The dry season has passed in Asia, and the monsoon months have drenched the eastern nations in torrential rains. But instead of letting rain ruin your parade, why not make rain the center of the parade? This is the idea behind the Yilan Rain Festival, one of Taiwan‘s biggest annual events. A showcase of the east coast countyâ€™s beauty and culture, the festival is held at 3 locations: Dongshan River Park, Wulaokeng Scenic Area and Toucheng-Suao Area, focusing on the mountain, river and ocean vistas all present in Yilan. The festival attracted over 890,000 visitors last year, and this yearâ€™s event is planned to be even bigger, with more goings-on to keep the celebration at full blast for two whole months.
This yearâ€™s theme is â€œStarry River Viewâ€ and all 3 areas certainly project this vision. Dongshan is transformed into a fantasy setting during the festivities, decorating the areas that surround its giant slide and water jets with popular cartoon characters and enlivened with costume play, fireworks and water dance, all of which resonate water, star, and fantasy. Wulaokeng focuses on â€œmountains:, â€œriversâ€, and â€œrainfallâ€, presenting an ecology-oriented experience that includes an exhibition of the story of water in Yilan, local tea culture and sculptures of floating wood. There are also several adventure activities to engage the rough-and-ready visitors in bouts of physical exertions, from river inner tubing to rock climbing. Finally, Toucheng-Suao Ocean Park gives attention to the legions of surfers who worship the waves of Taiwanâ€™s surfing capital, peppering the beach with a graffiti zone, coffee area, paintball, sand sculpture, sunset-viewing platforms and concerts to make them stay after the dayâ€™s surfing is done. A â€œSunny Girlâ€ Beauty Contest, International Surfing Contest, Wushi Summer Solstice Music Festival, and Beach Street Dance Contest are also planned, together with net fishing, beach volleyball, and other exciting sports activities. Organized by the Yilan County Government, the entrance fees are kept affordable despite the unstable economy, providing an â€œall-you-can-playâ€ atmosphere to ensure fun throughout the duration of the festival.
You can visit the rest of Yilan after spending time in the festival. The Fushan Botanical Garden is a highly-sought after forest area that has a long waiting list, especially during weekends (better sign up early for this.) Another destination is the National Center for Traditional Arts, a large center that preserves and promotes Taiwanese Arts and Culture, which exhibits a recreated â€œold streetâ€ that sells traditional crafts. If you are interested in dining, the Luodong Nightmarket can sate your appetite for Lamb Soup, Baoxin FenYuan (rice balls with red bean filling), and ren bing (stir-fry veggies, dried meat and shaved peanuts wrapped in a crepe-like soft shell). Shopping can be done in the one large department store called YouAi. Finally, trail-seekers can traverse the Marian Hiking Trail that starts from behind the church at Wufengchi waterfalls in Jiaoxi. There are two routes that offer varying degrees of difficulty, with the more difficult path providing successful hikers a breath-taking view of Lanyang plain and Turtle Island on clear days.
To get to Yilan, ride on the North Railway Line fast train from Taipei, or drive south for at leastÂ 40 minutes along the Taipei-Yilan Freeway No. 5. You may tour the city by renting a scooter from among the many shops near the train stations.Â Yilan Rain Festival 2009 started last July 11 and continues on until August 23. Some protesters marred the opening on the festival to object the cancellation of the Childrenâ€™s Folklore and Folkgame Festival, which the county government intended to replace with the rain festival. Nevertheless, like the rains over Taiwan, the festival will continue , showering the crowds with happy thoughts of being in harmony with nature.