Taipei Day 3 (2 May 14) – The Waterfalls and Hotsprings

Soaking in hot spring popped up when I was planning for this trip. There are several places near Taipei where one can enjoy hot spring bath. The 2 nearest to Taipei are Beitou and Wulai. I was recommended Wulai by one of my friends to visit the ones in Wulai, as Wulai has more then hot springs. There are scenic views there, particularly the waterfall. True enough most visitors to Wulai are here for the waterfall and the sceneries. I did a little research and found out that Wulai is actually where the aborigine tribe of Atayal traditional inhibits. There are several ways to Wulai, of course the more convenient way is to hire a driver to take one straight to Wulai. This is option will save a lot of time for visitors to Wulai. The other option would be to take the subway and then transfer to a bus to Wulai. This is a cheaper option and allows visitors to rub shoulders with the locals.

As we were heading towards the subway station in Xinyi from our hotel, my friend and I witness a parade along the roads. The main street was partially closed for the parade, which celebrates the birth of Goddess of Heaven, a deity in accordance to the Taoist religion most Taiwanese subscribe to. There are locals, part of the parade, dressed up in traditional costumes of Taoist deities and demons walking down the road. There are firecrackers being set off by some of the parade staffs along the road. It is a scene of celebratory. As we were taking pictures, some of the staffs stopped by and volunteered to take pictures with us. This truly shows the warmth and welcoming nature of the Taiwanese. After the parade past by, my friend and I headed towards the subway station.

Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Me at the street parade
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Me at the street parade
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 
Street parade celebrating the birth of Goddess of Heavens 

We took the subway to Xindian station, where we will be changing to a bus, which will take us to Wulai. As we were waiting for the bus, my friend saw a restaurant selling traditional Taiwanese food.  The food offered in the restaurant is very tasty and is at the right amount of saltiness, sweetness. We had the braised pork rice. The pork was tender and well braised, coupled with the rice, it is heavenly. Do pop by this restaurant should one travels to Wulai via the subway.

Street view around Xindian Station 
This is a must try when in Xindian area

After lunch we proceeded to the bus stop to wait for the bus to take us to Wulai. The bus was regular and we did not have to wait for too long before the next bus heading to Wulai comes. As this is the only bus to Wulai, many visitors and locals alike boarded the bus. The bus goes through city roads and windy mountainous routes and finally reached Wulai in around 30 mins. For visitors to Wulai, the final stop for this bus is at Wulai bus terminal, which is located within 5 mins walk to Wulai Old Street. When we alighted from the bus, My friend and I were captivated by the scenery just by being at the bus terminal. This is where the greeneries from the mountains meets the blues from the river running down from the mountain. We saw a number of locals enjoying themselves by the river banks. The water in the river contains natural spring water, it is well known for its benefits by the locals. From the bus station, we spotted a suspension bridge which links to a temple across the river. My friend and I hurried to the suspension bridge to see if we could get a good spot to take some nice pictures of the surroundings. True enough, the best spot to capture the mountains, the valleys and the river would be on this bridge. After taking some pictures, we headed over to the temple on the other end of the bridge.

Bus ride to Wulai
View of the suspension bridge from the bus terminal in Wulai
View of the valley from the bridge
View of the suspension bridge from the bus terminal in Wulai
View of the river from the terminal
Closer view of the bridge and the river
Me at the base of the suspension bridge
Me on the bridge
View from the bridge
View from the bridge
Me on the bridge
Me on the bridge

The single storey Taoist temple, despite being modest in size, is by no means modest in the decorations and the carvings on the temple building. We spotted the traditional dragon carvings on the roof and the walls of the temple. Since we are already here, my friend and I proceeded to the temple to offer our prayers to the local gods, after which my friend and I headed to the front of the temple, where one can get a nice view of Wulai. We were mesmerised by the scenic view from the front of the temple into Wulai and started to snap our camera away. From here, one can glimpse into the vast landmass in Wulai, views of the river and the town, with the surrounding mountains as the backdrop. As the temple wasn’t crowded at the time of our visit, this makes a great spot to take undisturbed scenic pictures of Wulai.

Inside the temple in Wulai
Me inside the temple in Wulai
Me inside the temple in Wulai
View of Wulai from the temple
View of Wulai from the temple
View from the temple

We headed towards Wulai town via the suspension bridge. From here, one would have to walk pass the bus terminal. Wulai town is accessible via foot within mere minutes. Soon we were at the Wulai town, at the beginning of Wulai Old Street. There is a Atayal Tribe museum on the right, located at the start of Wulai Old Street. The 3-storey museum is open to public at no charges and gives visitors an in-depth understanding of the culture, the way of life and the beliefs of the Atayal Tribe. There are also exhibits on the equipment, both hunting and for daily livelihood, on display here. There is a small shop in the museum for visitors to pick up some traditional tribe souvenirs. This is a great place to explore and one can be expected to spend at least an hour to understand the way of life of the Atayal Tribe.

Display inside Atayal Museum
Display inside Atayal Museum
Display inside Atayal Museum
Display inside Atayal Museum
Display inside Atayal Museum
Me inside the Atayal Musuem

Exiting the museum, my friend and I wanted to head to the waterfall next. In order for one to reach the waterfalls, one would have to walk through the Old Street. Walking through short Wulai Old Street (as compared to that in Jiufen), we saw shops selling a variety of merchandise ranging from local delicacies to snacks to souvenirs. Nothing here is unique to Wulai and one can easily grab these from Taipei city itself. My friend and I merely browsed through the goods on offering and headed towards the waterfall. There are 2 ways to get to the waterfall. One can either choose to walk to the view point by foot, through the Lover’s Walk (a street that is famous for couples to stroll while admiring the scenic surroundings), or take the Wulai Log Cart towards the waterfall view point. We opted for the Log Cart ride as it sounded refreshing. The Log Cart ride is essentially a tram system that brings visitors to the view point station. It is a relaxing way of absorbing the scenery whilst allowing the breeze caused by the log cart ride to caress one’s face. The ride took around 5 mins soon the waterfall is before us. My friend and I hurried to the view point and took some pictures. At this point we realise there is a cable car going up to the waterfall. As it is already late, we were sceptical that the cable car is still working. Nonetheless, my friend and I headed to the station via a series of stairs to check it out.

A stall in Wulai Old Street 
Heading towards Wulai Old Street
View of the river in Wulai
Map of Wulai
Wulai Old Street
Wulai Old Street
Wulai Old Street
Wulai Old Street
Wulai Old Street
Me in Wulai
At the Log Cart Ride Station
Waiting for the log cart
Me on the log cart ride
Riding the log cart
Riding the log cart
Riding the log cart
View from the log cart ride
Wulai Waterfall
Making our way up to the cable car station

It must have felt forever to reach the station. We headed to the ticketing counter and checked with the staff if the cable car is already closed for the day. We were delighted to be informed that the cable car was still in operation till 9pm. We spared no time, got our tickets and headed to the platform for our ride up to the waterfalls. We spotted a cable car (must have been waited for awhile) and hurried to board the cable car. The staff operating the cable car must have been waiting for visitors before operating the cable car. Soon we set off for the top of the waterfall in the cable car. As the cable car ascend to the top of the waterfall, we were able to see more and more of the valley and finally the sceneries afar from the cable car. The ride to the top took about 10 mins. The view of Wulai from the cable car and the top of the mountain is certainly refreshing and different from that from ground zero. It is recommended for visitors to Wulai to head for the cable car to the top of the mountain to absorb a different view of the area. As soon as we alighted the cable car, we headed straight to the view point. From the view point, we could see the whole valley and even traced to where the beginning of the waterfall is. As it was getting late, my friend and I decided not to venture further in and remained near the cable car station.  The area felt abandoned and there did not seem to be lighting in the area. It was very serene from the view point, perhaps due to the time of the day, when the crowds thin. We stayed for a few more minutes to enjoy the tranquility and the vastness of the place before heading back down and search for a hot spring, the very reason we came to Wulai for.

View of Wulai from the cable car 
Me about to board the cable car
View of Wulai Waterfall from the cable car station
Riding the cable car
At the top of the mountain
View of Wulai Waterfall from the top of the mountain
Riding the cable car
View of Wulai Valley from the cable car
View at the top of the mountain
View of the waterfall from the cable car
My friend in the cable car
View of the valley from the cable car
Riding over Wulai Waterfall
View of Wulai Waterfall from the cable car
View of Wulai Waterfall at the viewpoint
Me at Wulai Waterfall
Wulai Waterfall

Soon my friend and I reached to base of the cable car station. As the log cart ride has ceased operation for the day, we took a hike to the town. As I read from the map, there is a Hot Spring Street at the end of Lover’s Walk. My friend and I took a stroll back to the town, appreciating the serenity of the surroundings and the fresh air the mountains produced. There are paintings of the Atayal idols along the street, onto the railings that prevents visitors from falling into the river. It is not tough for one to spot them. It must have took us 10 mins to reach some form of civilisation. Before we knew it, we have arrived at the Hot Spring Street, where one can find heaps of Hot Spring Baths.

Walking towards Wulai Town
Atayal paintings along the road
Me at Hot Spring Street

The moment when one enters Wulai Old Town, there are no lack of Hot Spring Baths. Most of these establishments doubles up as hotel for weary guests to spend the night in. According to our research, one can only check into the hotel at 10pm and have to check out the next day at noon time. It is not worth staying over in these hotels, a day hot spring trip will suffice for a great time in Wulai. Most of the Hot Spring Baths are located along the Hot Spring Street, there are no lack of choices for visitors. Perhaps due to the season, it isn’t particularly crowded. As we were walking past the first Hot Spring Bath, we were welcomed by their staff. The friendly staff promised no pressure and invited us to take a look at their price. And we did. The price the quoted was way lower then what we expected to pay, best of all, the package came with a drink and desert to be consumed after the session. My friend and I spared no time and went for this establishment. The friendly staff showed us to our private room and left us to enjoy the scenery. This bath has rooms that overlooks the river and the mountain surrounding Wulai. There is even a TV inside the room for guests to enjoy whilst soaking in the heated spring water. My friend and I enjoyed the hot spring bath for about one and a half hours before calling it quits. After the hot spring session, the friendly staff checked with us how was the hot spring and served us the drink and desert. This Bath has really great deserts, fragrant and yet not too fattening. This is indeed a great way to end the session.

Enjoying Hot Spring in Wulai
Enjoying Hot Spring in Wulai
My friend in front of the Hot Spring Bath we just visited
Me and the very hospitable staff of the bath house
Snack after our Hot Spring session

As it was rather late at night, we wanted to try out the Atayal tribal food. I read that there is a renowned restaurant in town and proceeded back to Wulai Old Street and searched for this restaurant. It did not took us long to locate this restaurant. I was particularly excited to try some Atayal Tribal food. However my excitement was proved to be short-lived. The food is rather bend and the chicken is dry and tough. I guess it wasn’t to our liking and did not finish the food we ordered. As the night has fallen, my friend and I decided there isn’t much to see in Wulai and headed back to Taipei City.

Traditional Atayal tribe food
Traditional Atayal tribe food
Traditional Atayal tribe food
Traditional Atayal tribe food

As we were heading for the subway station in Xindian, my friend suggested to head for Shida Night market. Since the night is relatively young for Taipei, I agreed and we quickly searched which station we needed to alight and made our way there. It did not take us too long to reach Shida Night Market (師大夜市). The night market is located near a university and the crowd is relatively young. Despite being at night, the night market is still bustling with life. This is testimony to night market being an integral part of Taiwanese. Compared to Shiling Night Market, Shida is relatively smaller, however it is still sizeable for one to spend hours exploring the shops, the food being sold at this market. As this market caters mostly to the young, there are no lack of clothing and accessories shops. Even the food on offer here consist of mainly fried stuffs. My friend and I walked through alleys and alleys of shops, occasionally queuing up for snacks to be eaten as we walk. This is how we settled our dinner in the days we spent in Taipei. As we were walking up and down the night market, we realise the crowd started to thin. This is sign for us to depart the night market as it seem that the night market is calling it a night. We headed back to our hotel via the subway getting ready to explore Taipei City the next day.

Shida Night Market
Oyster Omelette we ate in the night market
Shida Night Market
Shida Night Market

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