Wild, Wondrous Wulai

This week we decided to take the trek to a town just south of Taipei called Wulai. We traveled to Wulai many times when we lived here years ago. Wulai is famous for it’s natural hot springs,  waterfall, and a gondola that takes you to the top of the waterfall (yippee, I hope that you can detect my sarcasm in that expression). It is just a short 45 minute scooter ride from Taipei.  This time around we had to take public transportation because Chad and I are just not comfortable having all three of us on a scooter (it is possible, I have seen families of 5 on one scooter!). We mulled over the options to get there and decided to take the MRT to the Xindian stop (last stop on the green line) and then take the 849 bus to Wulai. It was the cheapest way to get to Wulai, just costing 7 NTD for the MRT and 15 NTD for the bus (about 75 cents US). You can take a taxi from the Xindian Station, but the going rate is 600 NTD ($21 US), so the decision was an easy one.

The Metro ride was smooth and painless, but long, taking about 45 minutes. The bus ride, on the other hand, was quite an adventure. We thought that going to Wulai mid-afternoon on a weekday would mean that the bus would be empty and we would have seats for the hour-long ride. As we got on the crowded bus, there was standing room only. “Ok”, I thought, “I can do this”, as I held my now sleeping two-year old with one arm and the plastic swinging handle above my head with the other hand. I was great until we started moving, that first pump on the gas, I almost fell backward into the crowd. The bus driver obviously thought he was practicing for the Indy 500, driving like a maniac over the tiny, winding, mountainous roads. I let go of the handle and grabbed onto one of the side bars like my life depended on it. I say I grabbed onto it, but what I really mean is I wrapped as many of my limbs around it as humanly possible. With each turn I could feel my arm (and leg) muscles straining and working out. Who knew that I could “pump iron” while taking a bus ride?!

When we got closer to the town, finally enough of the elderly people who have priority to the seats disembarked so I was able to sit down. I was shaky and a bit car sick, but I felt like I had just ran a marathon and came in first (obviously I would come in first, I am the ultimate example of fitness). All this excitement and we hadn’t even made it to Wulai yet!

When we arrived at the terminal stop in Wulai, we walked a short distance to the main road that takes you through the touristy part of the town. It  looks like a walking path, but be aware because taxi’s and scooters fly through there with apparent disregard for the many pedestrians diving out of the way.

The main thoroughfare through Wulai
The main thoroughfare through Wulai

The street is lined with souvenir shops selling aboriginal crafts (most of them looked like they were made in China, but some shops did look as though they had actual hand crafted products), Taiwanese sausage stands, and restaurants that all offered the same dishes. You can find out more about the dishes in this Pig Pig’s Corner blog post .  We grabbed a couple of sausages and started exploring.

Taiwanese BBQ sausage, yes please!
Taiwanese BBQ sausage, yes please!
Walking across the colorful bridge on our way to the waterfall
Walking across the colorful bridge on our way to the waterfall
A not so pretty way of getting power from one side of the river to the other
A not so pretty way of getting power from one side of the river to the other
The river is a greenish blue color and foggy from the hot springs
The river is a greenish blue color and foggy from the hot springs
Almost to the waterfall
Almost to the waterfall

Wulai is a fairly small town and is easily walked, after the tourist street, you cross a bridge to the actual town.  I always judge the size of a Taiwanese town by the amount of  7-11’s they have. Wulai has one 7-11, it is small, so don’t worry, even if you aren’t much of a hiker, walking through Wulai is doable. For those of you using strollers, there are no sidewalks, but the streets are nice enough where that was not an issue.

You can take a taxi to the waterfall which is about 1 km up the mountain, but I love to walk and we decided to trek it. The way is nicely paved, but is just one lane with no sidewalk, so make sure that you pay attention, because taxi’s will try to take you out at every blind turn.

A picture of the whole waterfall
Wulai Falls

The walk was non-strenuous and quick, taking only about 20-30 minutes. When we reached the waterfall area we realized that there was a little train that will take you from Wulai to the waterfall. I was happy to have walked though, it worked off the sausages that we ate along the way. We walked past more souvenir shops, some cafes, and the Wulai Tram Museum.

Also at the top of the hill is a gondola that takes very brave people to the top of the waterfall.  It is the oldest gondola in Taiwan. Yay… that was said with complete and utter respect and fear. Chad and I discussed taking it to the sights at the top of the waterfall that we have heard are amazing, including a restaurant called Tops that overlooks Wulai. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I love adventure, especially when it makes me fear for my life, but the bus ride already gave me enough adrenaline rush for one afternoon.

See those dots hanging over the gorge...yep, those are the gondolas... in fact the oldest gondolas in Taiwan
See those dots hanging over the gorge…yep, those are the gondolas… in fact, they are the oldest gondolas in Taiwan
We made it to the waterfall! And for some reason we decided it was a good idea to squat while taking the photo?! Anyways, you get half of the waterfall and us
We made it to the waterfall! And for some reason we decided it was a good idea to squat while taking the photo?!
Zoë was quite fascinated with the Wulai Falls
Zoë was quite fascinated with the Wulai Falls
A statue of an aboriginal man and his dog
A statue of an aboriginal man and his dog

We (meaning Chad) took some pictures of the waterfall and decided to take the Wulai Log Ride back down to town. We bought our 50 NTD tickets at the Wulai Tram Museum and boarded the train without waiting. As with any other tourist destination in Taiwan, I would highly suggest going to Wulai only on weekdays. There are very few people and no lines to speak of so it is much more enjoyable.

Painting of the Wulai Log Train
Painting of the Wulai Log Train

We walked back to the bus station and I boarded the 849 with some trepidation. We were lucky this time and Chad and Zoë got a seat. I felt like working out my now stronger muscles a little bit more, but soon a seat opened for me as well. We were able to take the bus all the way back to Taipei Main Station which cut about 20 minutes off our trip back.

I really enjoyed our trip to Wulai and we will definitely go back. We didn’t take the time to go in the natural (and free) hot springs, but will next time for sure. It was just sprinkling enough to make me not want to get into a swim suit. As far as the gondola goes, that will have to be done at another time, or maybe never… I say this as only a person scared of heights can hope.

  1 comment for “Wild, Wondrous Wulai

  1. Cyndie Tobin
    October 14, 2013 at 5:01 am

    What a great day! Thanks for taking us, too.
    Love, Auntie

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