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Hot springs and aboriginal culture

are the attractions of Wulai

Photos courtesy of Spring Park Urai Spa & Resort
The name Wulai comes from the Atayal language and means "poisonous." Early Atayal hunters were wary of the steaming water rising along the banks of the Nanshih River. Their first thought was that the water was dangerous and not fit for consumption or bathing.

After some time, it was found that this was far from the truth, with the slightly basic spring waters claimed to be effective for treating gastric and skin disorders. However, the name "Wulai" stuck.
The area now draws crowds of visitors, especially on winter weekends and holidays, to soak in the natural carbonate hot springs. Unlike sulfur springs, carbonate spring water is colorless and odorless.
In Wulai there is no shortage of options for enjoying the spring waters. For those on a limited budget, a public hot springs bathing area can be found alongside the Nanshih River, a sparkling blue-green river that snakes its way among Wulai's verdant hills. The temperature of the spring water can reach 85 degrees Celsius, but in this area is kept naturally comfortable due to the influx of cool river water.
For a higher level of pampering, hot springs resorts abound. Many of these resorts have multiple open-air pools, ranging in temperature from cold to warm to hot, with the hottest reaching 43 degrees Celsius. As in Japan, outdoor pools are enjoyed in the nude, so bathing areas are separated by gender. For the shy, private bathhouses are also available. A good example of a Japanese-style hot springs resort is Siang Gen Yuan (Hakone).
Those wanting a romantic escape will want to spend a night at Spring Park Urai Spa & Resort, with five-star facilities and striking design that includes aboriginal artwork and natural materials such as stone and wood. No children are allowed in the overnight guest room and room capacity is strictly held at two to maintain a highly tranquil atmosphere.
To include family and friends in an overnight Wulai getaway try the newly opened Pause Landis Resort.
Or, to experience some of the local culture, stay at one of several guesthouses run by local aboriginal residents.
No visit to Wuali is complete without a stroll along Wulai Street, which features a number of gift shops selling aboriginal handicrafts, millet wine and moichi, a traditional aboriginal sticky rice dessert in flavors such as peanut, red bean and taro root. There are also a number of restaurants serving aboriginal cuisine.
Today, Wulai's resident population is still mostly of the Atayal tribe. The Atayal are one of twelve recognized aboriginal tribes in Taiwan.
The women of this tribe are skilled in weaving, as traditionally an Atayal woman's social position was determined by the quality and complexity of the patterned cloth that she produced.
One of the best times to visit Wulai is in February and March. This is when the hillsides become covered in bright pink cherry blossoms. For the Atayal tribe, the cherry blossoms signal the start of the millet-planting season. Traditionally, on the night before the millet planting ceremony, all of the residents in the village must stay indoors, except for those responsible for leading the ceremony. The ceremony takes place in a field just before dawn. The millet seed is spread toward the rising sun and food offerings to the Atayal deities are buried near where the seeds are planted.
During the cherry blossom season there is a month-long festival with aboriginal music and dance performances, weaving classes and aboriginal cooking classes.
Another major Wulai attraction is the hilltop Yun-hsien Park, reached by tram. On the way up, riders are treated to breathtaking views of the Wulai Waterfall. This park offers forest walking trails, river rowboat rides, amusement park rides and aboriginal dance performances.
Due to Wulai's fame as a tourist attraction much of its indigenous culture has been diluted. To really experience it, it is necessary to head to nearby Fushan. Fushan is also home to the gorgeous Fushan Botanical Garden.
Another attraction in close proximity to Wulai is the Neidong Recreational Area, which is also an excellent choice for nature walks and experiencing lush hillside scenery. For more information, contact the Wulai Township Administration Office at (02) 2661-6443.

Getting There
By car, take Highway 3 and exit at Sindian. Follow Beiyi Road and turn right onto Provincial Highway 9. This highway goes all the way to the Lansheng Sightseeing Bridge, Wulai Street and most of the major hot springs resorts. Continue along this highway to reach Fushan and Neidong.
Wulai is about a 20-minute drive from Sindian and about a 50-minute drive from Taipei City.
It is also possible to reach Wulai by bus. Take the MRT to the Sindian station and then transfer to a Sindian Transportation Company bus.
Some of the hot springs resorts offer shuttle service to and from Sindian. Alternatively, taxis are available from the Sindian MRT station.