Saturday, April 07, 2007

Wulai Hiking Trip

Melanie and I went to Wulai this past weekend and spent a few hours wandering around the area. Wulai is a very neat place - nestled up in the mountains to the west of Taipei. There are some gorgeous rivers running through the valleys, and what makes them particularly interesting is that there are natural hot springs coming out of the ground into the river.

Getting there is also relatively convenient: we took the subway to Taipei Main Station, transferred to the line taking us south to XinDian, and then took a 20-30 minute bus ride up to the actual destination - roughly 90 minutes total.

If you are ever visiting us out here, then I would suggest forcing us to get out of bed early and hitting the road for Wulai no later than 10am - just to make sure you have enough time to explore. There is a lot to see, and you probably want to be able to take your time seeing it. It is also a lot of fun to switch between soaking in the tide-pools (man-made, but fairly natural) and hopping into the river proper (clean and relatively warm).

Here on the left, you can see that several families actually make a day out of bringing their beach gear and just having a blast. We were there on a slightly rainy day (as you probably surmised from our attire), and there was still a decent turnout despite the weather. What's neat about it is that the village has also started to capitalize on its touristic value by installing more parking, lots of restaurants, coffeeshops, etc. Also, since you are way up in the mountains close to the river sources, the water really is quite clean. It might smell a bit funky, but that's just because the hot springs are typically either of the calcium-carbonate or sulfur varieties - the latter being the stinky one.

In this picture on the left, you can see one of the places where the spring water is coming out in the middle of the river and moving downstream. This picture was taken just a few hundred meters north of the shore area shown up above. The rain caused the image to come out slightly grainy, but hopefully you can see enough to get a good idea for what this looks like. One of the cooler things about this is the fact that even on a day as relatively warm as the day that we visited, you could still see the steam rising from the surface of the water around the spring. The water is really extremely hot in certain areas - right near some of the sources, people even bring cooking utensils and food to boil in the water.
I'm not sure if there are supposed to be any medicinal qualities associated with this manner of food preparation (probably), but there were certainly a few families engaged in this wacky form of outdoor cooking.

From there, we headed up the path (roughly 1km walk) towards the trolley. There is a little train that will take you up the path if you aren't up for the walk, but Melanie and I decided (perhaps somewhat foolishly) to make the trek on foot. The walk was quite pleasant, but it is all uphill, so it will probably be a little bit trickier than you might imagine - particularly when it starts raining a little harder :)

One of the high points (somewhat literally) of this area is the waterfall, which is reportedly 80m tall. The two pictures shown here do not really communicate the scale of it, but it really is quite impressive. There is a little commercial village up at the top of the trail, directly across from the waterfall, where you can get a great view while purchasing your "authentic" Taiwanese & aboriginal goods. There are also (once again) more places to purchase food and drink, so we decided to have a nice dinner here before heading back down again. There is also a tram that will take you up to the falls proper, but we decided to pass on this since it was getting late, and it was a bit too dark and foggy by then for us to expect a much better view.

Overall, it was a very fun trip. If you're ever out this way, we just might take you...if you're nice to us...

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