Despite growing up a complete city girl in Seattle, living in rural Oregon for 5 years before I moved to Taiwan turned me into a small-town recluse, cowering at the sight of city lights. I was always able to escape and take a walk in the woods to help calm my nerves or soothe my worries. I became so accustomed to the comfort of being surrounded by nature, of not having to walk but 10 minutes up the road to find myself out of town and in the forest, that I started to forget people lived any other way.
Moving to Taiwan, I was a little bit saddened and a little bit terrified by the prospect of living in a big city like Taipei or Taichung, but the excitement about coming here pushed those little worries to the back of my mind. Lucky for me we didn’t end up in one of those Taiwanese giants. Although Yilan City is small, it is still a city, complete with towering apartment buildings, flashing lights, traffic jams, and bustling markets. I’m not afraid of dying while walking along the streets here like I sometimes am in Taipei, but I can’t escape the crowds or the noise within the mini-metropolis. It’s a way off from the idyllic mountain towns of Southern Oregon.
This brings me to my main point, which is that one of the amazing things about this country is that it’s so compact. Whether you are in Taipei or in little Yilan City, it is amazingly quick and easy to get out of town and into the mountains. It’s not exactly a 10-minute walk, but it’s nothing more than a quick drive or bus ride.
Yilan City doesn’t have the convenience of public transportation like Taipei does, but we are so close to some beautiful mountain and ocean spots. We recently rode our scooter only 30 minutes from our apartment and found ourselves on a trail following a gorgeous clear mountain creek. Another short scoot to our neighboring town Jiaoxi brought us to the Old Paoma trail, an old logging road which offers some amazing views of the coast and Turtle Island as well as some really lush trails.
Some of the more famous spots that we’ve visited are really developed, with paved open paths, and seem to be really busy all of the time. Our visit to Si Shou Shan in Taipei City, which we expected to be an epic hike, turned out to be more like a little stroll in a park. There was a ton of trash around and it was super crowded. It was definitely nice to get a little exercise, but didn’t really offer much in the way of scenery other than a view of Taipei 101, and this sign:
Nevertheless, it’s really comforting to know that even though we are in the middle of the city, those uninhabited places that I treasure are not too far away. I know that I can escape for a day if I need to.