There was a rock. One day, the rock split in two, and out came the first man and the first woman.
As creation myths go, this one belonging to the Atayal people of Wulai is a personal favourite of mine. Not exactly overloaded with intricacies, but when you live in a place as beautiful as Wulai, I can imagine that you spend too much time with your jaw hanging open to mess around with minor details like the root of all existence.
Wulai is a small town situated in a gorge that looks, aside from a few buildings, very much like it belongs to a different more dinosaur-friendly era. It is home to Taiwan’s tallest waterfall, which at forty-feet high is not to be sniffed at, as well as a number of hot springs. If you go in the late summer, the cherry blossom is supposedly sublime. We went with our two friends, Stephanie and Danny, on a wet and misty December the 30th and there was nary a cherry blossom in sight, but there were also fewer other tourists than I suspected there would be.
We bought rice cooked in bamboo for lunch, a local specialty that ingeniously both keeps the food warm and gives it a distinctive flavour at the same time. There was also a museum that was free to enter. The word “headhunters” was bandied about a fair bit, along with assurances that head hunting is irregular, small scale, and anyway much less brutal than the large scale violence of modern conflicts.
A gift shop sold the kinds of arts and crafts that would be very fashionable back home for the kind of prices you might expect when the produce is very authentically handmade. It was heartening to see the crafts being sold over a counter by an adult, rather than at the roadside by a five year old, which can be a fairly common sight in other parts of South East Asia. We went searching for the Atayal village proper at around three o’clock, and although we found some bizarre statues and got to take a close look at a very peaceful temple, fittingly we never found the village itself. But as we made our way back to the bus stop, an eerie drumbeat echoed around the valley.
To reach Wulai, take the green line of the Taipei MRT all the way south-west to Xindian, which will cost about 30NT (80 pence). (MRT Line). From Xindian MRT station, take the 849 bus for about thirty minutes, for 15NT. Wulai is the last stop. Be warned, the bus journey was erratic enough to dislodge even the Taiwanese passengers from the safety rail, and is not easy on the stomach. But Wulai is well worth making the trip!
You can see the rest of our photos here :)
How to get there?
From Taipei, take the MRT on the dark green line right to Xindian at the end of the line. Outside Xindian station you can see an information booth on the right, the bus stop behind this is the one you need for Wulai. Take the bus to the last stop, about a half hour journey.