Wulai (烏來) is a small town in Taipei County, Taiwan, famous for its hot springs and aboriginal culture. The name of the town derives from the Atayal phrase kirofu ulai meaning "hot and poisonous". Don't let this scare you away from this lovely town! Consider going during the week if you can as it is quite crowded on the weekend. Also, in the summer, it might be a few degrees cooler than Taipei, but the elevation is not sufficient to provide real cooling.
Wulai suffered great damage from typhoons in August 2015 and again in late September 2015. When visiting on September 18, 2015, residents were still trying to clean up. Anything below street level along the river was washed away. Many hot spring buildings were not open but some were in the process of rebuilding. At least 4 large hotels were destroyed. We were told some owners of hotels have no plans to reopen because all of their hot spring pools are now nothing but mud. But for a quick trip to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, Wulai is a beautiful location surrounded by gorgeous mountains. Any tourist dollars will help the local residents at this time when they need it the most.
MRT to Xindian Station (Xindian line). Take Bus 849 at the bus stop in front of the station, just behind the Information Counter, next to the taxis. The bus journey takes about 40 minutes (longer on weekends) and costs NT$15. Wulai is the last stop, so you can enjoy the journey without worrying when to get off. A seat on the right side of the bus allows views over the river.
Definitely the easiest and fastest way to get to Wulai is simply to take a taxi from Taipei. It only takes 30 minutes from Xindian MRT station, but is not cheap. At the Xindian MRT taxi line, they have a taxi fare sign with predetermined fares (depending on the destination). Going to Wulai from the Xindian MRT will cost you $600 NT one way. Returning from Wulai by taxi can be negotiated and should be cheaper than $600 NT, but ultimately not cheaper than the bus. Sometimes during very busy times, with lines of people waiting to board crowded buses, taxi drivers may show up offering to take four people up to Wulai for NT$100 each. This is a good bargain if you want to get up to Wulai fast and in comfort.
This compact little town is easily covered on foot. There's a map posted next to the bus stop, with all tourist destinations clearly marked in English. If the taxi drivers waiting there tell you that Wulai Waterfall is too far away to walk, don't believe them: it's a nice stroll of less than half an hour. The walk also passes through the open air market on Wulai Old Street, and continues to the falls via the "Lover's Path", which affords some nice views of the river gorge below the falls.
The Wulai Log Cart is a little train that brings you 1.6 km from the Wulai Old Street area to Wulai Waterfall and near the terminal of the gondola that brings you to Yun Hsien Resort, on the top of a nearby mountain. From the main tourist street in the town, cross the bridge, and take the wooden staircase across the road. It goes up to the left. Follow the pedestrian street to the station. The Wulai Log Cart costs NT$50 each way. **As of September 18, 2016, the Log Cart is not in use as part of the tracks were destroyed from a rockslide in the August 2015 typhoon.
- The Gondola is a spectacular way to see Wulai Falls as it takes visitors from the base of the gorge to the top of the mountain. At the top there is a hotel, conference center, and a beautiful garden park with paddle boats, nature trails, and a natural obstacle course (雲仙樂園). The Gondola for both directions including the park visit is NT$220. ***The park at the top of the Gondola ride suffered massive damage from a typhoon in August 2015. As of September 18, 2015, visitors can still ride the gondola but they stop selling tickets at 4:00pm with only a cost of NT$150. The last ride back to the bottom is at 4:30pm. The park is basically nonfunctional with the paddle boat area and other attractions covered by rock/mud slides. It can be very erie because it seems like an abandoned town. You can still go up and see the damage and there are still great views of the valley area below. They are very slowly trying to clean up and the towns people are helping, too. Your NT$150 will go a long way to help the town rebuild.
Next to the waterfall visit the show of the formosan aborigines, and the museum of the history of the "little" train. Admission is free. Famous for its natural hot water springs, along with Beitou, Wulai is the place in the Taipei area to soak away the winter cold and damp. In fact, the name Wulai is the aboriginal tribe Atayal's term for hot springs. The springs at Wulai are clear and odorless. Public hot spring etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering the bath, do not wear clothing (including swimwear) in the bath and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water. Finally, people with high blood pressure, heart disease or open wounds should not enter the baths.
Places to bathe
- Gwoji Hotel (Hotel International) charges NT$450 for a soak in their baths. In the public pool area, there are three hot (one outdoor) and one cold pool, a sauna and steam bath. It is a very relaxing and well maintained facility. The hotel is located on the right, about two minutes after crossing the main bridge into town.
- Long Men (龍門). The first store on the left near the tourist area adjacent to the Nashih Riverea. First time visitors are greeted with a cool, one-time offer of two-hours in a hot spring room for NT$200. The facilities include TV, music and whirlpool option. The spring also offer rooms for further relaxation.
- Yunding Hotel (雲頂) NT$500 will get you a soak in the outdoor pools at Yunding Hotel (Top of the Clouds). While the main building itself is a bit tacky, the outlay of baths has obviously been inspired by the spacious and luxurious resorts in Bali and Thailand. NB: The hotel has two bathing areas, which they alternate for women and men. Call to make sure that the large baths are available for you on the day that you plan to go. The small bathing area is nowhere near as impressive as its larger neighbor. Yunding Hotel is located right at the very top of the town - turn right after crossing the second bridge and keep going up. The hotel is painted purple.
- The free hot springs are on the other side of the Nanshih River from the tourist street in downtown Wulai. Just cross the bridge, turn right, and walk up the road. Soon, on the right, you will see a stairway that takes you down to the river. Walk along the river and you will soon arrive at a rustic outdoor public hot springs area, with changing rooms, several pools, and even a sauna. You can also take a dip in the river when the water level is low and the current is weak. NB: As this area is in the open, swimming wear must be worn.
- Pause Landis (璞石麗緻溫泉會館) . This hot spring hotel has several open air themed rooms. Their public baths are also open-air overlooking the cliff side across a river. The establishment is clean and well designed with a modern and Zen-like feel.
There are a number of excellent hiking trails in the mountains around Wulai.
- Hand woven cloth made in traditional aboriginal designs. Available at stores on the main street.
- Candy made of sticky rice (mua-ji) is a speciality of Wulai.
- Taiya Po Po (泰雅婆婆美食店), 14 Wulai Street (cross the first bridge into town, on the right.), ☎ 02-26616371, . Literally "Atayal Grandmother," this restaurant specializes in Aboriginal dishes such as Wild Mountain Boar (山豬), Bamboo Tube Rice (竹筒飯), Wild Mountain Yams (山藥), and Pickled Pork (damamein; 的麼面). Featured on Travel Channel's "Bizzare Foods: Taiwan" edit
As an Atayal aboriginal town, Wulai has a host of unusual and delicious dishes, including wild boar, Reeve's muntjac (山羌 - shan qiang), and bird's nest fern (山蘇 - shan su). A specialty of the area is seasoned rice steamed in a tube of bamboo (竹筒飯 - zhu tong fan). Another Aboriginal specialty is Millet Wine (小米酒), and various foods are seasoned with the Aboriginal spice maqaw (馬告, Litsea cubeba).
- Helen's Coffee, No. 1, Lane 86, Wenchuan Road. (cross the second bridge into town after passing through main street.), ☎ 02 2661 6392. The seating is mostly outdoors, so you can enjoy the fresh mountain air and a view over the river and town while sipping your latte. edit
- The first building on the left (Xioushan) after crossing the first bridge into town serves good coffee and offers a balcony to sit and enjoy it.
There are numerous hotels in Wulai, most of them provide in-room bath facilities with hotspring water. Starting around NT$2300/3000.
If you like public hot spring bath, Spring Spa Hotel offers a big one with more than 5 spring pool and good view which you can visit for free when you stay. The breakfast is nice too. The room is at very reasonable price for what you got. The only downside is it's quite a bit long walk to the old town.
To get back to Taipei, take the 烏來 Xindian-Taipei Main Station bus (849), and get off at the Xindian MRT station.
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