INDIGENOUS
CULTURE

Lanyu (Orchid) Island

Lovely Lanyu (Orchid) Island is a lush volcanic island 65 km southeast of Taitung. Islanders are believed to be descendants of Austronesians who fled the Spanish occupation of the Philippines two centuries ago. Lanyu was the home of the Tao (Yami) exclusively until the mid-20th century when Chinese arrived from mainland Taiwan.

You can whip around Lanyu on a scooter in 90 minutes. That said, the riveting scenery and culture will make you stop many times along the way. Peculiar rock formations dot the coast. Fishing canoes line up near villages, bow and stern pointing skywards. You might chance upon a traditional Tao house – underground with the roof barely visible—or a Christian chapel peppered with tribal decorations. And of course, a meal of flying fish and sea vegetables is not to be missed. If you hike the mountain rainforests or go diving along the rugged coast, the journey will take even longer.

Much of Tao (Yami) life and culture revolve around the flying fish and its lore. The Flying Fish Festival is a mosaic of ceremonies during the fishing season (roughly March to August). For travelers, April and May are the best months for tasting fresh flying fish. To see them drying in the sun outside every home, go before the end of May.