Wulai Atayal Aboriginal Village and Hot Springs (烏來)
As the closest aboriginal village to Taipei, Wulai is a favourite destination for city dwellers looking to find a quick escape. Along with Beitou, Wulai is home to natural hot springs that are open in both public and private settings. The area is also primarily inhabited by Taiwanese aboriginals, specifically the Atayal tribe, and is a great place to learn more about the indigenous culture of Taiwan.
Most visitors to Taiwan are familiar with Chinese culture, as the population is predominantly Han Chinese. What visitors are not aware of, however, is that Chinese migration to Taiwan is only a recent historical occurrence, happening as late as the 17th century when the Dutch were in search of farm labourers. Up until this time, Taiwan was mainly inhabited by what we now refer to as the aboriginals, or Yúanzhùmín (原住民) in Mandarin Chinese. While sharing similar values, aboriginal tribes have unique histories, cultures, languages, and practices which distinguish them from each other. The government in Taiwan has recently been promoting these cultures as part of the identity of Taiwan.
As the closest accessible aboriginal village to Taipei City (台北市), Wulai is a fantastic place to start learning about this fascinating culture and people. Besides its natural attractions, the village is home to the Wulai Atalyal Museum (烏來泰雅民族博物館, free entry), several independent shops specialising in clothing, art, foods, and crafts, and cultural performances scattered throughout the village.
Along with the downtown village area, the area around the base of the Wulai Falls (烏來瀑布), the largest of the waterfalls located within the Wulai Gorge, also is home to several shops, restaurants, and cultural showcases, and is the terminus of the Wulai Scenic Train, a converted Japanese mining cart system now rebuilt for tourists. The falls are accessible by either road, hiking trail, or by riding the tram.
Behind the falls is the Yunxian Playground (雲仙樂園), a large nature park equipped with paddle boats, natural obstacle courses, and is most frequently visited for its large amount and variety of hiking trails. Take the Wulai Gondola cable car over the falls and into the park.
Bus route 849 bound for Wulai originates at Taipei Main Station and travels roughly along the MRT Green Line 3 past its terminus at Xindian Station. Passengers can either board or alight at multiple stations along the green line, however it is recommended to travel first to Xindian Station for simplicity.
Be sure to check out the museums in Wulai, such as Wulai Tram Museum (烏來台車博物館) to learn about Japan's colonial influence on the area and the Wulai Atayal Museum (烏來泰雅民族博物館) to learn more about aboriginal culture.
After visiting Wulai Atayal Aboriginal Village, check out Bitan, a riverfront village located right next to Xindian Station. Besides a wide variety of restaurants and proximity to a small night market, the area is essentially a large park where people can relax, as well as rent paddle boats and take in some local entertainment. A nice, relaxing dinner at Bitan is a great conclusion to a Wulai trip.