So you’re in Taipei and you want a change of scenery without spending hours on a train to get there. Somehow you’ve had too much night market food, or want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours, or have walked your feet to the point of numbness.
A day trip to Wulai Atayal Aboriginal Village may be just the cure for your spell. It’s easy to get there: get on the MRT to Xindian Station, walk past the Tourist Center, hop on to Bus 849, pay 15 NTD and you’re there in under an hour! You can also book a tour with groups like MyProGuide, and prepare to enjoy what this charming riverside town has to offer.
Wulai is named after an Atayal word ulai, which means hot springs. Atayal tribesmen discovered the hot springs hundreds of years ago, and their descendants have maintained these springs and continue living in the village. Head on down to the river and ease right in: the hot springs are open for everyone. Locals swear by its relaxing and hydrating capabilities, and it’s not unusual to see a handful of locals as old as your grandparents chatting and having a nice soak by the river. There are even shallow springs where you can dip just your feet, which would feel like heaven after long hours of walking.
Bro tip: There are also several private hot springs in the hotels and resorts lining the road to the river if public bathing isn’t your thing.
Wulai is nestled in hundreds of acres of lush greenery—not to mention its pristine green rivers. Walk about half an hour to the Wulai waterfall; depending on the season you might even see cherry blossoms bloom. For hardcore trekkers, there are even birdwatching and forest activities guided by local Atayal hunters. For those who want to just chill, there is a log cart that goes from the town center to the waterfall. There is also a gondola that takes passengers from the base of the waterfall to the top of the mountain where there is a park undergoing restoration from damages sustained from a 2015 typhoon. It’s still the perfect way to experience the waterfalls, and also helps the locals with restoring the once magnificent park.
Learn About the Atayal Culture
As one of the foremost aboriginal towns—and so close to the city as well—Wulai is one of the best places to learn about Taiwan’s aboriginal culture. Five minutes in their museum would quickly bring to mind the peoples of the Cordilleras. There is actually a migration theory that supposes that the people of Formosa (pre-colonial Taiwan) made their way south to the Philippines, which would explain shared qualities such as clothing, food, design motifs, and customs between the Taiwanese aboriginal people and the people of the Cordilleras.
Learn about Atayal hunting practices, watch some local performances, and take home some locally crafted souvenirs like textiles and woodworks.
Eat at Wulai Old Street
Another fantastic way of learning about a culture is to eat their food. You don’t need to walk far into town to find Wulai Old Street, which has food stalls selling local food you won’t get anywhere in Taipei. Try out the wild boar sausages, gobble down a silky, yet bouncy hot spring egg, eat rice straight out of a bamboo stick or sample some unnamed pickles swimming in flavorful chili oil sold by a cute girl.
You could also try out the famous Taiya Po Po (which literally translates to Grandma Atayal) restaurant, which was featured in Eddie Huang’s Fresh off the Boat series, and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods Taiwan. You might even catch a glimpse of the actual grandma who owns the place!
Have we missed any of your fave Wulai activities? Sound off in the comments!
Header photo courtesy of Caveman Travels
Cover photo courtesy of Lonely Planet