Round-Island Taiwan Itinerary Part 1(b): East Coast: Dulan and Taitung

See Part 1(a): Travel Information in Taiwan and Suggested Itinerary for Days 1 and 2 in Hualien and Taroko Gorge.

IMG_3726 Welcome to the boondocks. Dulan, as a town, is more like a lane that takes 15 minutes to stroll from one end to the other. A strange, eclectic town: a forgotten kampong meets hipster Dempsey Hill.

Suggested Itinerary Day 3: Hualien 花莲 to Dulan 都兰

IMG_3671rergWith heavy hearts, we left the delicious city of Hualien. You may either have a scenic drive down along the coast, taking Highway 11, or take a train from Hualien to Taitung and then transfer to a bus to Dulan, pronounced as du1lan2 (City of Orchids), not du2lan4, which would be an expletive, “blue balls.” If you take the train, get the 铁路便当 railway lunchbox. We got several for the train rides and the best one is on the train from Hualien to Taitung. 6 to 7 dishes for only $80NT or S$4.

The reason why we wanted to go to Dulan is because we wanted to go off the beaten track and Dulan, mostly inhabited by Ami aborigines, offers a thriving local arts scene for both local aboriginal artists on Saturdays only. If you’re not there on a Sat, there is nothing much to see so don’t bother. Mr NGFL and I are hipsters.

IMG_3693 IMG_3686For accommodations, we heard that major hotel chains are interested in Dulan but for now, you have to rough it out, no hotels, all homestay (民宿). We stayed at BHH Dog Backpackers 背包狗 (+886-9-2267-7997, $1300NT a night), which is conveniently next to Dulan Sugar Factory.

BHH Dog Backpackers is awesome fun. Run by a young 20-something married couple, with patrons around that age, the whole building in painted in bright, cheery colors: bright pink, bright yellow, and bright blue. They have a common kitchen and a common living room where backpackers sit around and watch tv or play board games. But the rest of the facilities are hilariously crap: no air-con or heater in room; if you need to brush your teeth, you’ve to go OUTSIDE the house and use a tap and bucket to brush; when you shower in one common bathroom for 12 backpackers, the windows cannot be closed; and the brushing teeth area is just outside the bathroom so everyone sees you naked: flashers, this is your heaven. WE LOVE THE HOSTEL, so vibrant and fun. We made so many friends here.

When we first arrived, the homestay-owners briefed us about what to see. There are a beach with black sand, a beach with steep cliffs and a mountain nearby. Bicycles from the homestay are free to use.

TIP: Plan to stay in Dulan on a Saturday. Only on Saturdays, the artists’ workshops are open at the dilapidated, rusting, Dulan Sugar Factory (糖厂 tang chang). Visit the workshops but don’t buy any craft because the price is jacked up twice as much. You can buy from Taitung City on Day 4 itinerary.

After visiting the workshops, go have lunch at Marino’s Kitchen 马利诺厨房 (台东县东河乡都兰村436-3号, Facebook,+886-8-953-1848, 9am-6.30pm). Opened by American-Taiwanese, they bake fresh bread daily and make pasta dips. Strictly speaking, it’s not a lunch place. But when we were there, the lady boss was nice enough to allow us to eat there, dip the bread in pasta sauce. We were starving, you see. The bread is delicious but with outrageous prices: $500NT (S$25) for a loaf of bread and a tiny bottle of dip for only 4 slices of bread.

IMG_3705 If not, just go for a shop called 越南咖啡 Yue Nan Coffee, across the road from Marino’s. The shopkeeper and cook is Vietnamese and married to a Taiwanese man. The pho and Vietnamese cold noodles are equally delicious, heavy with lime, which give the dishes a tangy, appetizing touch. Still expensive, but half of Marino’s price.

For desserts, try Ma’olahay 玛悟拉嗨手作巧克力铺 (台东县东河乡都兰村新东糖库入口处, facebook). Situated within Dulan Sugar Factory, Ma’olahay sells handmade chocolates and means “I like it very much” in a-mei tribe language. We tried nuts, truffles, 80% dark chocolate, and the brownie: they were ok. At this time, it should be around 4-5pm. Go back to the homestay to rest or shower. At about 8pm, return to Dulan Sugar Factory and go to Dulan Cafe for an aboriginal music performance.

IMG_3735rerg The ambience was electrifying. People were dancing and chatting and chugging down–not beer–red wine like there was no tomorrow.

Day 4: Dulan 都兰 to Taitung City 台东

Taitung City Map
Taitung City Map

The next morning, either sleep in late like me, or, like Mr NGFL, ride a bicycle to the nearby beaches or mountain. Then take a bus back to Taitung city and check in into your hotel. The hotels in Taitung are decorated like a throwback into the 80s, very cheesy and retro. I wanted Fu Kang Hotel 福康大饭店 (don’t make fun of the name please!), smacked right in the middle of the city. But Mr NGFL said the hotel looked dreary (“We’re only there for a night!” was my defense that fell on stubborn deaf ears). Besides, he wanted to support small homestay (民宿) establishments. Our first choice was Mu Spring 沐泉民宿, as it is centrally located but we didn’t receive a response from the owner.

And so, we stayed at another homestay, Full Sun House 阳光满屋 ($2000NT a night). On its website, it is decorated like a cheesy scene from those Japanese anime of European princesses with frilly gowns and curly hazel hair. But in reality, it is much less cheesy. Functional but characterless, inconvenient at the edge of the city, and we two were the only people in the entire building, which is scary should anything happen. All in all, I’d prefer a more centrally located homestay or hotel.

Taitung City is a place with very strong aboriginal culture so it’s a place to live in for years and you’ll benefit little for just touring a day because there are very few interesting attractions. Knowing Taitung means interaction with the large population of aborigines. If you want to shorten your itinerary, you may cross Taitung off.

The main attraction is 铁花村 Tie Hua Chun (台东市新生路135巷26号, No. 26 Xin Sheng Rd, lane 135, T: +886-8-934-3393 music performance: w-sat 8-10pm Sun: 5-6pm Fair: F, 6-10pm, S-S, 3.30-10pm arts and craft fair: T-Sun: 2-10pm) where aborigines perform and where you can purchase tribal trinkets at a reasonable price.

IMG_3783 Beside Tie Hua Chun is a wonderful, hipster cafe called 万福商号 Wonderful (台东市博爱路405号, 405 Bo Ai Road, T: +886-8-934-6502 Sun-Th: 11am-9.30pm F-Sat: 11am-11pm Closed on Tue). The decor has lots of wood and is quirky. It serves food that are freshly prepared, often made from scratch, although truth to be told, the banana cake, their specialty, we had was so-so.

Just across from Wonderful is Eslite, a bookshop similar to Kinokuniya worth exploring. You’d see many locals reading, sitting on the floor. I love the strong reading culture Taiwanese have.

Other Food Places:

#1. 正气路 Zheng Qi Road

For shops and for lunch, the main street for eating is 正气路 Zheng Qi Road.

IMG_3762林家臭豆腐 Lin Smelly Tofu (正气路130号, 130 Zheng Qi Road, 11am-11pm) is a must-eat. If you come here at night, the queue snakes around the street! Having eaten smelly tofu before, the smelly tofu here is completely different from my previous experiences. It tastes like blue cheese and the texture is perforated throughout, making it a crunchy, tangy titbit. Very delicious.

Another local recommendation is 老东台米台目 Lao Dong Tai (正气路134号, 134 Zheng Qi Road) which is just beside Lin’s Smelly Tofu. This is a Taiwanese version of mee-tai-mak but theirs is thicker, less bouncy, more doughy, and doesn’t tapered at the ends.

IMG_3767Besides the mee tai mak, we also ordered a few dishes including pig’s skin. The food here is homely and very Taiwanese, but nothing unique. Don’t really have to eat here.

If you want to buy Taitung snacks, just beside Lin’s Smelly Tofu, 和记地瓜酥 He Ji sells tapoica crisp–similar to potato chips–in different unique flavors such as plum, seaweed, curry, etc.

Other food to eat along Zheng Qi Road include 宝桑汤圆 Bao Sang tangyuan (No. 189, Zheng Qi Road) for desserts; 宝桑豆花 Bao Sang Beancurd (No. 115); and 四方鹅肉 Si Fang Goose Meat (No. 396).


Selling toys at Si Wei Lu Night Market

If you walk further down Zheng Qi Road, you’ll reach 台东观光夜市 Guan Guang Night Market (M-Sat). This is a very short street and so the night market is limited. The Taitung government to meet the demands of cries of “there is nothing to do in Taitung at night” opens a Sunday night market, 四维路夜市 Si Wei Lu Sunday Night Market, which is far at a corner of Taitung, but fortunately where our homestay is near.

Their oyster omelette is slightly different from Singapore’s, more gooey, and with a layer of thick tomatoy sauce. Different but still yummy.

IMG_0395Quail eggs: although it seems to be a sunny-side up, the venders, deft with their hands, stick the egg around a skewer, turning the eggs into hard-boiled. You may add seasoning such as wasabi, seaweed, salt, etc.

IMG_0397七里香 Qi Li Xiang, or chicken backside. If you see this, you must eat it. The chicken backside is cooked in a large furnace of charcoal. As a result, very juicy and tender. This stall also sells chicken wings, sweetly marinated.

#3. 南京路 Nan Jing Road

七里香水煎包 Qi Li Xiang Bun, at the intersection of 正气路 Zheng Qi Road and 南京路 Nan Jing Road, sells cuboid buns with savory stuffing (such as vegetables). The bun is first pan-fried to give the outer layer a crispy layer and golden brown appearance and the entire bun is dipped in a sweet and (only slightly) spicy sauce. There are too many competing flavors for us to favor it but the locals swear by it.

At this moment, we saw a commotion across Qi Li Xiang. So we jaywalked the broad Nan Jing Road to outside 台东县立游泳池 Taitung Swimming Pool to find this pandemonium:

IMG_3780So many people crowding around a food truck! It is self-service 甜不辣 tian bu la or sweet not spicy. Similar to Singapore’s yong tofu, the items are on a skewer. Here, you pick the items, get soup and add condiments yourself. When you’re done, show the number of skewers to the vender. Each stick for only $5NT! Quality is quite bad actually, but very cheap.

IMG_3777The man who nearly caused a stampede also sells 大肠包小肠 (big intestine wraps small intestines). Strictly speaking, it’s like a hot dog. It’s Taiwanese sausage wrapped with a rice bun. Not very nice.

Continue the journey:
Suggested Itinerary Part 2: Southern Taiwan: Kenting, Kaohsiung & Tainan

Part 3: West Coast and Central Taiwan: Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, Lukang & Taichung


Part 4: Northern Taiwan: In and Around Taipei


Categories: Dulan, Taitung, Taiwan

7 replies »

  1. Also, I think the oyster omelette originated from taiwan, and it isn’t a Singaporean dish.

    In regards to accommodation, you get what you paid for. I’m sure you’ll find better decked out rooms if you’re willing to pay.


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