In the morning we headed to the train station and boarded a train to take us to Yilan. Yilan is the northernmost of the cities along the east coast of Taiwan and is surrounded by agricultural area. The area we stayed in was dominated by rice patties and onion fields. It’s not quite rice planting season, so instead of fields of rice to look at, we had endless flat rectangular tracts of flooded land, providing the perfect mirrors for the sky and mountains, with small footprint, multi-story houses spread among them. 

We hired a driver/tour guide for the afternoon and the first stop was lunch, which was at a kitschy little diner decorated in the style of 1960s Taiwan, full of little trinkets. It also had some absolutely amazing pork. But perhaps the most dramatic dish, visually, was dessert. It was just tapioca in sweet water, but it looks like frog eggs. 

We then got a taste of the local industry by learning about the onions that are grown here (they’re a special variety that’s very expensive) and then picking some onions and learning how to make the local version of what I can only refer to as onion pancakes. We all donned traditional hats (which appear to still be in use today) and rubber boots and ventured into the field. Everyone got a turn harvesting an onion or three and washing them. 

Once we had our onions picked, we learned how to use them to make a local onion pancake. Turns out they’re super simple. A handful of dough, rolled out into a rough square, a lot of onions (and I do mean a LOT of onions), and some salt/pepper. Then toss it on a hot skillet with some oil and wait. 

While the pancakes were cooking, everyone got to feed some bunnies! 

Then, it was time to eat. 

After the onion pancake we obviously needed something to drink, so the driver took us to the Kavalan distillery, which has become a fairly internationally respected distillery in recent years. The tour was fun, and needless to say I’ll be bringing home some whisky with me. 

Dinner was a trip to one of the local night markets. It was supposedly the small one, but was a huge maze of alleyways with vendors hawking everything from cheap electronic accessories to stinky tofu (which I learned doesn’t taste nearly as bad it smells), and was absolutely packed with people. 

Tomorrow: Hualien