woven souvenir at the gift shop.
From the museum we made our way up a winding mountain road to The Kayu Campsite in Lunpi Village. High up in the mountains it was much more chilly, and rolling mist lent a mystical air. Upon arrival at our campsite, the views instantly filled me with gratitude. Perched on the mountainside, we looked out over Luodong Township far below. We eagerly went about setting up camp, ready to sit and soak in the views. Come night fall, the twinkling city lights were a sight to behold!
The campsite had all the amenities I would ever have thought to ask for, and some I wouldn’t. They provide platforms to pitch your tent on. Each site has its own sink, with soap, sponge, and three containers for trash/recycling/food waste. The bathroom facilities are clean and plentiful, complete with showers, hairdryers and even a small clothes dryer. Outside the main building they have several refrigerators/freezers and a water dispenser (cold, warm and hot), very convenient for those who intend to do a lot of cooking! There’s even a small swimming pool, available, I image, in the hotter summer months. My favorite addition is the swing set. An avid swing-junkie since childhood, I’m always excited to find a new set with a beautiful view!
After a delicious English breakfast and a good session on the swings, we packed up and said our goodbyes to the camp site, feeling sad to leave. But the day had more adventures in store! We headed to the Kuchen Kennwort Museum (亞典蛋糕密碼館) to see how they make cakes, check out their classic car collection (?!) and hopefully stuff ourselves with samples (I did). But not before first exploring what we found next door, one of the weirdest places I’ve been to in my life: Yaokaoshanzhan Village (宜蘭窯烤山寨村) / Village Churrasco.
Something between a restaurant, a souvenir shop and an arcade, it reminded me of some of the more strange highway attractions Luke and I came across on our road trip in the US (and in particular, this one). We arrived curious and left bewildered, but sated (the restaurant was actually pretty good, and I would eat there again. Get the tofu!). If you’re in the mood for an oddity, or feeling a Ripley’s Believe It or Not sort of vibe, then this place is definitely worth stopping for (also, they have soooo many snacks you can buy, so you can get something for your friends, too).
Also worth stopping for: the Kuchen Kennwort’s cheese tarts. 🤤🤤🤤
And so it is, my first Taiwanese camping trip had many unexpected delights. I’d love to hear about your camping experiences, in Taiwan or elsewhere. I’m also dying to know: what’s the weirdest roadside attraction you’ve ever come across? Let me know in the comments below!
Practical Stuff For If You Wanna Go:
Atayal Life Museum
Address: 267, Yilan County, Datong Township // 267宜蘭縣大同鄉崙埤村朝陽60號
Hours: Open 8 AM – 5 PM, Tuesday-Sunday
Kayu Campsite (星亮點Kayu露營區)
Address: No. 99, Lane 88, Section 1, Taiya Road, Datong Township, Yilan County // 宜蘭縣大同鄉泰雅路一段88巷99號
Notes: The owner was very kind and accommodating. He even spoke perfect English (he lived in Australia for many years)! I’m sure he would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
If you don’t have your own supplies, you might consider renting. There is a camping supply rental store in Yilan, Yilan Go Tent Rental, in case you want to go that route. Located here, you can reach their facebook page here and see products and pricing here (it seems they offer free delivery within Yilan County). Our campsite also had some tents for rent, and I’m sure many others do as well – it’s worth asking.
Culturally, camping in Taiwan is different from the states in a few notable ways. One is that people are happy to be closely packed together, and often in large groups. However, if that’s something that bothers you, the variety of sites you can choose from should prevent this from being a problem. Our campsite was very spacious, and we had significant distance between us and our neighbors. Another difference worth note is that there tends to be more stuff involved. Home is not something left behind, but brought along. As a result, campsites are very comfortable. I even saw a group with a TV set up.
Kuchen Kennwort Museum (亞典蛋糕密碼館)
Address: No. 122號, Meizhou 2nd Road, Yilan City, Yilan County, 260 // 260宜蘭縣宜蘭市梅洲二路122號
Hours: Open everyday 9:30 AM – 6 PM
Yaokaoshanzhan Village (宜蘭窯烤山寨村)
Address: No. 140號, Meizhou 2nd Road, Yilan City, Yilan County, 260 // 260宜蘭縣宜蘭市梅洲二路140
Hours: Open everday 9 AM – 7 PM