Orchid Island (not to be confused with the Fijian Island of the same name), known in the the local Tao language as Ponso No Tao (Island of the people), and in Chinese as Lanyu (蘭嶼) is a secret indigenous people's paradise off the southeastern coast of Taiwan. It is different than any other place in Taiwan, and has the best preserved indigenous culture anywhere in the country. If Taiwan's best tourist activity is experiencing the culture of Taiwan's indigenous peoples, then Lanyu has the best tourist experience anywhere in Taiwan.
Orchid Island became inhabited about 800 years ago by the Tao indigenous people (達悟族) (aka Yami people 雅美族, which is a name coined by the Japanese, but the native people prefer Tao), which are thought to have traveled from the Batanes Islands in the Philippines , which are a little less than 200 KM away, cut off by the Bashi Channel. However Orchid Island is very different than the Philippines.
Beginning in1644, some Dutch Sailors were sent to investigate the island, and some settled there among the natives. Because of this, the Island was known as Red Head Island (紅頭嶼) by the Chinese and the Japanese.
After the Dutch were defeated in Taiwan, Lanyu was claimed but not controlled by the Qing Dynasty.
The Japanese claimed the Island shortly after the Sino-Japanese War in 1895, but protected it as an "ethnological research site" and forbid outsiders from entering.
After the Republic of China took over Taiwan following the end of WWII, they continued to ban visitors to the island until 1967, after which tourists were allowed to enter and public schools were built there.
Christian missionaries began preaching and living on the island starting in the 1950s, and now basically all native people on the island are Christian (mixed with traditional beliefs). However Christianity was introduced much earlier starting with the Dutch in the 1600s although to a lesser extent.
In 1982 a nuclear waste storage plant was built on the south side of the Island without the islanders consent, causing protests from the inhabitants. Also because of this, the Island inhabitants receive free electricity.
The island is volcanic in nature, with the last major eruption being over 5 million years ago. The highest mountain is 552 meters (1,811 feet).
Currently there are 2,400 people permanently living on the island, 90% of them being of native Tao descent.
The Tao people number in about 2,000 living on Orchid Island, with about another 2,000 living on the Taiwan mainland. The Tao people rely on the sea for survival, and much of their traditions and lifestyle is centered on fishing.
The Tao people are mostly Christian but also still practice many of their traditional beliefs. However their ancestral religion included a pantheon of Gods.
Traditional roles for men are fishing while roles for women include harvesting taro and sweet potato and weaving. The men usually fish at night or early morning and rest on traditional wooden platforms during the day.
Boats are made from planks of wood and are painted with red, white, and black. The boat usually has human figures, waves, and the traditional sun image (red and black circles and sun rays) which is said to warn off evil spirits. Boats are considered sacred and the ultimate human creation. There is also a launching ceremony for new boats in which traditional clothes and headgear (such as silver helmets for men and wooden hats for women) are worn, pigs are slaughtered, and the boat is lifted into the air multiple times before being set in the water. Traditional clothes include loin cloths and vests for men, and aprons and vests for women. Young people on the street usually do not wear traditional dress.
Flying Fish Festival:
There are three basic seasons on Lanyu: one is the flying fish season when flying fish can be easily caught and used in and lasts from February to May. The other seasons are from May to October and October to February, when flying fish cannot be caught for ceremonial use. There are many taboos during flying fish season which are discussed below.
The Flying Fish Festival lasts from aboutMarch to October when flying fish are caught. During this time many ceremonies take place such as for the beginning of the festival, plentiful harvest, etc. During the festival, there are multiple migrations of flying fish species near Lanyu. There are many taboos during this time, especially when it comes to catching and eating flying fish which are the main life source of the Tao people.
Weather and Climate:
The island has a tropical rain forest climate, with average high temperatures between 20 and 30 degrees year round. The rainy months are in summer, especially due to Typhoons, but the most sunny days are also in summer (expect a lot of sun), and the most rainy days are in winter. Summer is the tourist season, but spring and fall are also popular times to visit. Winters are said to be dreary, cold, and have constant northeastern winds that can stop airplanes and ferries from departing to the island.
When to go:
The best time to go they say is around May when it is not too hot and there are no northeasterly winds or typhoons which can cancel your transportation to the island.
Typhoon season lasts from around June to October. The busy season is during summer break from June to August, during which time it can be hard to book a hostel or airplane ticket. Winter is the less crowded season, but the water will be cold, there will be constant wind (which could cancel transportation), and it will rain more often.
How to get there:
The only planes to and from Orchid Island come from Taitung.
Flight times: As of the time of this blog, there were six flights per day byDaily Air Corporation from about8 AM to 4 PM (Please note their website is only in Chinese). The flight from Taitung to Lanyu takes about 25 minutes. Please note that the aircraft are small and flights can be cancelled due to high winds or unfavorable weather.
Costs: NT 1428 to Lanyu and NT 1360 from Lanyu.
There are two places that offer ferry rides to Lanyu: Houbihu Harbor (恆春後壁湖漁港） in Pingtung and Fugang Harbor in Taitung (臺東富岡漁港). There are also two ferry companies that operate at both harbors. Both companies leave from both harbors at the same time and arrive at the same time for the same price (2300 NT per person round trip).
Ferry Boat costs:
2300 NT per person round trip from both Taitung or Pingtung. Both ferry companies have the same price.
Ferry Boat Times:
7:30 AM departure, 9:30 AM arrival to Lanyu.
1:00 PM departure, 3:00 PM arrival to Lanyu.
10:00 departure from Lanyu, 12:00 arrival to Taitung or Pingtung.
3:30 PM departure from Lanyu, 5:30 PM arrival to Taitung or Pingtung.
Both ferry companies depart and arrive at the same time to both locations.
Getting around the island:
Rent a scooter! The island is small so you should not need to rent a car. You can rent bicycles but you will not be able to travel as fast. You can also hire a driver to take you on tours.
Ask your hostel for more rental information. They can help you book a rental in advance.
Price: expect 500 NT per day.
Be sure to book your rental in advance, especially during summer weekends. Ask for help from your hostel owner if needed.
I am 100% percent certain you do not need a Taiwan local license to rent scooters here, however they may ask for an international license (but I'm fairly sure they will let you rent without one).
Helmet wearing is not enforced at all as you will quickly find, but it's still the law.
Also be careful to not hit any goats because they wander as they please.
There is only one gas station next to Kaiyuan Fishing Harbor.
Price: expect 2000 NT per day.
Don't rent a car unless you absolutely need to. Renting scooters should be sufficient for most travelers.
Booking accommodation on the island can be difficult in summer months and on weekends, when rooms can be fully booked for months in advance. AirBnb has the most choices, however there is also a nice selection on Booking.com. Here is a list of every registered hostel on the island, but it is in Chinese.
My hostel required that I pay for my room in advance via bank wire transfer (this may not be an option if you are a foreign traveler, so make sure they accept credit cards if you do not have a Taiwan bank account).
Expect to pay 2000 - 4000 NT per night for a standard double room on Lanyu.
Please see below:
In this blog we will cover the following things:
I have been to Lanyu once in May of 2019, during the flying fish festival. Some say that Lanyu is more like the Philippines than Taiwan (it could well have been claimed a Philippine Island) but having been to both places I can tell you that it is much more like Taiwan (even though it is so different than the Taiwan mainland).
Okay, let's begin!
Houbihu Harbor 後壁湖漁港
We decided to take the ferry from Kenting (technically Hengchun, Houbihu Harbor) because we knew the flights to Taitung would be hard to book and might be cancelled, and because we had just recently vacationed to Taitung and I wanted to go back to Kenting. After three days in Kenting, we decided it would be okay to do an overnight trip to Orchid Island. We departed on the 1:00 PM boat. The dock was hard to find, but eventually a lady told us to go to the yellow building on the west end of the harbor. We had booked our tickets online and already paid half.
We took the Green Island Star No. 3 (綠島之星3號) to Lanyu, which sucked; it was way hot, A/C had problems and there were huge waves. Coming back we took a different boat from the same company, the Green Island Star (綠島之星), which was much more cool and comfortable. This line has three ships that run from Kenting to Orchid Island to Green Island, then to Taitung and back again.
We were told there would be parking at the dock, but it was scarce. We ended up driving through a huge crowd of people and parking on the side of the road.
The boat ride was long and there was no TV. Our hostel owner told us to bring a coat because it would be cold on the boat. That was a complete lie; it was freaking hot (mid May) and to make things worse there was some wind which meant huge waves. My daughter barfed within half and hour and after two hours we all felt sick. Some of her bard unfortunately got stuck on the seat which I don't know whether or not it will ever come out. After that I tried to take her on deck (where we saw the first sign of Lanyu above) but it was even more hot outside.
From the boat we could see the other ferry that left from Kenting at the same time as us, the Gold Star No. 3 (金星三號). Maybe that boat would have been more comfortable? We may never know.
As Lanyu approached, hope filled our hearts.
As you can see there are barf bags at the ready in the cabin, but we were too late with my daughter who can't speak and therefore could not give us a warning before she hawked all over the seat. Some people brought pieces of garlic to smell which I guess helps with motion sickness.
We were anxious to get off the boat. There is room for you to store your luggage at the back of the boat. Then after getting your luggage you have to walk on a boardwalk to get to shore.
Our hostel owner was waiting for us in a van at the dock, along with about 20 other hostel owners. We had to wait for the crowds to clear before we could move.
Our hostel owner was a middle aged woman who looked Taiwanese, but she said she was native Tao, and that her grandmother (or great grandmother) was half Dutch so her family looked a little more foreign. That means I guess that some Dutch sailor came and settled on Orchid Island over 200 years ago.
She told us that there is an elementary school with a view of the ocean in Iratay Village (Yuren Village 魚人部落). Also I noticed that no one was wearing helmets while driving a scooter. She said that this is common but if you get in an accident you will get a ticket. Also I noticed about only half the cars had license plates. This is because the people didn't want to pay for extra taxes on their vehicle (I pay 20,000 NT (600 USD) a year for taxes on my car in Taiwan). It seemed that the law did not quite apply here like it does in Taiwan.
Our hostel overlooked the ocean and was in a great location in Imorod (Hongtou Village 紅頭部落, meaning "Red Head Village" as a slur to the Dutch on the island, fitting as the owner said her great grandfather was Dutch).
The room was okay and the A/C worked, but before we could leave to explore the island while there was still sunlight, we had to have the talk over from the hostel owner.
The hostel owner gave us some pamphlets and a map, and showed us some pictures introducing their hostel.
They offered us snorkeling tours (600 NT), traditional all you can eat barbeque (1000 NT), night hiking (600 NT), canoeing (600 NT), flying fish fishing (600 NT), renting out a boat to go fishing (2000 NT), hiking to Datianchi lake 大天池 (600 NT), tour of underground houses (300 NT), scuba diving (2500 NT), scooter rental (500 NT), and trying out traditional clothing (250 NT). She took quite a lot of time explaining these activities, which is understandable because they want to make money. However we did not have time to do these things and with our 2 year old water activities were pretty much out of the question.
I also recall that she told us to ride slow on the scooter because of potholes and because goats wander on the roads and you might hit one, which you will have to pay for. Also she told us to not take pictures of the underground houses because the elderly people that still live there like to take off their clothes and chill in the houses naked. She also said we could take pictures of canoes but not touch them. Also she said snorkeling and swimming was still allowed during flying fish season.
She also lent us a map of the island, which she said is only printed once a year and only 40 copies are given to the whole island. The map says:
"Maybe Lanyu is part of Taiwan, but there is a different culture and way of thinking on this island.
Maybe those taboos that you think are silly are a tribes beliefs and traditions held over hundreds of years.
Maybe Lanyu is not only a tourist paradise, but more it is the home of generations of people."
The map has the main sights in the six villages on the Isand: Yayo, Iraralay, Iranmadgo, Iratay, Imorod, and Ivaolino Villages.
Iratay Village (魚人部落 Yuren Village)
Finally after the indoctrination was over, we got on our scooter and rode north to Iratay Village, our first stop. Iratay means "flat and open place." Because of this, the Japanese chose this village as the place to build the Island's only airstrip. The town is also home to the islands only power plant and to the Lanyu Cultural Museum. The village is technically grouped with Imorod Village for government administration purposes; the total population of the two villages was 1,467 as of 2018.
Lanyu Cultural Museum 蘭嶼文物舘
The first place we went to was the Lanyu Cultural Museum that shows a complete view of Tao Tribal culture. It closes at 5 PM. We also learned quickly that you have to pay 100 NT to go inside.
From the outside you can see some traditional resting pavilions.
Also there is an underground house there which I had permission to take a picture of.
For a full view of the cultural village, check out this blog.
It was already 4 PM and the sun was going down, so we had to be on our way to see the rest of the Island.
The airport is also in Irafay. There were no planes that day, all cancelled due to high winds. The winds weren't even that bad. So, just so you know the planes will be cancelled way more easily than boats.
Yayo Village (Yeyou Village 椰油部落)
Next we pressed on to Yayo Village. This is the most developed and populous village on the island, partly due to its proximity to Kaiyuan Fishing Harbor, the major port on the island (where the only ferry boats come). The village is also home to the most agricultural activity. Approximate 30% of the islands 1,197 inhabitants are Han Chinese, the largest percentage of non-Tao people living on the island. Most of the village is made with concrete structures, with traditional underground houses being almost nonexistent. The village also features the island's only large hotel, and one of only two 7-11s. Other sites near the village are Mantou Rock and the old and new Lanyu Lighthouses.
Soon we saw what the hostel owner was talking about. Goats were everywhere, and it looked they could have pooped on us from their perch above the road.
Mantou Rock 饅頭岩
Next we saw a view of Mantou Rock, a large rock that looks like mantou bread sitting on the shoreline. It is a popular spot to watch and take photos of the sunset.
Kaiyuan Fishing Harbor 開元漁港
Kaiyuan Fishing Harbor is the main fishing harbor on the island. Near the harbor you can also walk to the old lighthouse (pictured above) which is kind of small. But during a long wait for a boat ride back, it is a nice place to relax. The harbor also has mostly motorized boats and I only saw one traditional canoe here. I guess there are quite a few Taiwanese Han fisherman who live here also.
The village also has one of the only two 7-11s on Lanyu.
The 7-11 had no ATM, and there was a huge line for what I guess is one of the few public bathrooms on the island.
The food and stuff inside the 7-11 was just like any 7-11 on the Taiwanese Mainland. The prices were the same too.
Lanyu Lighthouse 蘭嶼燈塔
The New Lanyu Lighthouse is built on a hill near Yayo Village. It was completed in 1982, replacing the old Lanyu Lighthouse. It is a popular spot for watching the sea and the sunset.
A small road going up the mountain side.
Hongtou Rock (Jyakmey sawasawalan 像水渠一樣，紅頭岩)
There is a tunnel on the very eastern part of the island which you have to pass through to round the island. It has many names, but I am calling it Hongtou Rock. In Chinese its nicknamed "Looks like a Water Tunnel." Anyway, it is a popular spot for photos and instagrams.
View looking back and Yayo Village.
Another view through Hongtou Rock. Be sure to slow down here it you are driving because there is sure to be people standing in the middle of the road taking a photo.
View of the ocean on the other side of the tunnel.
Interesting rock formations near Hongtou Rock.
Goats grazing by the roadside.
Crocodile Rock (Ji-macinger 鱷魚岩)
The north side of the island is full of interesting looking rock formations. One of the first ones you will come across is Crocodile Rock pictured above. I guess with the right angle it can look like a crocodile with its mouth open.
This rock was made from volcanic rock withered away by erosion, and looks like it has crocodile skin, and looks like a crocodile with its mouth open, hence the name.
Cliffs on the north coast of the island.
Tank Rock 坦克岩
Another interesting rock is "Tank Rock" which I guess also looks like an army tank.
Spread Out Rock （Jipaneytayan , 攤開岩）
Here is Spread Out Rock. There is a legend that a Filipino man married one of the island's girls and set out to the Philippines, but the boat tipped over. So they laid out their possessions near these rocks to dry.
Jikarahem Caves 很深之意 (五孔洞，Five Caves)
There are a series of sea caves on the north coast. There are quite a few caves along here (at least 5), some with religious significance. In the early days, some of the caves were used for relaxation while others were used for wrestling to settle disputes.
Entrance to the largest cave.
There is also a cross in here. These caves are also used sometimes for Christian worship service.
View looking towards the sea.
In the second cave we saw, there was a man selling food in a from a van.
The next cave is marked as "Lanyu District Prayer Camp."
This cave is closed of for christian worship, I guess for prayer but it looks like they also have services here.
Iraraley Village （郎島部落)
Iraralay (Iraraley) Village is said to be the most friendly village on the island. It is also the largest village on Lanyu by area, however it is the smallest by population with only 943 people living there, 91% of which are Tao indigenous people.
Iraralay means "Irara Island" which is one of the Tao names for Orchid Island.
It is said in this village, one Christian Missionary Father participated in the traditional Flying Fish opening ceremony, which helped to normalize relations between the traditional Tao religion and the Christian believers. Now the religions are largely mixed together.
The village is separated into the traditional bottom half which features traditional underground houses with mostly elderly people and also a modern top half with cement houses that house younger generations. Near the village is a large concentration of coastal rocks and geological formations.
Jade Woman Rock (Jimavonot 玉女岩)
According to local legend, a certain child always told her parents to stop fighting. One day when they wouldn't stop fighting, she stopped by the roadside and would not stop crying until she turned into stone. Then she became Jade Woman Rock. However to Taiwanese people the rock looks like something more like the private parts of a married couple, which I don't need to explain further.
The road into central Iraraley.
The welcome sign next to Iraraley harbor, which has one of the biggest fishing harbors on the island.
Quite a few traditional canoes parked on the shore of a small bay.
Traditional Tao Canoes 傳統達悟獨木舟
Closeup on a traditional Tao canoe. Notice the circular symbol on the bow that represents the sun and its rays, which is said to ward off evil spirits. You will see this symbol all over the island. Also there is a painting of waves. Most boats are painted in red, white, and black and can hold 4-10 people depending on the size.
It gets really hot during the day especially in summer when there is more sun, so most fishing is done at night and the men wear minimal clothing.
My hostel owner told me that everyone who stays on Lanyu long enough get a really dark tan because of the sun. Because of this tan they do not need any sunscreen.
Double Lion Rock (Jipanatosan 雙獅岩)
Past Iraraley Village, there are two rocks that look like resting lions on the shore, hence the name Double Lion Rock.
Warship Rock 軍艦岩
Just beyong Double Lion Rock there is a small rocky island called Warship Rock.
Iranmeylek Village (Dongqing Village 東清部落)
Iranmeylek Villlage lies on the easternmost part of the island, which means it is the first place in Taiwan to see the sunrise. The village is home to some of the best snorkeling on the island and also to Lover's cave, a large volcanic arch carved out by the sea. It also has one of the only two 7-11's on the island and the island's only night market. The village also administers to Ivalino Village (Yeyin Village 野銀部落), and combined they have a population of 1,550 people.
First glimpse of the sea cliffs neat Lover's Cave.
What appears to be the remnants of an abandoned ROC military base on the outskirts of Iranmeylek Village.
What is most likely the remnants of an abandoned ROC bunker.
When the ROC first occupied Taiwan they also sent soldiers to Lanyu. The soldiers were sometimes rude and bullied the locals who could not speak Mandarin and still practiced their native culture. Now most young people can speak Mandarin as they have been through Taiwan's schools system.
Welcome sign to Iranmeylek near Lover's Cave.
Ghost's Cave 蘭嶼鬼洞
Near the entrance to lover's cave is a tunnel that goes through the mountain. I first thought it could have been an ROC air raid shelter, but acutally is was an early road connecting the villages. Many passerby's think that it is "Lover's Cave," so it has been also named "Fake Lover's Cave."
The entrance to the cave. I saw a very large scorpion looking bug crawling into it so I did not advance any further.
Nipple Hill Hike 乳頭山步道
Right across from Ghost's Cave (looking out from the entrance of the cave above) you can find the Nipple Hill Trail, which gives you some great views of the area.
The trail is officially closed during Typhoons season from June to October. Obviously you can see why; the trail is quite dangerous and has seen better days.
View of Iranmeylek Village from above.
View to the northwest overlooking the abandoned ROC compound.
View of the rocks around Lover's Cave from above.
View of Warship Rock.
At this point I didn't know if I was walking on goat trail or human trail. This is the only real hike I did in Lanyu. Without risking falling off a cliff, I walked back the way I came from here.
Small viewing post at the top of the hill.
View of Iranmeylek bay from the road. This is where you need to pull over and take the 10 minute walk down to Lover's Cave. This cave is probably the coolest and most grand rock formation on the island, a must see.
Lover's Cave 情人洞
This is what the entrance to Lover's Cave looks like. No scooters allowed beyond this point.
The trail down to lover's cave is well paved and easy to walk down.
First view of the cave. There is a resting pavilion out front. If you are really cool you can come here at sunrise and take a photo of the sun coming through the cave.
Check out our drone footage of the cave and the surrounding area above! And don't forget to subscribe to us on Youtube.
The trail abruptly ends and you have to walk on some uneven rocks.
The volcanic rock formations in front of the cave.
Lover's Cave, which looks like a person's head.
Waves crashing into the cave.
Another view of the cave.
A small puddle in front of the cave.
View of the cave via drone.
Iranmeylek Secret Snorkeling Spot (東清秘境)
One of the best places for snorkeling on the island, or in Taiwan, or anywhere in the world for that matter is on the shoreline between Lover's Cave and the main village.
As you can see below there is a path to the snorkeling spot from someone's property, so you may need to hire a guide to get there.
A group of people getting back from snorkeling. There are quite a few holes and swimming spots along the shoreline.
As seen from above, the water is a beautiful clear blue color, perfect for snorkeling or diving.
The main street of the village is especially busy close to dusk when the night market is about to start.
Locals and tourists sit next to the traditional boats.
Children watching tourists take pictures of the boats.
Flying fish hanging up to dry.
People resting on traditional pavilions off the main road.
One of only two 7-11s on the island.
Flying fish for sale: one for 100 NT.
Iranmeylek Night Market 東清夜市
Fried wine chicken stall.
Right about dusk, people start to clamor in from all around.
I am not sure if most of the people there are tourists or not, but there were a ton of people there.
View of the main street at night.
If you are hungry at night in Lanyu, coming to the Iranmeylek Night Market is a no brainer.
Fried chicken and drink stand in front of the 7-11.
Iralino Village (Yeyin Village 野銀部落)
Ivanlino Village is also separated into the traditional underground house part of town and the new cement house neighborhood. It is said that Ivanlino has the best preserved Tao culture of any part of the island. Also near the village are the cold springs that flow directly into the ocean.
This is the beach at Dongqing Bay between the two villages. This would be the nicest beach in Lanyu if it weren't for the pile of garbage on the lower left. I could have easily cropped it out of the photo, but I am giving you the full, raw Lanyu here. Garbage is a problem for the islanders because space is limited, and tourists always come with new garbage. If every tourist took all the garbage off the island that they brought with them, then perhaps we wouldn't have to see this sight.
View to the north of the Dongqing River.
Taro fields and goats living in harmony in Ivalino Village.
Another view of the growing taro.
Ivalino Village welcome sign, right next to the local garbage dump. Tourists are forbidden from dumping here, take your garbage home with you, make Lanyu better than you found it. Pack it in, pack it out!
View of the modern side of Ivaino village. To the right is the older side with sunken houses, not pictured.
Mother pig sleeping and piglets walking on the main street.
Not far from the main village are the Ivalino Cold Springs (Yeyin Cold Springs 野銀冷泉) which are some of the only cold springs in the world that come from under the ocean.
Due to limited time and coming with a toddler, we did not partake in any bathing or water sports on this trip. For more information on the cold springs you can check out Nick Kembel'sblog here.
Iron Helmet Rock 鋼盔岩
I bet you can't guess why this is called Iron Helmet Rock. Funny thing is that the Tao people used the silver that westerners traded with them to make helmets, which they made by beating the silver coins into strips. I am not sure if any of these helmets are on display on the island.
Elephant Rock 象鼻岩
Another rock along the southeast side of the island is Elephany Rock, not to be confused with the Rock with the same name in Shenao, New Taipei. You can see the head and trunk on the right side of the rock.
Lesser Orchid Island 小蘭嶼
From here you can also see lesser Orchid Island, an uninhabited island that has some of the last remaining indigenous orchids, which are highly endangered. Back in the day the orchids on Orchid Island were nearly picked to extinction.
Moon Rise 月出
Also I saw a moon rise over the ocean here for the first time in my life, which was pretty cool.
View of the mountains on the southeast coast.
Nuclear Waste Disposal Facility 核廢料存放場
No one lives on the southeast coast, so the Taiwan government had the bright idea of putting the country's nuclear waste storage facility there in 1982 without the islanders consent, causing protests from the inhabitants. Also because of this, the Island inhabitants receive free electricity.
Dragon Head Rock 龍頭岩
Near the waste storage facility is Dragon Head Rock, which looks pretty cool. Almost as if the lava cooled just yesterday.
Past Dragon Head Rock is a small harbor from which they bring in the nuclear waste.
Green Green Grassland (Ja-langoina 青青草原)
Green Green Grassland lies on the south side of the Island, and is one of the most wide and open areas on the island. It was once coral reef which has been uplifted, and now tall grass grows here year round. Our Hostel Owner told us that there is a poisonous bug here that if you are stung, you will need to go back to the Taiwan mainland. So she told us not to sit in the grass.
First view of the grassland from the trail.
View to the south. I am not sure what this platform was used for, perhaps for artillery.
The stone path winds slowly up the hills.
Another view to the south.
View of lesser Lanyu from the grasslands.
A popular activity in the evening is to watch the sunset from the top of the hill. As you can see, it can get quite crowded.
Sunset as seen from the grasslands.
Imorod Village (Hongtou Village 紅頭部落)
Finally we have come full circle to the last village, where we started. Imorod is the government center of the island, with the only post office (and only ATM) and hospital located here. There are also a large number of Han Chinese that live here, with 20% of the population being non-Tao people. The town officially covers everything from the nuclear waste plant to the weather station to the airport. It also administers to Iratay Village (漁人部落); the total population of the two villages was 1,467 as of 2018.
View of Green Green Grasslands from central Imorod Village.
A shrine to Chiang Kai-shek, freshly painted. Native peoples in Taiwan are very pro-KMT.
The island's only government administrative center.
Lanyu Weather Station 蘭嶼氣象站
Just behind the government administration building is the road up to the Lanyu Weather Station, which has some of the best views of the island. The turn off has a white sign warning you not to ride a scooter up the hill, and to start walking. But if you have a powerful scooter, ignore these signs and just ride up. It will save you 40 minutes of walking.
You might have noticed that this blog is out of order chronologically. We spent less than 24 hours on Lanyu, and I decided I needed to see the sunrise to get the most out of this trip. I woke up at 5:30 to ride up the mountain to the weather station, but I was a few minutes late. My scooter had trouble carrying two adults up the mountain, so if possible make sure you have a 150cc or above scooter.
View of the sun rising over Lanyu; I just missed the sun come up.
The earliest sunrise in Taiwan, and one of the earliest sunrises in the world.
There is quite a walk from the main road to the weather station, so if possible you should ride your scooter up.
The weather station has three main buildings, one abandoned, one used for weather measurements, and the other looks like a dormitory for the employees.
View looking down from the top of the station.
There is scooter parking at the top!
Panorama of the northeast side of the island, with a picnic table at the top of the weather station. I imagine on new years day this place is packed.
Another view of the sunrise viewing area.
In the grass you can see the eye of the boat pattern, which is painted on all of the Tao boats. It has concentric circles with rays of the sun, which is said to ward off evil spirits (to me it looks similar to a native American dream catcher).
Weather tracking instruments.
The main weather building.
Just behind the main weather building is the old shell of a building built by the Japanese in 1940, which was the first built in Lanyu. It is the original weather station. The other buildings were built by the ROC before 1971.
The original Japanese Era weather station.
A look inside the old Japanese Weather Station.
Signs inside the building indicating this is a historical building, which means it can't be torn down. However that does not mean the weather bureau needs to keep it well kept.
A traditional resting platform on the other side of the weather station.
View to the north from the weather station.
Another view of the sunrise as I walked down.
View of the northeast side of the island.
Soon enough I was back in Imorod village. You will notice many cars do not have license plates. This is so the people don't have to pay fuel tax on their cars. Not all laws apply to Lanyu I guess.
The main street in Imorod has a police station, post office, and hospital, along with some gift shops. The post office has the only ATM on the island.
After seeing the sunrise, I was ready for some breakfast. To my surprise, breakfast prices are 2-3 times more expensive than the Taiwanese mainland. I was wondering if this only applies to non-Tao people but apparently not? Who knows if there is a secret menu for locals.
I didn't mind paying more because after all these people were forced into tourism by the government so the least I can do is help them out monetarily for the privilege of seeing their beautiful island.
Screw Pine Juice 露兜果汁
A popular drink here is Screw Pine or Pandanus (露兜) fruit juice which looks like an overgrown pineapple. Apparently it is really nutritious. I have only ever seen it here and in the Philippines.
A sign showing the health effects of screw pine fruit juice, such as lowering blood pressure, having xanthopyll, carotene, vitamin B, and fiber.
Flying Fish Rice Wrap 飛魚飯糰
The flying fish rice wrap was pretty good. Even though it was 80 NT (the price of a full meal in Taipei), it was a special experience that I will cherish forever. The meat was savory and delicious.
Gift Shops 紀念品店
There are a few souvenir shops on the main street in Imorod. Here I will show a few photos from the inside for those who are curious.
Local treats and daily household items.
Random Lanyu related trinkets.
We also explored one other store that was colorfully painted.
Screw Pine fruit and coconuts for sale.
More Lanyu trinkets.
More trinkets for sale.
Just down the street is the only hospital on the island (蘭嶼鄉衛生所醫療大樓).
View of the ocean from the main street.
After breakfast we still had a hour before we needed to go to the boat dock at 9:00. I decided to take one last walk on the beach.
View of the varying hues of blue in the water.
A few boats parked on the beach.
Another view of the boats.
Last view of the boats on the beach.
Last view of the taro fields at Imorod.
We returned our scooter and the hostel owner drove us back to Kaiyuan Harbor an hour before the boat was set to arrive.
We waited in line in the hot sun for about 45 minutes before we could get on the boat. There are three separate boats, one goes to Kenting, one to Taitung, and one to Green Island, so make sure you are in the right line.
The boat ride back was a little more comfortable and and the air conditioning worked a little better. Also our hostel owner gave us some sea sickness pills. My daughter threw up again, but this time I caught it all in the barf bag.
Things We Missed:
We only had less than 24 hours to spend on Lanyu, so we missed quite a few things. However, this nice thing is that there is always a reason for us to go back:
You may have noticed in your Google search that there are not very many blogs in English about Lanyu. Some that were helpful to us were Richard Saunder's blog, Catherinelee 234's blog, and Nick Kembel's blog.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.