Every time I tell people that I live in Yunlin County (雲林縣) in Taiwan, non-Taiwanese people ask me where it is and Taiwanese people get Yunlin County confused with Yuanlin City in Changhua County. There isn’t much information in English on Yunlin County, so I have decided to create a blog post series, Discover Yunlin. Discover Yunlin will be a way for me to introduce Yunlin County to new Fulbright ETAs in Yunlin, other expats in Taiwan, as well as other English speakers. For this post, I’ll just introduce Yunlin County as a whole before diving deeper into other topics.
Yunlin County 101
Yunlin County is located on the west coast of Taiwan, bordering Changhua County in the north, Nantou County in the east, and Chiayi County in the south. Most of Yunlin is agricultural land; you see fields and fields of a variety of crops, ranging from pomelos, peanuts, and taro. In Gukeng Township (古坑鄉) in eastern Yunlin, you can find coffee bean fields, lots of beautiful mountainous scenery, and Janfusun Fancyworld (劍湖山世界主題樂園), an amusement park. In northwestern Yunlin, you can find large factories in Mailiao Township (麥寮鄕). And along the west coast, there are a number of fishing ports for fishermen.
Yunlin County has 1 city, 5 urban townships, and 14 rural townships. The two most populous areas in the county are Douliu City (斗六市) and Huwei Township (虎尾鎮). Douliu City is the capital of Yunlin County with a population of over 100,000. Most of the county government buildings are located here, as well as the National Yunlin University of Science and Technology and TransWorld University. Huwei Township is the center of hipster culture in Yunlin, with a population of over 70,000. It is home to the National Formosa University and the town center is always bustling with activity.
Despite being small in population and size, Yunlin County is not as rural as you think. Main streets are still busy during rush hour traffic. And 24 hour convenience stores are everywhere. (I tell people that a township is not rural in Taiwan unless it has no convenience store.) If you head into Douliu or Huwei, there are limitless options of restaurants, boba shops, and supermarkets. Plus, if you live in downtown Douliu and Huwei, businesses and restaurants are merely steps away.
What’s there to do and see in Yunlin?
Yunlin County is not a megacity, so don’t expect megacity tourist spots here! With that being said, it doesn’t mean that Yunlin County lacks places to see and things to do. Yunlin is just as Instagram-worthy as other well-known Taiwanese cities, maybe with a tad more character even.
Mazu is an important deity in Taiwan, and Beigang Township (北港鎮) is home to the Chaotian Temple (朝天宫), one of the most significant Mazu temples in the country. Chaotian Temple was built in 1700 with a Mazu statue brought over from Fujian, the home of Mazu. The temple sees over 1 million visitors per year, and Chaotian’s Mazu tours other Mazu temples across Taiwan annually.
Yunlin County has several notable bridges. In Huwei Township (虎尾鎮), there is the Huwei Steel Bridge (虎尾鐵橋) . Built as part of the infrastructure for Taiwan Sugar Corporation, the bridge serves trains that transport sugar from the Huwei sugar refinery next door. Tourists can walk onto the bridge and take photos. There is also a bike path next to the bridge if you want to bike along Yunlin’s agricultural fields. The sitting area near the bridge also makes the bridge a great place to chat with friends and watch the sunset.
In Xiluo Township, you can find the bright red Xiluo Bridge (西螺大橋). Finished in 1952, it was the longest bridge in Taiwan and the second longest bridge in the world at its opening, only after the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The Xiluo Bridge is over 6,362 feet long and connects Yunlin County with Changhua County in the north.
Besides its bridge, Xiluo is also known for many agricultural products, with soy sauce at the top of that list. While there is no singular soy sauce brand from Xiluo, the few Xiluo soy sauce brands are well known and can be found in common supermarkets, like PXMart and Carrefour. In Xiluo Township, tourists can even get a factory tour from Wuan Chuang Soy Sauce (丸莊醬油), a company established in 1909.
For the nature lover, the mountainous Caoling village (草嶺) in Gukeng Township (古坑鄉) is a must see. The high elevation and endless varieties of greenery is a welcoming change to the rest of Yunlin that consists of mostly flat, agricultural fields. From Douliu City, it takes about an hour’s drive through windy roads to get there. (Pack your motion sickness pills if you’re like me.)
And if you want to learn more about Yunlin’s crops and how foods arrive at your supermarket, agricultural experiences are a good way to understand a farmer’s life a bit more. In Linnei Township (林內鄉), you can sign up for a taro picking experience. You learn how to dig up taro, peel it, and cook it all in a few hours.
Sure, there aren’t many traditional tourist attractions like in the city, but there are lots to see and learn in Yunlin. To be honest, I wouldn’t even recommend museums here in Yunlin because that’s not what Yunlin is about! The county is rich in agricultural lifestyle and scenic greenery. It’s a great place to see and appreciate when you need a slower pace in life.
Getting Around Yunlin
The downside of being in a rural county is transportation around Yunlin. A scooter or a car is the best way to navigate around Yunlin. Taixi Bus (臺西客運) runs practically all intra-county buses in Yunlin and has a good selection of bus routes. The downside is the frequency of service. One of the most frequent routes is the 9015, which runs from Beigang Township to Taichung City in Taichung County. I can get from the Huwei Bus Station, a stop along the route, to Taichung Bus Terminal in under 90 minutes for $140 NTD total. Another bus route that is very useful is THSR Shuttle Bus 201, which runs from the Yunlin High Speed Rail (HSR) station through Douliu City to YunTech. The shuttle is free for HSR ticket holders and is $20 NTD for everyone else.
Taxi service is essential if you don’t have a scooter or car. The large scale taxi apps don’t work in Yunlin County very often, so here are 3 companies that I rely on. (If you don’t know enough Mandarin to communicate to taxi drivers, I’d suggest sticking with M大都會 55178.)
好友計程車公司 (based in Huwei Township) – Phone: 05 636 0000 / LINE: era4882b. They don’t run a meter and charge a flat rate for each trip, which is usually cheaper than running a meter. Most of their drivers drive pretty fast. They charge about $150 from HSR station to Huwei, and around $330 from Huwei to Douliu. I use this company pretty frequently and schedule taxis in advance using LINE.
M大都會 55178 – Phone: just call 55178. This is the taxi company at the Yunlin HSR station. They are a large taxi company that operates in multiple cities, so these taxis are generally more professional and newer and they always run the meter. The meter runs between $180 to $195 for a ride from the HSR station to Huwei.
斗六計程車公司 (based in Douliu City) – Phone: 05 532 2525. I’ve only used this company once or twice. If I remember correctly, they don’t run the meter and charge a flat rate for each trip. They’re okay, but a friend of mine had a bad experience taking a taxi as a female foreigner.
As for traveling within one township, an electric bike or regular bike should work just fine for running errands. On any given day, you can see senior high students commuting to school by bike and the elderly biking to morning markets. Walking outside is also okay but roads are not pedestrian friendly and walking for more than 15 minutes only works when it’s under 90˚F outside (haha).
Getting to Yunlin
From other counties, Yunlin County is accessible by the high speed rail (HSR), the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) trains, and by intercity buses. The Yunlin HSR station is located in the outskirts of Huwei Township, and is the transport hub for some bus routes and taxis. The Taiwan Railway Administration operates five stations in Yunlin: Linnei, Shiliu, Douliu, Dounan, and Shigui. Douliu is the largest TRA station in Yunlin, with express trains stopping there, so I’d suggest arriving in Yunlin via Douliu.
Yunlin on the big screen
You might think that you don’t know Yunlin County at all, but if you watch Netflix, you might have heard about Yunlin already. Tigertail, a movie directed by Alan Yang, tells a narrative of a young man immigrating from Huwei Township to the US. (Note: the characters for Huwei – 虎尾 – is “tiger” and “tail.”) The scenes that depict Huwei were actually filmed in the township. The movie showed locations like the Huwei Sugar Factory, the High Speed Rail station, the rice fields, and the village. (I couldn’t find actual filming locations list for Huwei but I believe that the scenes from the village were filmed in 建國一村活動中心, a revitalized area of a former military community used by both the Japanese and the KMT.)