The time I went to the Maokong gondola to finally learn that it was closed on Mondays, I had to quickly change my plans. After spending a few hours at the zoo, I decided to go spend my afternoon in Wulai.
Wulai is an indigenous village located between jungle and mountains south of Taipei. It’s an easy getaway for those who want to escape the city for a few hours and it’s also a great place to discover more about the Atayals, the native people who make up the majority of the population in Wulai.
Getting to Wulai is easy. Just take the metro to Xindian station, at the end of the green line. When you come out of the metro, you have to go to the bus stop on the right and take bus 849. Wulai is the last stop, so you cannot go wrong. The bus ride takes about 30 minutes.
On the bus there was another stranger with whom I started to talk. He was Canadian, like me, traveling solo, like me, but at 69, he had much more travel experiences than me. Gerry (that’s his name) and I decided to explore Wulai together. I love traveling solo, but loneliness weighs a little sometimes, and I was happy to have a companion for the afternoon.
Thirty minutes by bus from Taipei, and we suddenly found ourselves far away from the city.
Gerry and I both wanted to see the fall of Wulai, so we started immediately. We crossed the village and followed the path (or rather the road) along the river that would lead us to the fall. The turquoise river strangely reminded me of the icy rivers of the Canadian Rockies. But the jungle and the heat were a good indication that I was far away from the glaciers of my country!
It barely took us fifteen minutes to get to the falls. From a height of 80 meters, the fall flows gently into the gorge. There is an observation platform to observe it.
It is possible to take a gondola to climb to the top of the waterfall, where there seems to be an amusement park, but Gerry was not very interested, and me neither. We decided to sit at a terrace with a view on the waterfall to enjoy a good iced tea. We spent nearly an hour there, an hour during which Gerry told me about the ups and downs of his long career as a traveler.
Then we went for a walk in the surroundings. The Atayal culture is present in Wulai, whether in its monuments, local crafts or food. As in many other countries of the world, indigenous people in Taiwan have suffered from attempts at assimilation, loss of language and socio-economic problems. Today, there is an attempt to highlight these cultures and reinforce pride in identity. Although the present situation is far from perfect, many Aboriginal communities are involved in tourism and ecotourism initiatives, such as in Wulai.
Gerry suggested that we take the mini-train back to the bus station, which I accepted. It was heavily damaged by a typhoon two years ago, but it is now functional and although I probably would not have taken if I had been alone, I must admit that the short trip was still fun.
We had a few minutes left before we the departure of our bus and I suggested to Gerry to take a walk on the suspension bridge that led to the other side of the river.
There was a temple there in which many people were busy. On the banks of the river, they were burning strips of paper as an offering for the afterlife. In the temple, a crowd was hoarding bags of food. Meanwhile, the sun was slowly setting, giving the sky a magnificent color. The moment was magical.
We eventually had to leave. We took the bus back to Taipei, then the subway to the city center. Gerry and I went to eat at Ningxia Night Market, where he continued to talk passionately about his travels. And I sat there listening to him, sincerely hoping that all my life, I would continue to have the same passion for the world.
Then we said goodbye and went on our way. And I thought that traveling solo, despite all the anxieties it can sometimes cause, was an amazing way of meeting extraordinary people and live unique moments.