Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 13: Wulai Recreational Area with the Tram and the Oldest Gondola Ride

This time of the year the weather should be dry, fair and a lovely time to travel in Taiwan. But, it rained almost everyday in the northern part of Taiwan so far this winter. The unusual rain pattern made traveling a bit uncomfortable and wet. However, in the meantime, we embraced poetry-like scenery and fresh air. That was the good parts of the rain. Our last scenic visit for the entire trip was Wulai hot springs recreational area. 
     Wulai hosts one of the 14 official recognized aboriginal tribes which is called Atayal. One of its traditional customs was its facial tattoos. It was the symbol of honor and beauty. When young women's waving skills were judged and approved by the elderly, they would be tattooed on their faces which also meant that they could get married. If young men passed the head hunting test, they became real men and they were also marked with facial tattoos. This is the most popular reason why the Atayal had facial tattoos; however, facial tattoos also have some other meanings. But, this cultural activity or custom is no longer adapted by the Atayl people due to the integrating of the Han cultures and changing norms
of  society.    
Wulai main street was lined with food and souvenir shops 
There is also an Atayal Tribal Museum awaiting visitors to understand their unique cultures.   
Taken by Ann
Wulai is in a remote area. It preserves some old lifestyles. A  mobile food market selling on the main street is one of the old lifestyles.  
Taken by Ted
Fresh vegetables sale in front of the restaurant. Visitors buy vegetables and the chef cooks the fresh vegetables for you.           
    About 300 years ago, the Atayal ancestors hunted in this area and saw a lot of smoke from natural hot water. Therefore, they called it "Wulai" which means hot springs in their language. It was just their hunting territory; however, because lumber, producing camphor oil, and construction of the hydraulic power plant offered great job opportunities during the Japanese government occupying Taiwan, people gradually moved to Wulai area and formed the village. Now it is a popular spot for soaking in the hot springs after a day hike in this area or on a cold and chilly winter day in Taipei. Furthermore, it has other attractions which catch people's attention. 
Taken by Ted
    There were three different flavor eggs in this picture: hot springs thousand year eggs, Shaoxing wine eggs, and tea eggs. Tea eggs are very popular everywhere in Taiwan. The eggs are boiled with herbs, tea, etc. It is easy to make and also fills up one's stomach easily after hiking or walking. Taiwanese visitors like to taste an unusual cooking method. The vendors boil eggs or cook food with hot spring water for attracting visitors to buy their food products. It is very common in hot springs areas to sell products related with hot springs, like tomatoes grown in hot springs water. 
There are some public hot springs pools nearby the riverbed. Visitors can enjoy soaking in hot springs under the sky.
We crossed a bridge toward the visitor tram station for visiting a waterfall and taking the gondola.   
After walking up a steep stairway, we saw a small tram siting on the track.  
The history of the Tram
     The tram originated from labor push carts which operated in 1928 and were used to transport lumber during the Japanese occupying Taiwan. After WWII, it was not just to transport lumber but also used to transport passengers. 
     During the U.S. Military presence in Taiwan, a lot of military personnel and their families visited the Wulai area. They took the labor push carts to see the aboriginal dancing and waterfall and also to reach the sky cable car station which was built in 1967 to reach an amusement park at the top. But, using a human labor system was not sufficient to transport massive tourists. So the forest bureau changed the system to a machine operated system in 1974 to accomplish the high volume of travelers. Its peak remained till 1980 after the American military left Taiwan. 
The tram would take us to visit the waterfall. If travelers like to walk, they can walk along the main road to the waterfall. 
Ticketing and Boarding
Operating Schedule:  08:00~17:00,  Summer Time: 09:00~18:00
Ticket: NT$50/one way
Visitors are welcome to sit with the tram operator
The tram ran very smooth but it suddenly made a quick turn to the right almost at the end of the trip. We all were  surprised to enter this tunnel. The tunnel was built for switching between two tracks in 1987. So the worker didn't have to push the carts to the switching yard.   
 The ride was about 1.6 km long and it was a quite interesting ride.
The waterfall is about 80 meter high. There are some aboriginal stores and the tram cart historical museum around. 
In order to take the sky cable car, we had to climb the steep stairs which was higher and more steep than the one near by the tram station.
Looking down the stairs we came from.
The steps seemed endless. I was tired and out of breath but there were more steps to go. Never given up and kept trying. Go, Go, Go! (Gi Yo, Gi Yo, Gi Yo)
Taken by Ann
Finally, we got on the sky cable car. There were only two stations for getting on and off, one at the top and one at the bottom.Visitors could not get off at a wrong station. The length of the cable car is 320 meters and there is a 165 meter difference between the highest and the lowest point.    
Taken by Ted
A birds eye view of the village from the cable car
Walking out from the station, we came across this view which meant there were more stair climbing awaiting us to finish. That was really great! I hoped the stair would be too wet and slippery for us.   
The view of the village from the top.
 We arrived at a park on the top and there was a hotel in this area. We sat down at the restaurant in the hotel to have our lunch and enjoyed a piece of quiet. A woman was sweeping the fallen leaves.    
One of the park views
When we were there, some workers were working on this area. They probably were remodeling its layout and preparing for the summer crowds. 
Talking with an Atayal lady
For more information about Wulai, please visit: 

     It was a leisure day to Wulai. We took our time there and went back to the hotel early for packing our suitcases. We also had to give ourselves sometime if there was a need to purchase an additional suitcase for our souvenirs we had purchased during our trip. Our dinner was arranged at Club 63. It was also called the MAAG NCO Open Mess during American military presence in Taiwan.
     It now is only opened to its members who must possessed an American green card and pay a yearly fee. We booked the reservation through one of its managers one month ago since we all were not members. Our driver took us to the club and said good bye to us. We appreciated his great service and keeping us safe during the entire trip. We hoped he enjoyed his first western customers as well.      
Kent and his girlfriend joined us at the dinner. His knee was getting a little bit better after taking the Chinese medicine and acupuncture.  
Lovely and happy couple: Ann and Ted
Thank for their wine and their beautiful and interesting pictures.  
One of our meals
Craving for the pizza 
     Our entire trip had ended with a nice meal, good friends, and conversation. I hoped everyone had a wonderful trip and a memorable vacation in Taiwan. So long my friends! Welcome back again!

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,
    We were searching for somewhere to go this Labour Day holiday when we came across your blog. Looks like we'll be heading up to Wulai after reading your post! Loads of info and great photos. Thanks for sharing!


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