Ah, Wulai. Think hot springs, cherry blossom and Atayal indigenous culture. And mountain scenery.
And, sadly, in the last few years, think typhoons too. Wulai has had more than its fair share of bad news. Most recently, “in August 2015, Wulai was devastated by Typhoon Soudelor, wiping out several hotels and destroying hot springs in the region. The course of the Nanshi River that passes through the district changed and the riverbank was eroded heavily by surging water. Heavy landslides were attributed to the overdevelopment of the mountain areas around the river which damaged the soil and watershed along the slope lands”.
But restoration work on the riverbed is ongoing, new bridges are going up and there are diggers and cranes and all sorts of construction work going on. Wulai is on the mend!
The cable car is working again, the Yun Hsien Resort way up on the mountain top is open again, the Wulai Trolley Car is up and running, cafes and restaurants and hot spring hotels are ready and waiting for visitors.
This past week, temperatures in Taipei have been setting May records, 37ºC and more, but ‘feels like 42°’. Sweltering heat and humidity, and, despite thunderstorm warnings, none seems to have materialized to break the heat. None where I’ve been anyway. So, what better place to go than Wulai to seek some respite? I was there yesterday. Actually it was still baking hot ~ but only 33, ‘feeling like 39’, and that’s way better than 42! Ah well, at least this frog was happy ~ a ‘Swinhoes Frog’ Odorrana Swinhoana, endemic to Taiwan and named after naturalist, Robert Swinhoe, 1836-77, who served as Bristish Consul in Tamsui.
Wulai is a mountain town 25 km south of Taipei, easily accessible by bus (No. 849), taking 40 minutes from Xindian MRT Station – at the end of the green MRT line. And only costs NT$ 15! The road winds up and up to 250 m (not particularly high altitude, but feels like it!) and comes to a stop at the entrance to Wulai Town, perched on the steep banks of the Nanshi River. The town is sprawling and nothing special as a town, but its location is. And as it’s the home for the Atayal people 泰雅族, everywhere is decorated in their symbols and colours.
Check out the RC Church, dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, built in 1963. I met Fr. Arturo from Chile who serves there, dressed in Atayal colours. Lots going on there, he was getting ready for a mass. On Sundays, he gets about 30 people coming along, and he had a class of children on Saturday waiting to start too. We even had a photo taken together..
Check out the 80m high waterfall, 25 minutes walk up the road. Beautiful.
The river looks almost turquoise from the road above…
And check out the cable car that runs up to the Yun Hsien Resort. The cable car crosses the river with amazing views down. Takes all of 2 minutes. Costs NT$ 220, which includes cable car return trip and entry to the resort.
The view from the top of the cable car looking down at Wulai ~ you can see where all the landslides have taken place….
Yun Hsien Resort 雲仙樂園 is really quite incredible. Who would ever think to build a resort up there on the very top of the mountain, and accessible only by cable car? The temperatures up there were several degrees cooler than down in Wulai, and there was a nice breeze. There’s a hotel, boating lake, flowers and forest walks and archery and all sorts of things to do and look at. Even peacocks. But its main attraction has to be its location. It is quite an incredible feat of construction to build a resort up there.
The flowerbed turns out to be Taiwan-shaped!
Views from the cable car on the return journey….
And back to Wulai Old Street by the Wulai Scenic Train 烏來台車 which started life as a rail cart, originally designed by the Japanese government in 1928 to transport timber, logging tools, tea and passengers – now only used by tourists. NT$ 50 one way.
Must-visit the Wulai Atayal Museum 烏來泰雅民族博物館 which has lots of displays – and English explanations. Most interesting are the facial tattoos, headhunting traditions, displays of weaving of the local people ~ oh yes, and the added bonus of air conditioning!
And of course there’s plenty to eat in Wulai, and drink, and things to buy.
A good place to visit from Taipei for the day ~ lots of people cycle up to the waterfall from Taipei, others enjoy the hot springs – but really they’re best in winter, or they just relax in the river. Plenty to do and see, and eat ~ and help the Atayal people of Wulai get back on their feet after the typhoon disaster of 2015. An interesting place. Even if the natural environment is badly damaged and over-developed with resorts and hotels for the tourism industry. Still, let’s hope and pray that this year’s typhoon season is kinder on the people of Wulai than in the past.