Wulai is a tourist’s dream spot for total satisfaction. It’s located only an hour and 20 minute bus ride (#849) away from the Xindian MRT in Taipei. This aboriginal town is home to the Atayal people, and features a magnificent waterfall, nature-centered theme park, and scenic train ride. You’ll also notice a crazy-high cable car ride, night market street full of local eats and of course, its claim to fame, the many riverside hot springs.
Soak in natural riverside hot springs
Wulai is best known for being a hot spring haven, where you have options for your hot spring experience.
The most popular choice is the outdoor, public hot springs. This is a concrete constructed platform featuring multiple baths, including ones that are near-boiling hot (watch your skin or others’ turn lobster-red), hot, lukewarm, and cold. There is a makeshift steam room, some massage jets, and changing rooms. Make sure you rinse off under the showers before getting in the spring pools since going in un-rinsed is a big no-no. If you’re feeling brave, try jumping into the rushing cold river water to be carried downriver before climbing back out and soaking in a hot tub. If you’re unsure of how to do it, look to the locals for guidance. Going from hot to cold water stimulates qi (chi), known as our vital life force, and helps with circulation. Entry to these public springs is free - which comes with a price - crowds of people.
Want to be assured that your hot spring water is truly natural? Opt for the second choice of constructing your own little hot spring pool along the riverside - a local secret. Downriver and opposite the public springs, there is a parking lot, next to which is a popular spot for building your own pool. This is a way to avoid the crowds and to feel the hot spring water actually seeping up from the black riverbed sand. Choose from the many rocks and build your own pool. Borrow a shovel (there are usually one or two people who bring one) and deepen your pool, where you can finally soak your muscles after your hard work. The best part is, you can easily slip over into the cold river water and back again into your hot pool (good for circulation, remember?).
Finally, Wulai has no shortage of “hot spring hotels” where you can stay for a night, or just an hour or two. You can get a room with a bed, or just a room with a bath. Some have options of indoors and out, with a view and without. Others offer non-private springs without the crowding of the public springs. Pay the extra fee here for a private or quieter experience.
Stroll down the Old Street market
Ulay, or Wulai in Chinese, is home to the Atayal people, who make up 15% of Taiwan’s current aboriginal population. Like many indigenous groups, they have opened their communities up to tourists. On the Old Street, you’ll find shops selling and displaying Atayal specialties, including colorful rattan apparel, funky jewelry, and intricate woven handicrafts.
Taiwan is known for its food culture, and indeed, Wulai represents this! Taste Atayal foods, including flavored rice cooked in bamboo tubes, and pickled veggies. Other favorites from the street are sweet almond milk and the Indian curry wraps.
Wonder at the spectacular waterfall
The waterfall in Ulay is around 80 meters, or 260 feet tall. It is the centerpiece to this stunning town. You can ride a little train from nearby the market street to get here, or walk through the lush nature trail for a quicker route.
Enjoy juice or coffee at the little cafe under the falls. Then, if you’re feeling daring, take the cable car up to the top of the falls (see that line stretching above the waterfall in the picture, and the little station at the top?). The regular ticket costs 220 NTD ($6.70 USD), and is worth being up so high in the mountains, playing in the gorgeous stream feeding the waterfall. But, there’s so much more, and you must not forget to go explore the small amusement park! This park is fantastic because it’s set in the depths of the green jungle. There are many playland rides that aren’t operated by anyone, but are self-operated and gravity-powered, including zip-line style swings, precarious bridge crossings, an animal petting zoo, ostriches, a haunted house, and on weekends, cultural dance and music performances by members of the Atayal group.
Stay satisfied in Wulai
This is the best day trip outside of Taipei. Easily accessible by bus, you can enjoy amazing, special foods, spectacular nature, a fun amusement park, daring cable car ride, and finally a relaxing soak in the all-natural hot spring water. Are you ready for this unique adventure? Enjoy!
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