It was the dreaded 10-day plum rain season as we arrived in Taitung City. Since it was Taiwan’s summer season in June, we were prepared for scorching hot weather. In fact, Taitung’s temperature could typically go all the way up to high 30s or even 40 degrees celsius during summer. What we least expected (& certainly didn’t hope for) was such a drastic change in weather to be experiencing heavy rainfall instead.
In case you are wondering what’s “plum rain season”, it is the main annual rainy season in the country, which typically coincides with the plum season, when heavy rainfall is expected. Based on news reports, the plum rain season this year came later than usual, as it’s typically after Qing Ming Festival around May. We were so “lucky” then to get it in mid-June… 😦
Anyway, grouses aside, weather is unpredictable & uncontrollable. We just had to continue with our tour plan & make adjustments where necessary. This was the only day in Taitung City that we didn’t hire any private tour, hence rain or shine, we had to maximize our time to explore the city centre.
Unlike typical city centres where you can find high-rise commercial buildings densely packed together, there are limited indoor attractions in Taitung City Centre. The rain was intermittent, sometimes reducing to a drizzle while at times, it was pouring heavily. Fortunately, the hotel which we stayed in provided free big umbrellas for us to use so we could still check out the outdoor sights. A pity that both of us don’t know how to cycle so we couldn’t make use of the free bicycles available at the hotel. No choice, so we strolled in the rain to the recommended sights by the seaside, about half an hour walk away on a leisurely pace!
1. Taitung Seashore Park 台東海濱公園
Taitung is known for its scenic coastline. Even within the city centre, visitors can soak in the fantastic sea views either with a quick drive (if you have a car), short bike ride or leisurely walk out to the Taitung Seashore Park. Public transport options are very limited in this part of Taiwan so walking was our only choice. Consolation: Must be thankful that the temperature wasn’t overbearing due to the rain, haha.
Frankly, we almost lost our way as we were confused with the directions provided by the hotel staff. We weren’t the best in deciphering Google Map’s sometimes confusing navigation, & the hotel didn’t have a “Nearby Sights” map for us to refer to either. There was a point we even stumbled onto an empty patch of land in the middle of what looked like a highway haha. So you could imagine how happy we were when we finally spotted the directional road signs to the park.
The view from the park, while misty, was enchanting with a sea of clouds surrounding the faraway mountains.
Taitung Seashore Park is a large park with long stretches of cycling & walking trails so visitors can enjoy the landscape & clean ocean air. Apparently, there are many public art pieces scattered around the park waiting to be explored. However, the walking trail was partially flooded due to the rain & we had to detour to walk out along the road instead. After walking for another half an hour or so after the main entrance, we could see a crowd gathering around another significant landmark:
Although I can’t say the crowd at this iconic photo frame was overwhelming, it was a somewhat stark contrast to the quiet city that we had been experiencing for the past 1-2 hours. We actually had to queue in line for our turn to take pictures here! 😛 The weather might not have been perfect that afternoon, but it was still a very pretty spot to capture our “we’ve been here” shot. I can so imagine how marvellous the pictures would have been if it were a bright & sunny day.
Besides the iconic photo frame, there is also a uniquely shaped structure made of rattan just a short 5-minute walk away.
The impressive rattan roof shape, known as Paposogan in Amis language, greets the first ray of light in the morning in the city. After dark, the unique structure lights up beautifully, said to be looking forward to the world’s vision. This special spot in the park overlooking the ocean holds several festivals throughout the year.
Along the main road, we found the park’s public toilet next to a temple. The dirty-looking faded-grey colour toilet stands out beside the traditional temple building. What do you think? 😉
2. Taitung Forest Park 台東森林公園
Right next to Taitung Seashore Park, is the Taitung Forest Park located at the end of Jhongshan Road. The 280-hectare park is home to a dark forest of beefwood trees, thus earning it the nickname of “Black Forest” locally. Since it was rainy & the area is best explored on bikes, we didn’t purchase tickets (30 TWD each, ~S$1.40 each) to enter the park. From the posters at its entrance, the wetland park looks scenic with the Pipa Lake. Maybe next time. 😉
3. Taitung Arbor White Shanties 台東阿伯小白屋
Before the trip, I chanced upon a pretty Instagram post of a white house which looks dilapidated yet evokes an artistic feel in Taitung City. But since I reckon we wouldn’t have much free time to hunt it down, I didn’t really research my way to go to the house for some photos. Nonetheless, we actually passed by this house when we walked along the road outside the seashore park!
还没出发到台湾前，我偶然看到某人在 Instagram 上传一张老旧但很有艺术气息的一间小白屋的照片。但因为觉得在台东市的自由时间也不是太多，就没有特地去记下它的地址。不过，我们居然在公园步行时绕道的途中看到它！
We thought the white shanties was nature’s work, probably due to the frequent typhoons that Taitung experienced over the years. However, later on, when we chatted with our private tour driver, we realised this was a deliberate piece of art by a local & it sort of became a well-known tourist site, because of its unique architecture & feel. On our way out from the park, we stopped by the house again & there were other tourists who were trying to snap some shots too.
It was only after the trip, while researching on my writing materials, that I realised it is so famous & named as Taitung Arbor White Shanties. An elderly man by the name of Lee, was the designer of this famous house. He had spent over a decade to build the house from scratch using materials which he picked up from the garbage dump. The house’s 2nd floor was severely damaged by Super Typhoon Nepartak that struck Taitung City last July. Because of its special structure, it is touted as Howl’s Moving Castle (famous animation movie by Japanese Hayao Miyazaki) in Taiwan. Uncle Lee had rejected numerous companies that offered to buy his land for hotel redevelopment. He lived alone in the house while his children are living in other Taiwanese cities. Unfortunately, he was found dead in the house in early Jan this year, at the old age of 89, most likely due to some acute illness because of chilly weather. May Uncle Lee rest in peace…
4. Tiehua Village & Slow Market 鐵花村 慢市集
Taitung is reputable for being a laid-back aka slow city. Besides natural scenery & special buildings, there is also the popular Tiehua Village, as well as the Slow Market open on weekends (Fridays: 6-10 pm, Saturdays & Sundays: 3.30-10 pm). We attempted to visit the village that night around 9 pm after dinner. But alas, although official operating hours of the village is 4-10 pm daily (closed on Tuesdays), the place was a dead town when we arrived. Probably because it was still raining that night so shops decided to close early (or not open at all -_-). The only sight that greeted us was the beautifully-lit hot-air balloon lanterns. We later learnt from our driver the next day that the lanterns were made by elementary school students, a highlight of the village.
Thought we would miss the opportunity to visit this popular village that promotes arts & creativity, but luckily on our last night in the city we managed to check out the attraction. It was a Friday without the dreaded rain (yay!), so the village was lively with many stalls opened for business at the Slow Market.
You may be wondering why the Slow Market was named as such. The creators of the village hope that visitors would slow down their original pace of life, come here to chat & interact with the artists/craftsmen, to enjoy the vibrancy of the market & find pleasure in the simplest way of life. Indeed, everyone we met at the Slow Market was friendly & loved to chat about their innovative creations. It was a joyful night, not only because we got to shop for exquisite items, but also because the village ambience was really lovely.
There was also a Tiehua open-air bar where visitors could chill with specially concocted local drinks (minimum spending per head: 120 TWD, ~S$5.60) & enjoy the music performances by indie singers. The bar felt like a typical Taiwanese minge (folk music) restaurant which was once popular in Singapore. We didn’t go in though, since it’s open-air, the performances could be heard as long as you are in the village. 😛
Although we didn’t manage to tour more sights around the laid-back Taitung city centre due to time & weather constraint, it was a pleasant experience roaming in the slow city. Who says life in cities are always fast-paced & hectic? Come to Taitung City & be wow-ed! Ending this post with a map of the sights I explored in the city for your easy reference. 🙂